Subtractive color process

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A system of color production used in color photography and printing. Color synthesis is obtained by the addition of colors in the form of reflected colorants on white paper rather than as light in the additive process. For a typical three color process, an original image is separated into three monochrome images, or primaries, composed varying shades of yellow, magenta and cyan. When these colors are deposited on white paper, each absorbs, or subtracts, its opposing counterpart from the radiant light. Thus, printed images use varying halftone dot patterns of the yellow, magenta and cyan to control the amount of red, green, and blue light reflected from white paper. When 100% of all the three primaries, yellow, magenta, and cyan, are combined on white paper, the resultant image is black, theoretically. In practice black is a separate ink in the four color process (CMYK) printing. White is produced from the paper when no colors have been added. Combining 100% of any two primaries results in an additive primary color:

- yellow and magenta = red

- magenta and cyan = blue

- cyan and yellow = green

See also Additive color process.

Synonyms and Related Terms

subtractive primary (yellow, magenta, and cyan); CMY; CMYK; subtraktivní míchání barev (Ces.); Subtraktive Farbsynthese (Deut.); síntesis sustractiva (Esp.); synthèse soustractive (Fr.); mescolanza sottrattiva (It.); subtractieve kleurmenging (Ned.); synteza substraktywna (Pol.); subtraktiv färgblandning (Sven.)

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976

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