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Mixing Light Colors

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Not Quite Like Paints

If you have ever made colors by mixing paints or dyes, you will find that mixing light colors is not quite the same. Try an experiment... get your mom or dad to help you put a little water into a glass, then add some drops of red and green food dye. Now mix some red and green together on the computer.

Why is it different?

When there is no light, the color is black. When you have the same amount of all colors of light, you get gray, which is white if there is enough of each color. The light from the sun or light bulbs is close to being white. When we see something have a color - that means that it absorbs the other colors out of the white light, and only reflects those ones back at you. So if you have red dye, it is absorbing most of the green and blue light out of the white light that goes into it, and you only notice the red coming out. When you have green dye, it is absorbing most of the red and blue light and only letting the green come out. When you mix them together you have something which absorbs most of all the colors (but especially the blue), so it gets darker.

When you mix light colors together though, you are adding more and more color, so it gets brighter. Yellow is in between red and green, so when you mix red and green together, you get a brighter color that looks yellow.


Copyright 2004 Doug Craigen