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Color Theory

Color Theory Introduction
Traditional Color Theory
New Color Theory
Computer New Color Theory
New Color Theory Prism Research


I have had many compliments on this new color theory that I stumbled across 20 years ago. Especially from artist who have read my book and from the art instructors from the lectures I gave at four major art schools. However, I can still hear that voice that blurted out during one of my lectures with “You’re crazy”. This was just as I was saying that I believed that we see all color from subtraction of the CMY in our brain. And then there is this one critique on the web by a person who said nice things about my book but said I was wrong on my color theory and didn’t understand the true color theory. So for those doubting Thomases and anyone who is interested, I have decided to publish my 18 years of research on color theory on the web.

In order to talk about color theory one needs a platform to base the color theory fundamentals on. The traditional color theory is based on Isaac Newton’s belief that the color is in the light. Physicist Young refined it when he defined lights primaries as (RGB) red, green, and blue. Today we call light the RGB additive theory and the CMY subtractive theory for opaque objects. There has been much confusion written on this subject.

The new color theory I will show on these web pages comes from years of research with prisms and computers. The big difference is that it is based on color being assigned to the brains cortex with its primaries as (CMY). Light has long medium, and short rays that are colorless energy. Matter is composed of various percentages of CMY that is under a physics law that says this: Whenever it is exposed to light the cyan must absorb like amounts of the long ray of light and reflect the rest to the cones of the eye. The magenta with the medium ray and the yellow to the short ray. Energy is always on between the cones of the eyes and the cortex of the brain. The cones actually act like switches and send the coded light signal to the cortex of the brain and subtract from the CMY code. We actually see all color transparent or opaque through a subtraction of the CMY in our brain. For instance a red and green light added together will make a yellow light. Tests prove that is accomplished by a subtraction of the cyan and magenta leaving yellow in our brain color center.



Scientists prepared the way for the development of color theory. The platform used to understand color comes from the great physicist Isaac Newton’s prism experiments. He passed a beam of sunlight through a glass prism, which showed the colors seen in the rainbow. Before Newton’s time, people thought that some sort of “latent color” embeds in the glass of the prism. Newton showed this to be false by passing the light through a second prism, which reassembled the colored light into white light. From these experiments, Newton concluded that light is the source of color. He assigned to the light, seven basic colors: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, indigo, and purple.

Physicist Thomas Young carried Newton’s experiments further by discovering that just three of Newton’s colors when mixed together makes white light: red, green, and blue. Since Young’s discovery, red, green, and blue have been considered the primary colors of light.

These three colors are the primaries of the additive spectrum.

Color theorists use the subtractive primaries to explain color filters and printing. The primaries of the subtractive spectrum are magenta, yellow, and cyan. When we add these three primaries together we get black.


In 1866 a scientist named Helmholz discovered that every color has three different qualities, or dimensions: hue, value, and intensity.

Unfortunately, he didn’t work out a practical system for applying his theory. Therefore it had little influence on art until much later.

Around the turn of the century, Albert H. Munsell, an instructor in art, realized that everyone who wants to use color correctly must recognize and understand these characteristics. Using Helmholz’s theory as a starting point, Munsell developed a complete system for the analysis and organization of color. The Munsell system is used widely throughout the world. The problem with the Munsell color wheel is that it is based on 10 colors which puts it out of sync.

Today many artist color wheels are based on 12 colors with some form of red, yellow, and blue as primaries. These are many variations of the red, yellow, and blue primaries being taught today.


The additive spectrum is visible light, which consists of electromagnetic radiation of various wavelengths. These wavelengths are measured in nanometers (nm) and ra;nge in length from 400nm to 740nm. The short wavelengths are approximately 400nm. These short rays look purple (blue). The medium wavelengths are around 500nm and look green. The long wavelengths are approximately 625nm to 740nm. We see these as red.

The additive spectrum is widely used. For example. engineers use the additive spectrum in designing color for computers: scientists, especially physicists, use the additive spectrum; and people in the theater use the additive spectrum for lighting. There are many other uses too numerous to mention.

The three primaries of the additive spectrum — red, green, and blue (RGB) – added together give us transparent white light. Any two primaries added together give us one of light’s secondary colors. The secondary colors of light are cyan, magenta, and yellow (CMY).

These three secondary colors of the additive spectrum are the primary colors of the subtractive spectrum.


We perceive that most objects reflect light from a light source. Reflected light is a subtractive process. When light illuminates an object, colors are thought to subtract from the light source because they are not absorbed by the light. The colors we perceive are those not absorbed by the object.

The primaries of the subtractive spectrum are magenta, yellow, and cyan (CMY). When we add these three primaries together we get black. When we add two of these primaries together we get red, green, or blue. Red, green, and blue are secondary colors of the subtractive spectrum. These colors are the same hues as the primary colors of the additive spectrum.

Color theorists use the subtractive primaries to explain color filters and printing. They usually ignore them when white light’s RGB wave illuminates an object. Printers, commercial artists, and photographers also use the subtractive primaries. Fine artists. however, use the artists’ spectrum.


The primary colors of the artists’ spectrum are red, blue, and yellow. This color spectrum has probably led to more confusion than anything else.

From my experience as a painter as well as from my research, I have concluded that the artists’ color spectrum is wrong. For instance, red and blue do not make purple, and they shouldn’t because of the yellow in the red. (I’ve lost count of how many art books blame it on the paint!)

A big shock for me was when I realized that orange is not a secondary but a tertiary. When we discuss the true color spectrum we will thoroughly debunk the artists’ spectrum.


Volumes are written about color and yet confusion is common because it is based on the RGB additive spectrum which claims the RGB primary colors are in the light. The new color theory says the primary colors are CMY and they reside in your brain. It’s time we stopped explaining color with the additive RGB and learned color with subtractive CMY primaries.


(A) The prism test shows that the monitors blue phosphor is wrong and should be blue/purple.
(B) Europe’s monitors use a different red than we do. This dispute can be settled because the prism studies show the true red.
(C) The computer’s color modes should be CMY and CMYK. There should not be an RGB mode. The computer section will demonstrate in a movie animation why a computer sends a CMY signal instead of a RGB signal.
(D) The computer’s color picker should be changed to show 48 pure colors on the outer ring, four levels of shade on the inner rings, and black in the center.The vertical bar should be a tint scale from 100% to 0%.
(E) The manuals that explain color shouldn’t use RGB!

The new color theory shows the printer’s cyan and magenta inks are not pure. You get a printed dull orange because there is 23% cyan in the magenta inks. The Germans have developed a dot pattern that shows six colors so they can add a bright orange ink in four-color printing. A better alternative is for chemists to discover a pure magenta and a pure cyan ink, and all the problems would disappear. The new color theory predicts this will happen. The biggest drawback to this is that these colors are fugitive.


The traditional artist red, blue, and yellow color theory was so inaccurate that it doesn’t make sense. For instance, red and blue did not make purple because the red primary had too much yellow in it. The great artists make color intuitively while average artists need rules that make sense so they can learn color theory. The average artist was never able to make sense of color because the theory was wrong. The new color theory is so accurate because it is based on math, that it will be teachable to the talented and average artist. Today some color wheels are using cyan, magenta, and yellow as primaries which is a step in the right direction. However, some still insist on making orange a secondary because they are using the old tradition instead of math. The new color theory which is based on math says the secondary is warm red and orange is a tertiary. All the complement colors on the new ames color wheel when mixed together make black and a perfect grey. See the DVD for an explanation.


It is obvious that color behaves according to very definite laws. These laws are so exact and predictable that when you understand them, and use the prism to expose them, they tend to overwhelm you and put you in awe.

One of the key components of the new color theory is that light is a colorless triadic code carrier. Harold Kueppins (a German who is one of the most respected color theorists) describes this best. He believes the universe is colorless. It consists of colorless matter and colorless energy. Colors exist only as an observer’s sensory perception. The energy rays of the light stimulus are not colors, but rather information transmitters that can be compared to a punched or magnetic tape.

Hence light, the color stimulus, is not the information itself but rather its carrier. Only after the input is received by the eye and converted according to the eye’s pre-programming can there be real information. We call this information color sensation.

Subtractive Spectrum

Kueppins also believes there are eight basic colors: white, cyan, magenta, yellow, red, green, purple, and black. He believes these eight basic colors are the eight undivided possibilities resulting from three primary colors: red, green, and purple. They represent the most extreme color sensations that our visual system can produce.

I think Kueppins’ eight basic colors (six hues + black & white) should really be twelve hues plus black and white, because we can’t focus when we view the eight basic prism hues. This inability to focus gives us turquoise, yellow green, orange, cool red, mauve violet and dark blue. My prism research disagrees with Kueppins’ three primaries of red, green, and purple and that matter is colorless. I believe color actually starts in the brain with the three primary colors cyan, magenta, and yellow and that all matters has a cyan, magenta, and yellow code and I also believe that light is colorless.


The new color theory orange

The new color theory differs in it’s interpretation of the source of color: The source of color is in the brains cortex area. This is where the primary cyan, magenta, and yellow coding for color is. We start with black, which is the source of all color, when no light is present because 100% CMY equals black. There is an electrical impulse that is always turned on between the eyes bipolar

cells and the cyan, magenta, and yellow coding in the brain. We see color when white lights various proportions of triadic electromagnetic energy, subtracts various proportions of the brain’s 100% magenta, yellow, and cyan coding, through the eye’s bipolar cells. In other words we need colorless light to see color. Contrary to traditional belief, the new color theory believes that white light is colorless! The new color theory believes the color is easier to understand through this platform.

The illustration above shows why we see the color orange, when we look at an orange. All matter has a CMY coding. The orange which is matter has a pigment composed of 100% yellow plus 50% magenta and zero percent cyan. This pigment is under a physics law that says… the cyan pigment when illuminated by light must absorb light’s long wavelength in equal amounts and reflect the rest. The magenta pigment absorbs and reflects the medium wavelength in the same manner. The yellow pigment works in the same way with the short wavelength.

When the light illuminated the orange which has no cyan pigment, it reflects 100% of lights long

ray. 50% of the medium ray of light is absorbed by the 50% magenta pigment and reflects the rest. The 100% yellow pigment absorbs all of the short ray of light. The eye’s magenta, yellow, and cyan receptor cones collects the various percentages of the decoded light. It uses the decoded lights energy to turn-off (subtract) the bipolar cells. The 100% long ray turns off the cyan signal. The 50% medium ray cuts the magenta signal in half to 50%. There is no short ray so the yellow signal stays on at 100%. The bipolar cells sends these various percentages of decoded magenta, yellow, and cyan to the brain.

The brain responds to this by saying “you just turned off my cyan, and reduced my magenta to 50%, but my yellow is still on, so…the color is orange. (zero%cyan +50%magenta + 100% yellow = orange)


White light, which is colorless, contains three different wavelengths of electromagnetic energy. The long wave interacts with any matters cyan code, while the medium wave interacts with matters magenta code. The short wave interacts with matters yellow code.



Every object in the universe has a code of various percentages of CMY. This code will come from white, a pure hue, a shaded hue, black, or a tint of the previous three. The orange in this study has a code (which is a pure hue) of: 100% yellow + 50% magenta + 0% cyan



Every object when illuminated by light must absorb its like amount and reflect the rest. For example, the orange’s 50% magenta pigment will absorb 50% of the light’s medium wave energy and reflect 50% of the energy to the eyes. This reflected light has a new code, which is different from the light that illuminated the object. In this case it is 100% long, 50% medium, and zero % short electromagnetic energy I call this new light code #3.



The eye has over 6,000 cones, which are the receptors of the light. Their job is to receive the coded light (code #3), which turns off the electrical impulses to the brain. With the example of the orange, light’s medium ray turns off 50% of the electrical impulse to the brain. This would leave 50% magenta still active in the brain. There is no cyan in orange, so the long wave enters the eye as 100% energy. This 100% energy turns off the brain’s cyan to zero. The short wave is absorbed by the orange’s 100% pigment. The eye receives no short wave so the brain’s yellow remains at 100%.



The brain’s color center responds to this interplay of light by saying, “You turned off cyan, and you cut my magenta in half, but I still have 100% yellow, so the color is orange (zero % cyan + 50% magenta + 100% yellow = orange).






Imagine you are sitting in a darkened room facing a wall that has a computer monitor turned on but the screen is darkened to black. The monitor has a red line border so you can see were its located. For this test we’ll increase the brightness of the monitors so called red gun (colorless long ray) until it is fully on at 255 bit or 100%. Notice at 102 bit how the monitor is starting to look like a shaded red. At 255 bit the monitor in the dark room looks bright red. From this experiment one could conclude that the red gun is sending a red signal which contradicts what I have been saying. It certainly doesn’t appear that this so called called gun has anything to do with cyan. But you would be wrong in your assumption! The reason the red got brighter is because the red phosphor absorbed the red guns medium and short ray and allowed the long ray to pass onto your brain. It is sending a colorless signal that is decreasing the cyan in your brain as the power increases. Look at the illustrations above and you’ll see the cyan decreasing as the red gets brighter. Also notice the magenta and yellow in your brain, when added together make red, are not touched.

In summary we are privileged to see the color red by the colorless long ray (traditionally called the red ray), but the true red can only be changed by the medium and yellow channel (traditionally called the green and blue channels). These two rays interact with the magenta and yellow in our brain which makes red. The so called red ray can only give us the shaded side of red by decreasing it power.



RGB Channels illustration 1


This test is designed to show that the RGB channels are really the CMY channels by using the histogram menu. Figure A shows a watercolor of Tiffany opened up in photoshop as an RGB mode using the levels menu. This picture shows that the levels menu is not changed yet, so her color is natural.





RGB Channels Illustration 2


In this test we will make Tiffany look sun burned by adding magenta to her face. The additive color theory says adding red and blue equals magenta. The only way we can add magenta is by moving the green channels medium bar in the add position. The reason the green channel adds magenta is because it is really the magenta channel.





RGB Color Channel Illustration 3


In this test we will make Tiffany look jaundiced by adding yellow to her face. The additive color theory says adding red and green equals yellow. The only way we can add yellow is by moving the blue channels medium bar in the add position. The reason the blue channel adds yellow is because it is really the yellow channel.





RGB Channel Illustration 4


In summary, there are no RGB channels. The so-called RGB are actually CMY channels. Figure A shows Tiffany in full color in the RGB mode. In figure AA I captured the so called red channel which is really the cyan channel and moved it away. Notice that it is cyan and whats left looks reddish. This because the two remaining channels are magenta and yellow and not the traditional names of green and blue channels. Figure AAA shows all three so called RGB channels pulled apart which clearly shows that Tiffany is composed of cyan, magenta, and yellow.

Figures B-C-D shows you how to get around the computers RGB color picker. Figure B shows that the three channel colors look red, green, and blue and are named RGB. Figure C shows that if you pull the levers to the right that the three bars turn to cyan, magenta, and yellow. It is now easy to mix a color such as orange. Move the bottom yellow bar labeled D all the way to the left which is 100% yellow. Now move the middle bar which is magenta half way to the left which is 50% magenta. The new color you just created is orange which is 50% magentas + 100% yellow. Notice if you use the RGB formula that orange is 255 red + 128 green + 0% blue which is confusing.


Prism illustrations

The illustration left shows the prism refracts white light. When light illuminates an object it results in a new form of light called code #3. This coded light comes to our eyes in a colorless triadic code of short, medium, and long rays, which line up so we cannot see their makeup.

The illustration shows how the prism exposes code #3. The prism shows that this light (code #3) goes out in a 360° radius, with the long rays on the outside and the short rays on the inside. For a frame of reference, look at the 360° frontal view and imagine it as a clock. In my tests I have used the prism in an upside down position because it puts cyan and red at the top in a vertical alignment of the primary and secondary colors. The is the six o’clock position in the drawings above.

The nine o’clock position is the one used by scientists in explaining light’s visible spectrum, from 400nm (purple) to over 700nm (red). We’ll explore this in more detail later. Before we go on, let’s talk about the additive light colors, red, green, and blue. The prism shows the exact colors when viewed under 70K lights. The red is warm red and the green is a brilliant green. Researchers always show these colors correctly.

There is some confusion about the blue or purple color. Some people refer to the short rays as blue while others refer to them as purple. My research clearly shows that this color is a blue/purple. The blue phosphor used in TV and computer models is a quaternary color. It is the indigo blue that Newton saw. The computers would be more accurate if they changed blue to blue/purple.



The illustration above shows white light refracted by a prism which shows lights visible spectrum and how it translates into the ColorWheel shown below.