The 11 Color Mixing Laws

The color mixing laws are methods of interpretation of the functioning principle of vision. They always concern manipulation of the visual organ with the aim to induce the sensory mechanism to cause determined color perceptions. This manipulation may take place at any stage within the action chain between emission of light and sensation of color .

Kueppers differentiates 11 Color Mixing Laws. The most important ones refer to Additive, Subtractive, and Integrated Mixture.

The Law of Optical Mixture concerns the resolving power of the retina. Recognition of details depends on the size of cones and rods. Finest structures are not recognized anymore individually. Their reflections mix into a homogeneously perceived color shade. Examples: Chromatic threads of various colors in a fabric can be seen individually through a magnifying glass, but not with the naked eye. Or screen prints. At a screen fineness of more than 60 lines per cm, individual screen elements cannot be seen anymore.

The Law of Speed Mixture results from the reaction speed of the photoreceptor cells. If sectors of different chromatic colors are arranged on a gyroscopic disk, they cannot be distinguished anymore individually as soon as the disk has reached a certain rotating speed. Example: A movie film seems to have continuously moving pictures because the eye is unable to distinguish 24 individual pictures in one second.

The Law of Additive Mixture relates to the modulation of the color stimulus. Chromatic Lights of the three Basic Colors Orange-red (R), Green (G), and Violet-blue (B) activate directly the photoreceptor cells. The intensity range of each can be modulated between zero and 100%. The achromatic Basic Color Black (K) must be available as key color to fill in the difference values. This way, the visual organ is stimulated to produce the diversity of colors. Example : Chromatic television (Color TV) Additive Mixture (detailed description).

The Law of Subtractive Mixture relates to the absorption capacity of transparent matter. In this case, the three chromatic Basic Colors Yellow (Y), Magenta-red (M), and Cyan-blue (C) must be present as translucent, that is transparent filtering layers. The achromatic Basic Color White (W) is required as key color to fill in the difference values. The diversity of colors is produced through varying the amount of color of each ink layer between cero and 100%. Examples: Chromatic photography (color photography) or three-color and four-color printing. Subtractive Mixture (detailed description).

The Law of Integrated Mixture concerns likewise the absorption capacity of matter, though that of opaque matter. For it, all eight Basic Colors are necessary. Here comes the mixing first, then the mix is applied as a single opaque ink layer. In this case the color of the background is of no importance. The Integrated Mixture is strictly based on the rules of achromatic mixing. All achromatic values are developed by the two achromatic Basic Colors W and K. Chromatic Basic Colors are used only to produce the required chromatic values. Integrated Mixture (detailed description).

The Law of Chromatic Mixture relates as well to the absorption capacity of opaque matter, though this time to that of the six chromatic Basic Colors only. Again, the mixing comes first, then the mixture is applied as a single opaque ink layer and again, the color of the background is of no importance, it may be any. However, this time the achromatic values are produced through the chromatic mixing process, where chromatic Compensation Colors (complementary colors) neutralize one another, thus eliminating their chromaticity.

The Law of White Mixture and the Law of Black Mixture complement the Law of Chromatic Mixture. White Mixture uses the 4 opaque Basic Colors W,Y, M, and C, Black Mixture the remaining 4 Basic Colors, namely B, G, R, and K. Under both rules the achromatic values are produced in a chromatic mixing process, as chromatic compensation colors neutralize one another, thus loosing their chromaticity. But due to the presence of the two achromatic Basic Colors W and K it is now possible to produce these whitened or blackened color shades that would be impossible to obtain with Chromatic Mixture.

The Law of Gray Mixture also operates with the 8 opaque Basic Colors. Now, the achromatic Auxiliary Colors Light Gray (LG), Neutral Gray (NG) and Dark Gray (DG) are added. Together with W and K, this time we are using 5 achromatic colors in the mixing process.

The Law of Dye Mixture is of importance when it matters to color a white mass. For example, this is the case if a house painter wants to color his white opaque dispersion paint in his bucket. To do it, he needs transparent liquid dyes of the 6 chromatic Basic Colors, namely Y, M, C, R, G, B, plus the achromatic Basic Color K.

The Law of Nuance Mixture relates to all types of opaque color material as any opaque color material can be mixed with any other opaque color material. In most cases, this is exactly what artist painters do who squeeze all kinds of color out of the tubes and mix them on their palette before using them on their painting.

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