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When red and blue are mixed What is the resulting color?

When red and blue are mixed What is the resulting color?

When red and blue light are mixed together, the resulting color is magenta. This can be easily observed by shining red and blue spotlights so they overlap – the area where they intersect will appear magenta. The same principle applies when mixing red and blue pigments or dyes. The resulting color when red and blue paints or inks are blended is a purple shade known as magenta. So the quick answer is that red and blue make magenta when mixed together. But why does this happen?

The Basics of Color

To understand why combining red and blue makes magenta, we first need to understand some basics about color. Visible light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be detected by the human eye. The wavelength of light determines its color. Longer wavelengths appear red, medium wavelengths appear green, and shorter wavelengths appear blue/violet.

When light hits an object, certain wavelengths are absorbed while others are reflected. The wavelengths that are reflected determine the color we see. For example, a lemon appears yellow because it absorbs blue and violet light and reflects wavelengths in the yellow-green region.

Additive vs Subtractive Color Mixing

There are two main ways that colors can be mixed:

Additive mixing involves directly combining light wavelengths. This is what happens with TV/computer screens, which start with darkness and add red, blue, and green light to make other colors. When red and blue light are additively mixed, the result is magenta. This is because magenta is composed of a combination of medium-long and short wavelengths without any medium wavelengths.

Subtractive mixing involves reflecting some wavelengths while absorbing others. This is what happens when mixing paints, dyes, or inks. For example, yellow paint absorbs blue light while reflecting red and green. When red and blue pigments are subtractively mixed, they together absorb green while reflecting red and blue light, resulting in magenta.

So whether using additive light mixing or subtractive pigment mixing, combining red and blue results in magenta because magenta reflects red and blue light while absorbing green wavelengths.

The Visible Spectrum

Wavelength (nm) Color
630-700 Red
590-630 Orange
500-590 Yellow
460-500 Green
400-460 Blue
380-400 Violet

To better understand how mixing red and blue makes magenta, it helps to visualize the visible spectrum of light. The table above shows the wavelength ranges corresponding to different colors. Red light has long wavelengths of around 630-700nm, while blue/violet is at the short end with wavelengths of 400-500nm. Green occupies the central part of the visible spectrum with wavelengths of 500-590nm.

When the long and short wavelengths of red and blue light are combined additively, they mix to form magenta light which lacks green wavelengths. Similarly, red and blue pigments reflect red and blue while absorbing green, also resulting in magenta.

The RGB and CMY Color Models

There are two color models that help illustrate how combining red and blue makes magenta:

RGB stands for red, green, and blue. This is an additive model used for light, computer screens, and other displays that start with darkness and add light wavelengths. Mixing red and blue light in equal amounts produces magenta.

CMY stands for cyan, magenta, and yellow. This is a subtractive model used for inks, paints, and dyes that start with a white background and subtract wavelengths through absorption. Mixing cyan (which absorbs red) and yellow (which absorbs blue) pigments produces magenta by absorbing green.

Color Model Primary Colors
RGB (additive) Red, Green, Blue
CMY (subtractive) Cyan, Magenta, Yellow

These color models help show that mixing red and blue light directly makes magenta in an additive system. And conversely, subtracting green by mixing cyan and yellow pigments also results in magenta.

Color Perception

Our eyes contain special photoreceptor cells called cones that detect different wavelengths of light. There are three types of cones maximally sensitive to long (red), medium (green), and short (blue/violet) wavelengths. All other colors are perceived by combinations of stimulation across these three cone types.

When both the red-sensitive and blue-sensitive cones are stimulated about equally by magenta light, with minimal activation of the green-sensitive cones, the brain interprets this input as the color magenta. Similarly, a magenta pigment absorbing green light stimulates red and blue cones while the green cones receive little input.

So at the level of visual processing in the brain, combining wavelengths associated with red and blue, whether additively or subtractively, is interpreted as magenta.

Magenta Across Color Systems

In any color system based on mixing three primary colors, combining two of the primaries makes the third.

  • In RYB (red, yellow, blue), mixing red and blue makes purple.
  • In RGB (red, green, blue), combining red and blue makes magenta.
  • In CMY (cyan, magenta, yellow), mixing cyan and yellow makes magenta.

While these various color systems have slightly different primaries, they share the basic principle that mixing two primaries results in the third. So no matter the specific red, blue, and third primary colors used, combining red and blue wavelengths produces the color lacking those wavelengths – which we perceive as purple/magenta.

Pigment vs Light Magenta

When discussing magenta, there is a key distinction between the magenta produced using pigments versus light.

Pigment magenta contains wavelengths reflecting both red and blue light. However, it lacks the spectral purity of magenta light produced additively. Pigment magenta also differs slightly depending on the specific pigments used.

Magenta light produced by combining pure red and blue wavelengths is more saturated than pigment magenta. It precisely lacks green wavelengths, stimulating red and blue color receptors while green receptors receive no input.

So while both pigment and light magentas are purplish colors between red and blue, additive light magenta is more vibrant and spectrally pure. Subtractive pigment magenta is less saturated but can still produce a vivid purplish tone.

Properties of Magenta

Some key properties of magenta:

  • Located between red and blue on the color wheel.
  • Complementary color to green.
  • Primary color in the CMY and CMYK color models.
  • Secondary color produced by mixing red and blue primary colors.
  • Longest and shortest visible wavelengths combined.
  • Absorbs green light, reflecting red and blue.
  • Additive mix of about 50% red light and 50% blue light.

These properties help define magenta as a vivid purple situated between red and blue on the color wheel. Mixing wavelengths associated with red and blue produces this secondary color that appears opposite to green.

Whether generated additively with light or subtractively with pigments, combining red and blue makes magenta by blending long and short wavelengths while subtracting green wavelengths.

Examples of Magenta

Here are some examples of where magenta can be observed:

  • Overlapping red and blue spotlights.
  • Blending red and blue paints, dyes, or inks.
  • On a computer or TV screen displaying pure magenta color.
  • Magenta laser pointers and fluorescent pens.
  • Magenta flowers like fuchsia and orchids.
  • Magenta-colored foods like raspberries, dragonfruit, and grapes.
  • Magenta fabrics, clothes, paints, and cosmetics.
  • The color of white light minus green wavelengths.

Both natural and artificial sources produce magenta when combining red and blue wavelengths. On color wheels and visualization diagrams, magenta lies halfway between red and blue. It is also one of the main secondary colors, complementing green on the RYB and RGB color models.

Uses of the Color Magenta

Some common uses and associations of the color magenta:

  • Printing – Magenta is one of the primary colors in the CMYK printing process along with cyan, yellow, and black.
  • Design – Magenta creates a bold, eye-catching accent when paired with black, white, gray, or neutrals.
  • Fashion – Used in clothing, accessories, makeup for a vibrant, playful look.
  • Digital Displays – Magenta is made by lighting up red and blue pixels on RGB screens.
  • Science – Magenta lasers or filters used to isolate specific red and blue wavelengths.
  • Food/Beverage – Used in products like candy, soda, ice cream to convey fruit flavors.
  • Marketing – Brands like T-Mobile use magenta to stand out.
  • Art/Creativity – Useful for making energetic, futuristic, or psychedelic color palettes.

From hot pink fashion statements to futuristic sci-fi color schemes, magenta’s vibrant energy makes it versatile for accenting products, designs, and digital or print media. Combining the passion of red and the coolness of blue, magenta strikes a bold, distinctive balance.

Magenta vs Purple

Magenta sits in the purplish zone of the color spectrum, but there are some key differences between magenta and purple:

  • Magenta is a secondary color between red and blue.
  • Purple is a tertiary made by mixing red, blue, and sometimes yellow or white.
  • Magenta is more reddish, dominated by long wavelengths.
  • Purple contains more blue, balancing red and blue.
  • Magenta is high in colorfulness and saturation.
  • Purple can be muted or grayish.
  • Magenta pops against black, white, and yellow.
  • Purple creates softer, cooler combinations.

So while in the same general family, magenta contrasts with green, while purple contrasts with yellow. Magenta pops vividly thanks to saturated, intense pigments and light wavelengths. Purple is a cooler, more nuanced blend.

Magenta Color Combinations

Magenta is a bold color that demands attention. It works best when combined with neutral or contrasting colors.

  • Magenta + Black – high contrast and visual drama
  • Magenta + White – clean and modern
  • Magenta + Gray – sophisticated and refined
  • Magenta + Yellow – energetic, youthful vibe

Different shades of magenta can also be combined, like pairing a vivid fuchsia with a softer lilac purple. Tones are more harmonious when they share an undertone – combining a blue-based cool magenta with a blue-based purple.


When red and blue light or pigments are mixed, the resulting color is magenta. This vivid purple combines the longest and shortest visible wavelengths while absorbing green. Red and blue are primary colors, so mixing two primaries makes the third – in this case, magenta.

Whether observed in light sources, on screens, or with inks and paints, magenta visually strikes a balance between the stimulation of red and blue color receptors. So magenta is truly a mixing of extremes, blending energetic red and calming blue. This makes it both visually striking and naturally complementary to green.

Magenta may mix red and blue, but it stands alone as a signature color with timeless visual power. Its balance of warm and cool makes magenta versatile for accenting fashion, design, marketing, and color palettes of all kinds. So while composed of two colors, magenta is uniquely its own vivid shade.