Difference Between Additive Colors and Subtractive Colors

Difference Between Additive Colors and Subtractive Colors

Color is the product of the interaction between our eyes’ photosensitive cells and external stimuli. Light is used to represent these external simulations. Whether you’re working with conventional media or digital, mastering the technique of color mixing is an essential skill for every artist. To achieve the greatest colors for painting, it is essential to master the fundamentals of color mixing.

It’s possible to combine colors using either additive or subtractive procedures, but these are the two most common approaches (Basic colors mixing and stirring pigmentation mechanically). Basic color mixing and reproduction knowledge is essential if one want to understand how to handle colors effectively.

Additive Colors Vs. Subtractive Colors

The difference between Additive Colors and Subtractive Colors lies in the fact that Adhesive Colors are pure whereas Subtractive Colors are impure, which indicates that they are mechanically mixed from fundamental colors rather than optically combined.

What colors are additive?

Colors that are additive are referred to as RGB, or red, green, and blue. We utilize them on a regular basis on the displays with which we interact. A white color is created when these two hues are mixed together.

Additive colors are opaque to the human eye, and the RGB process is the complete system that is involved in this. For this reason, the RGB and hexadecimal systems rely on this technique, which has shown to be quite successful.

Many color combinations are also included in the process, which may be considered as a reversal of the subtractive process. The three colors may produce a vast variety of hues.

Additive colors are RGB or Red, Blue, and Green colors. They are used in the display screens that we work on a daily basis. When these are combined, the color we get is white and this is the whole concept behind additive colors.

What are subtractive colors?

Subtractive synthesis is predicated on the idea of waves of certain wavelengths being absorbed. Cyan, Yellow, and Magenta are the primary colors of the CMYK color scheme employed here. For printing purposes, these colors are different from those used in the display.

Subtractive is critical because the more color the user adds to a white base, the deeper the resulting hue becomes. Our eyes are unable to see any color when CMY ink is applied on paper because the ink absorbs the whole sheet of paper. Because of this, the eyes interpret it as a dark shade of gray.

The CMYK process and the 4 Color Process are two of the most often utilized subtractive color processes. Subtractive colors are most often used in this context. It’s easy to think of the Additive process as an exact reversal of the Subtractive process.

Difference Between Additive Colors and Subtractive Colors

Additive color mixing occurs when the lens or the eyes respond on various color sensations at the exact same time. As an alternative, you may produce new colors by subtracting from the ones you already have by using subtractive color mixing.

Three zones of light, namely red, blue, and green, are mixed optically to produce the primary colors. Yellow, Cyan, and Magenta are the primary colors used to create subtractive colors.

Colors created by subtractive mixing are the same colors used in additive mixing, and vice versa.

Subtractive color utilizes the CMYK system and filters primary colors from white light, while additive color utilizes the RGB system, which displays primary colors with varying light intensities.

  • Green+ Red=Yellow
  • Red+ Blue = Magenta
  • Blue+ Green = Cyan

These are the additive color mixing combinations. Subtractive color synthesis, on the other hand, yields primary hues such as red, green, and blue by combining yellow and magenta.

To the naked eye, additive and subtractive color prints seem to be the same, but the difference is that additive prints are opaque, while subtractive prints are transparent.


It’s critical to have a firm grasp on the fundamentals of color mixing and systems, as well as the many methods used. Additive and subtractive colors are the two most important, and they are essential to artists and designers across the board. Between the two, there are several distinctions.

A color’s purity is determined by how well it blends with the white light emitted by its lens or eyeballs. A primary color is formed when subtractive colors are mixed with primary colors. The RGB system was used for additive colors, whereas the CMYK system was used for subtractive colors.

Subtractive color synthesis, in contrast to additive color synthesis, is transparent to the eye because the top layer of color obscures the visibility of the lower layer. Red, Blue, and Green are the primary colors of additive colors, whereas Yellow, Cyan, and Magenta are the primary colors of subtractive colors. In the end, what we’ve learned is the significance of color mixing in art and design.