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How Colourful Light Mixes - Different than you might expect

2 minutes read

Mixing coloured lights to create new colours is very different from mixing paint. 

You are probably already familiar with mixing paints this is subtractive colour. Where the 3 primary colours are yellow, blue and red. 

Additive colour is slightly different and uses the primary colours of light which are green, blue and red.

If you are interested in graphics you probably recognise these colour mode acronyms CMYK and RGB. CYMK (subtractive colour) being for print.

RGB (additive colour) for web and any graphics rendered on screen. Light can be mixed to create thousands of colours and used in our televisions, computers, theatrical lighting, and many other things. 

As you'll learn light mixes very differently from paint and the best example can think to illustrate this is that yellow and green light mixed creates grey. 

Here are a few more examples:

Green and blue light make baby blue.

Red and blue make hot pink.

Red and green light mixed make yellow.

With additive colour the more light you add, the brighter the colour mix becomes. If you mix all three colours of light, you get pure, white light.

My realisation of this at age 32 blew my mind, if you learnt colour theory you might have noticed this topic skipped over. Well, It's the red, blue, and green cone-receptors in your eyes that help you see colour in light waves.

How does all this relate to neon signs?

There is an RGB colour changing led neon tube we often use to make our signs.

This question more comes into play when you design a sign with multiple colours. You might worry that the colour of the light thrown by the new sign would be brown or any other colour you would like to avoid. You won't need to worry about this with additive colour as there is no way to create ugly brown. The closest you'll get is a burnt orange colour that's and projected from a red sign with a green accent. This colour looks great together.

There's nothing to worry about when mixing neon colours. You can include as many colours as you like in your design at no extra cost. Google-style text may not be your thing, but when you have a graphic that's got a lot of colours. It's pretty handy that there's no limit on your creativity.

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