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Additive color mixing shows how different colors of light combine to make another color. This is how computer monitors and color TVs make their colors. They have red, green, and blue pixels, and by adjusting the amount of red, green, and blue you may see, for instance, yellow, orange, black, or white. The human eye perceives color in a similar way, having receptors that are sensitive to red light, to green light, and to blue light.

Subtractive color mixing shows how different colors of pigments (such as paints or inks) combine. This is, for instance, how most color laser printers work. Starting with just three colors of ink (cyan, magenta, and yellow), the colors can be combined in different proportions to make different colors. Such printers usually also have a black ink, to give true blacks and to save on the ink required to make black from the combination of equal amounts of cyan, magenta, and yellow.

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