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Which two colors make blue?

Which two colors make blue?

Blue is a primary color that can be created by mixing two other colors together. The two colors that are combined to make blue are cyan and magenta.

Cyan and Magenta

Cyan and magenta are two of the primary colors in the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) color model. This model is used for color printing. When cyan and magenta pigments are mixed together, they make the color blue.

Cyan is a greenish-blue color. It is one of the secondary colors in the RGB (red, green, blue) color model, which is used for onscreen colors. In print, cyan is one of the primaries. Magenta is a reddish-purple color. It is a secondary color in RGB but a primary in CMYK.

The CMYK model works by laying down overlapping layers of cyan, magenta, and yellow ink. When cyan and magenta overlap, the resulting color is blue. This is because magenta subtracts the green light that cyan reflects, leaving only blue light.

Light and Pigments

The reason that different color models exist has to do with the physics of light versus pigments. RGB colors are additive, meaning the primary colors combine to form other colors. CMYK is subtractive, with primaries blocking certain wavelengths of light and overlapping to form new hues.

Computer and television screens use RGB and emit colored light. Cyan and magenta are created by mixing green and blue light or red and blue light. Overlapping cyan and magenta light makes white light.

Printing uses CMYK and pigmented inks. Cyan and magenta ink absorb certain light wavelengths and reflect blue when combined. Overlapping cyan and magenta ink makes dark blue.

Color Mixing

When mixing colors physically, such as with paint, cyan and magenta paints make blue. Blue paint contains blue pigment particles that absorb all light except blue wavelengths. Overlapping cyan and magenta paint filters out more wavelengths, leaving only blue.

Here is a table showing examples of different ways to make blue by mixing cyan and magenta:

Method Cyan Example Magenta Example Result
Light Green pixel light Blue pixel light Blue light
Printing Cyan ink Magenta ink Blue ink overlap
Paint Cyan paint Magenta paint Blue paint

As seen in the table, combining cyan and magenta light, inks, or paints results in the color blue. The exact shades may vary depending on factors like ink/paint formulations and light intensities.

Subtractive Mixing

Printing and painting use the subtractive color model. Subtractive mixing starts with a white surface. When color is added, it absorbs or subtracts some wavelengths of light while reflecting others.

Cyan ink or paint absorbs red light while reflecting blue and green. Magenta absorbs green light while reflecting blue and red. When magenta is layered on top of cyan, the green light reflection is subtracted from the cyan, leaving only blue light to be reflected back.

Computer and TV screens add color starting with a black screen. This is known as additive mixing. Combining cyan and magenta light adds blue light to the mix to make white light.

Shades of Blue

Different shades of blue can be made by adjusting the proportions of cyan and magenta. More cyan will make a greenish-blue. More magenta will give a reddish-purple blue. Equal amounts of cyan and magenta pigment or light will make a pure blue.

In CMYK printing, black ink is often added to darken blues. In RGB on screens, adding blue light along with cyan and magenta light will also make a richer, darker blue.

Here are some common shades of blue and approximate cyan and magenta mixes:

  • Navy blue: 80% cyan + 80% magenta
  • Royal blue: 60% cyan + 60% magenta
  • Sky blue: 40% cyan + 20% magenta
  • Periwinkle: 20% cyan + 40% magenta
  • Blue-violet: 10% cyan + 80% magenta

These percentages are approximate. Exact ratios depend on the medium, surface, and lighting conditions.

Complementary Colors

Cyan and magenta are complementary colors. Complementary colors are located opposite each other on the color wheel. They enhance one another when placed side-by-side.

In the RGB model, cyan is made by mixing green and blue light. Its complement is red. In CMYK printing, magenta is cyan’s complement. Mixing complementary cyan and magenta pigments produces a vivid neutral gray.

The complement of blue is orange. This means orange and blue also strongly contrast with and accent each other. So cyan and magenta not only mix to make blue but are complements that intensify blue’s orange complement.

Uses of Blue

Blue is a popular color with many uses. Some of the areas where blue created from cyan and magenta is commonly used include:

  • Web design – cyan is one of the three additive primary colors used online
  • Printing – cyan and magenta inks combine to make blue
  • Signage – cyan and magenta create bright, attention-grabbing blues
  • Decoration – in paints, dyes, and other colorful materials
  • Art – painters mix cyan and magenta to produce blue
  • Clothing – cyan and magenta dyes make various blue shades

Blue is associated with qualities like intelligence, stability, unity, and calmness. It is a top choice for corporate logos, uniforms, and banners. Lighter blues can suggest peacefulness and relaxation.


Cyan and magenta are complementary colors that combine to create blue. Their exact relationship depends on whether they are used as light, inks, or pigments. Overlapping cyan and magenta lights adds blue to make white. Layering cyan and magenta inks or paints subtracts wavelengths leaving blue as the net reflection.

Different proportions of cyan and magenta make lighter or darker blues. Equal amounts result in a pure blue. Blue made from these two secondary colors is vivid and useful for many applications from websites to artwork.

So in summary, the two colors that mix together to create the primary color blue are cyan and magenta.