• Laurie Swigart

The Color Math Concept

The human eye is able to decipher patterns of light according to the primary colors of the additive system: red, green and blue (RGB). However, it is the subtractive system’s primaries: cyan, magenta and yellow (CMY) that best lend themselves to understanding the COLORCUBE and the concept of Color Math. This chapter unveils the inner workings of the COLORCUBE Model and the tools that are required for navigation in and about it.


Within any given subtractive color space, as defined by the three primaries CMY, the use of Color Math will allow us to map the relationships of all the colors encompassed by that cubic

area. Bridging the additive and subtractive systems of color, mixing colors, selecting color complements and converting color media equivalents all become matters of mathematics rather than that of guess work or compromise.


Following a brief introduction to basic logic and scientific fundamentals, as they are relevant to color, we will expand upon the Color Math concept. By the conclusion of this chapter, we

will be able to apply Color Math to a variety of tasks such as dissecting the COLORCUBE, dispelling critical aspects of traditional color theory, mixing colors, determining color complements and charting print-to-paint media conversions.


Principles of Color Math


The similarity to commonly applied basics in mathematics and algebra will make these initial color principles appear somewhat elementary. However, their value will become apparent as the problems that we will encounter become increasingly complex.


The diagram below illustrates the principle of symmetry that states that the order in which colors are added to one another does not alter the outcome.


Figure 1. Color A + Color B = Color B + Color A


The addition (or subtraction) of two or more colors will likely cause a visible change in hue but we must also pay particular attention to the cumulative volume of the operation. For example, mixing one measurable unit of color with another yields twice the volume of the resulting color. The following diagram highlights this change in quantity using simple, like colors.


Figure 2(a). 1 part Color A + 1 part Color A = 2 parts Color A

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