The world is full of beautiful color. You see a violet dress, a blue car, a yellow flower, and a green tree. The colored leaves on trees in autumn mean that winter is coming. All kinds of colors are everywhere.
Where Does Color Come From?
White light, including sunlight and light from a light bulb, is actually made of all the colors of the rainbow. Have you ever seen sunlight that hits a piece of crystal? Rays of blue, purple, orange, yellow, and red seem to shoot out from the crystal in all directions. The crystal spreads the colors of light apart a bit so you can see them separately.
Scientists show the colors of light in a bar called a spectrum. A rainbow is a spectrum. Its colors go from red through orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Violet is purple and indigo is a deep purplish-blue. It’s easy to remember the colors of the spectrum because the first letter of each color makes up a name:
How Do We See Color?
White light, such as sunlight or light from a light bulb, lets you see things. Dresses, cars, and all other things we see absorb some of the colors of white light. The colors that don’t get absorbed bounce off of things. Red light bounces off a red dress. The dress soaks up other colors. Your eyes see the red light but not the other colors. Your eyes send this message to your brain. Your brain tells you that you are seeing a dress that looks red.
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Something very special happens when you see a red dress or green grass. Objects themselves don’t actually have color. What they have is the ability to reflect different types of light. When this reflected light enters your eyes, your brain interprets the different types of light as color. Your eyes and brain work together to translate the different types of light into different colors.
Colors of Paint
Artists call three special colors the primary colors of paint. These colors are magenta (purplish-pink), yellow, and cyan (light greenish-blue). You can make other colors of paint by mixing the primary colors together. But you cannot mix other colors of paint to make a primary color.
Suppose you want to paint a picture of an apple tree. You can make whatever colors you want to use with just four jars of paint: magenta, yellow, cyan, and white. You mix yellow and cyan to make green paint for the leaves. For the apples, mix magenta and yellow paint to make the color red.
To paint the sky light blue, you must use some white paint. White makes other colors lighter. Mix magenta and cyan to make a deep blue. Then add some white paint to the blue paint until the blue becomes light enough for the sky. White paint mixed with blue or another color is called a tint. A light blue tint will make a color like a clear sky.
If you mix all three colors together you get black paint. You can make a color darker by mixing it with black paint. Colors mixed with black paint are called shades. When you mix black and white together, you get gray.
By mixing together different amounts of magenta, yellow, cyan, and white paint, you can make lots of different colors. Everything you need to make beautiful paintings.
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