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Is orange formed by mixing yellow and blue?

Is orange formed by mixing yellow and blue?

The short answer is yes, orange is formed when yellow and blue light are combined. This is due to the way our eyes perceive color through light waves. Keep reading to learn more about how mixing different colored lights creates new colors like orange.

The Color Wheel

The relationship between different colors can be visualized on a color wheel. The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. Secondary colors like orange, green and purple are formed by mixing two primary colors next to each other on the wheel in equal amounts. For example:

Red + Yellow = Orange
Yellow + Blue = Green
Blue + Red = Purple

Tertiary colors are formed by mixing a primary and secondary color. For example red-orange is made from red and orange. The color wheel shows how colors relate to each other visually.

Light and Pigments

There are two different ways that color is produced – with light and with pigments. Light starts from darkness and colors are added by emitting different wavelengths. Pigments start from white and colors are created by subtracting wavelengths through absorption and reflection. This difference affects color mixing.

With light, such as on a computer screen, colors are produced by emitting red, blue and green light. The combination of all three at full intensity produces white. With pigments, such as paint, colors are produced by absorbing some wavelengths and reflecting others. The combination of all pigments produces black.

Mixing Colored Lights

When it comes to light, primary colors are red, green and blue – not red, yellow and blue. This is because our eyes have receptors that detect these three colors. Other colors are perceived by mixing different intensities of red, green and blue light.

Yellow light stimulates the red and green receptors in our eyes roughly equally. Blue light stimulates the blue receptors predominantly. When yellow and blue light mix together, it stimulates the red, green and blue receptors to produce the perception of orange. So mixing yellow and blue light creates orange light.

Light Wavelengths

The colors we see correspond to different wavelengths of visible light. Red light has the longest wavelength at around 700nm while blue/violet has the shortest at around 400nm. Yellow light is around 580nm and blue light is around 470nm. When these wavelengths mix together, the result is light with wavelengths corresponding to orange, at around 600nm.

So in terms of wavelengths, combining 580nm yellow light and 470nm blue light produces light with wavelengths around 600nm, which is perceived as orange. This demonstrates that mixing yellow and blue light truly does produce orange.

Mixing Pigments

Mixing pigmented colors works differently than mixing light colors. With pigments, the primary colors are red, yellow and blue like on the color wheel. This is because pigments selectively absorb and reflect different wavelengths of light.

A yellow pigment absorbs blue and violet light while reflecting red, orange and green. A blue pigment does the opposite. When yellow and blue pigments mix together, both blue and violet light get absorbed, while red, orange and some yellow light get reflected back. This mix creates the perception of orange.

So mixing blue and yellow pigments also creates the color orange. The mixing principles are different than with light, but the end result is the same.

Digital Color Mixing

On digital displays like computer monitors and phone screens, colors are produced with light. So the primary colors are red, green and blue (RGB) and mixing principles follow those of light. Digital orange is made by mixing red + green light, not yellow + blue light.

But when designing digitally, color pickers and programs are often based on mixing pigmented paint colors. So they use the RYB color wheel rather than RGB. This can cause confusion when mixing colors digitally versus physically.


In summary, mixing yellow and blue light waves does produce the color orange that we perceive. This is because yellow light stimulates the red and green color receptors in our eyes, while blue stimulates the blue receptors. The combination of stimulated red, green and blue receptors tricks our visual system into seeing orange.

While light and pigment color mixing follow different principles, they both produce orange through combining yellow and blue constituents. So no matter the medium, orange is indeed formed by mixing yellow and blue.