FAQ: Color Theory - The Color Wheel

This community-built FAQ covers the “The Color Wheel” exercise from the lesson “Color Theory”.

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This exercise can be found in the following Codecademy content:

Learn Color Design

FAQs on the exercise The Color Wheel

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Are the Primary colours RGB, RYB, or CMY (K)?

After writing down RYB as primary from the course work, I was confused why rgb was used and not ryb… So I used the encyclopaedia called google to fact check. It terms out ryb is not a true set of primary colours… For additive color mixing or for subtractive colour mixing but that it is a poor selection of subtractive primary colors as CYM can produce the most amounts of colours in that colour mixing system.

So I guess the question is, the colour wheel showed in the lesson kind of shows a triangle formed by ryb but is that still the case with rgb or cym?

Also should we learn rgb rather than cmy or ryb railed on by online articles?

Is ryb still relevant to the HSL values or is it better to learn the additive primaries and secondaries?

This is just because I wrote all the course work in my notes and then found out that ryb is not a good set of primaries and is not for light color mixing.


This last article mentions color wheels being an influence in ryb? Maybe this is why the syllabus talks about ryb?

I just checked and the HSL color wheel is based on the RGB primaries of additive color mixing.


The reason for this is that pigments don’t have luminosity, but light does. Pigments absorb and reflect light, display devices emit light.

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Thank you, shouldn’t we be taught rgb then?

It’s seems to be a confusing area, as I looked at career foundry and they have a similar thing. Where they teach ryb are primaries but then say that there are 2 color systems and talk about RGB and CMYK… ugh.

I realise that I didn’t word my first post very well but what I meant to ask was why the course used ryb instead of rgb?

I know rgb is used in digital (additive) color mixing and not cmy (or ryb) which is used for pigment (subtractive) color mixing. However, each system has a different set of primaries and secondaries, etc. It’s nothing much, but I was just confused to the use of ryb, when all of our coding and online colouring uses rgb. I still have learnt a lot from the course but that first section was a bit confusing.

We members don’t write the courses and owe no one an explanation for the author(s) choice of material. As far as we’re concerned in writing for the web there is no need for subtractive color reference. It’s light, and light is additive.

Now if one is lighting a TV or stage set, then an understanding of both is fundamental. Not so for computer displays.

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Cannot say; have no idea. We learn about the primary pigment colors (although I doubt the word ‘pigment’ is used) in around Grade 3 or 4 while we are still using crayons in class. We see that blue and yellow combine to give green, and red and yellow combine to give us orange, and so on. Not much more is discussed about color until we get to light in Physics.

In the print industry the color palette is YMCB (yellow, magenta, cyan, black), which a large four color press would be equipped with in the reservoirs, one color each. They are impressed on top of each other to render full color images. The thing that is not discussed about these colors is ‘luminosity’ or apparent brightness. Instead we look for darkness.

In light, we have wavelengths mixing (superposition) before they reach our retinas. We perceive color by how the cones and rods interpret them as they signal the brain.

Red and green light, in absence of blue will be perceived as yellow. When we combine yellow and blue we get white.

Green and blue light, in absence of red will be perceived as cyan. When we combine red and cyan we get white.

Blue and red light, in absence of green will be perceived as magenta. When we combine green and magenta we get white.

HSL is closer to RGB than it is to RYB, as mentioned above. The reason is in the name… Luminosity (or lightness). What makes it really cool to use is that we can compute a color. When viewed as a cylinder, the hues are on the circumference, the saturation is on the height, and the luminosity is on the radius.

Say we have a row of lights, all with varying hues of red and all shining on the same spot. The more they vary, the more the wavelengths will differ and the resulting hue will tend toward the reddish-gray. Make all the lights the same color and the effects of mixing will disappear and we end up with a rich red hue on the screen. This is saturation. HSL gives us those values right up front. Converting from HSL to RGB is a simple matter of entering the values in an RGB color mixer (like the one in Paint) which will give us the RGB equivalent.