Subtractive Primary Colours

Subtractive primary colours

Subtractive Primary colours are colours that are associated with reflected light. In this case the subtractive colours are Blue Red and Yellow. These are the colours we are probably most familiar with the as the primary colours from school.

When equal amounts of Red Blue and Yellow pigment such as paint is combined, black is produced. By adding the colours together to produce black, we call these subtractive colours.

We use subtractive primary colours when we are mixing paints or inks. In the case of inks and printing, the colours used are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and black. (CMYK for short)

Understanding subtractive colours

A simple way to understand a little more about additive colours is to create some of your own by mixing pigments in the form of paint. Most of us have probably done this at some point in our lives, but just to recap...

Subtractive primary colours

You will need:

Three colours of paint.-

Ideally Blue, Red and Yellow. These can be watercolour paints or oils paints if you are an artist, or emulsion paints, so long as you have Blue, Red and Yellow. Plain white paper to mix the paints on. A brush of some sort to apply and mix the paint.


Mix the different colours of paint!.

The following colours can be created:

Violet/Purple - Blue and Red mixed

Orange - Red and Yellow mixed

Green - Blue and yellow mixed

Black - Blue, Red and Yellow mixed

These colours that are created form mixing the primary colours, are called secondary colours.