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In movie 2.2 of my Foundations of Photography: Black and White course we looked at how red, green, and blue--the three primary colors of light--mix together to create all other colors. If you haven't seen that movie, you should take a look at it now and then come back here. Ink is different. Inks are made from dyes or pigments, and they have different primary colors than light does. In ink, the primary colors are cyan, magenta, and yellow. Unlike light, these primaries are subtractive. As you mix them together, they get darker.
In reality, we can't create pigments or dyes that are perfectly pure because they're made up of physical elements and compounds. It's impossible for us to create pigments and dyes that don't have other colors and properties mixed in. So, in the real world, if you mix a bunch of cyan, magenta and yellow ink together, you don't actually get black, you just get a dark brown mush. To get true black, a printer uses a dedicated black ink. This black also lets it create darker hues of other colors. We refer to this model for mixing color as CMYK, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.
We don't say CMYB because the B might be confused with blue or burgundy or something. So your camera represents images as mixes of red, green and blue light, which mix together to ultimately form white, while your printer mixes cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks and maybe a few other colors which mix together to ultimately form black. If you have ever tried to print an image and found that your results don't look anything like what you saw on-screen, then you have already encountered something that engineers spend a lot of time wrestling with, it is simply very complicated to translate additive red, green, and blue primaries into subtractive cyan, magenta, and yellow primaries.
As you will see in the rest of this chapter, a big part of what makes color complicated is that it's just a hard thing to describe and a difficult thing to describe across different devices that each might represent color in a different way. Therefore, before we can explain how you will work with color on your computer, we need to cover a few terms.
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