Difference Between Additive and Subtractive Colors (With Table)

To see how shading executives functions, you’ll require a basic comprehension of added substance and subtractive shading multiplication frameworks. Both utilize few essential shadings that are blended to make an enormous number of different tones. Notwithstanding, the manner in which they go with regards to it is altogether different.

Additive vs Subtractive Colors 

The main difference between additive and subtractive colors is that additive color uses transmitted light. On the other hand, the subtractive color uses reflected light.

The additive color model is used in cameras, televisions, and mobile phones. The additive color model describes how light creates color. RGB stands for red, green, and blue, and they are additive colors. The added substance shading begins with dark and adds red, green, and blue light to create the noticeable range of tones.

While pigment is used to make color using reflected light in the subtractive color model. Printing, silk-screening, painting, and other techniques that apply pigment to a substrate employ this color model. Cyan, yellow, magenta, and black are subtractive colors. Subtractive shading starts with white (paper) and finishes with dark; when more tone is added, the outcome obscures.

Comparison Table Between Additive and Subtractive Color

Parameters of ComparisonAdditive ColorSubtractive Color
TerminologyAdded substance shading alludes to a circumstance wherein shading is framed by consolidating apparent light from a few hued light sources.Subtractive color or subtractive color mixing predicts the spectral power distribution of light as it passes through successive layers of partially absorbing material.
BasisIndividual wavelengths are added or subtracted in additive color.Subtractive color is based on the absorption or removal of specific wavelengths from white light.
UsageKeep the color mode RGB if the final product will only be seen on a screen or monitor.Remember to adjust the color mode from RGB to CMYK if the final result will be printed. 
Color CombinationRed, green, and blue, or RGB, are additive colors. Cyan, yellow, magenta, and black (commonly known as CMYK) are subtractive colors.
Starting PointTo create the visible spectrum of colors, the additive color starts with black and adds red, green, and blue light. Subtractive color starts with white (paper) and finishes with black; the outcome darkens as more color is applied.

What is Additive Color?

Red, green, and blue, generally known as RGB, are additive colors. The additive color model explains how light interacts with the human eye to create all of the visible spectrum’s hues. Furthermore, additive color creates a visible range of colors by starting with black and adding red, green, and blue light.

The outcome becomes lighter as additional color is added. White light is created when all three colors are blended equally. These contraptions’ shading delivering techniques are straightforwardly founded on our aversions to red, green, and blue light upgrades. These gadgets, similar to the natural eye, should all the while investigate a lot of shading information on the screen.

To make a bright deception, these gadgets reasonably reflect the eye’s reaction to the added substance primaries. Every one of the little pixels of a PC show, for instance, joins unmistakable forces of red, green, and blue light. Since these pixels are so little and firmly pressed, the RGB reaction of the eye is deluded into recognizing various tones when there are just three.

What is Subtractive Color? 

Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow, or CMY, are subtractive hues. The subtractive color model begins with white and ends with black in the additive vs subtractive color comparison. So, what exactly does this imply? The resulting hue darkens as you add more color. As a result, when you print C, M, and Y, on paper, they absorb light, leaving your eyes with no reflected light and seeing darkness.

Printers, for instance, should communicate with mirrored light to make tones on paper and different substrates. To accomplish this, the subtractive primaries cyan, fuchsia, and yellow are utilized in resistance. In the noticeable range, cyan is something contrary to red, maroon is something contrary to green, and yellow is something contrary to blue.

At the point when cyan, red, and yellow colors are put to a white, reflecting substrate, they totally assimilate or eliminate their contrary partners from the white light. Printing methods utilize cyan, maroon, and yellow inks to control how much red, green, and blue light pondered white paper.

Main Differences Between Additive and Subtractive Color

  1. Added substance shading blending is brought about by the synchronous impact of many shading sensations known as aggravations on the retina. Contrary to additive color mixing, subtractive (multiplicative) color mixing does not include the mixing of color irritants, but rather the subtraction of color.
  2. When three light zones are optically combined, additive color synthesis occurs (red, green, and blue). Subtractive color is achieved by combining the primary hues of the materials (cyan, magenta, and yellow).
  3. Added substance tones incorporate green + red = yellow, blue + red = red, and blue + green = cyan. Subtractive blending is shown with the tones yellow + red = red, yellow + cyan = green, and fuchsia + cyan = blue.
  4. Additive color prints are opaque to the eyes, implying that one color over another does not allow it to be seen, but subtractive color prints are transparent to the eyes, implying that one color over another does not allow it to vanish.
  5. Subtractive color uses the CMYK system and follows the RGB system, which is the display of primary colors with varying light intensities. On the other hand, additive color follows the RGB system, which is the display of primary colors with varying light intensities.


When considering your brand identity and the colors that will characterize it, consider your marketing and design demands first. If you’re working on a variety of marketing assets from print to digital, using your knowledge of additive and subtractive colors to establish color is quite satisfying.

Because additive colors use transmitted light, they seem brighter and produce a wider visible spectrum, resulting in millions of colors on a screen. Because subtractive colors rely on reflected light, they look muted when compared to additive colors.


  1. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/8855129/
  2. https://www.osapublishing.org/abstract.cfm?uri=josaa-31-1-58
  3. https://www.spiedigitallibrary.org/conference-proceedings-of-spie/5081/0000/Additive-and-subtractive-transparent-depth-displays/10.1117/12.488106.short