I encourage artists to learn and use the C-M-Y wheel, in which cyan stands in for what we’ve always known to be primary blue, and magenta fills in for red.
Yellow, red and blue have long been considered primaries because they are pure; they have no other colors in them, and in theory, all other colors can be created by mixing combinations of yellow, red and blue. (I write about this at length in The Beader’s Guide to Color, and include some gorgeous beaded examples of the color schemes in the CMY primaries.)
However, use cyan and magenta in place of blue and red, and the mixing of these primaries creates a broader and more luminous range of colors than the traditional yellow-red-blue primaries of the artists’ wheel. It is difficult, if not impossible, to mix vibrant purples and red-violets using a true blue and red pigment. Because magenta is more luminous than red, using it as a primary rather than red greatly expands the red-pink-purple range.
“But Margie,” you say, “we’re not mixing colors! We’re using beads, a pre-mixed medium!” (I took the words right out of your mouth, didn’t I?)
I have a few answers for that:
When I work directly with the wheel, I use a C-M-Y wheel, because I want that fuller range of colors. And I am particularly drawn to cyan and magenta and the colors they can create. When I look at the traditional artist’s wheel, I immediately sense the lack of luminosity and vibrancy, and find it leaves me visually unfulfilled. The wheel I use, a C-M-Y wheel (available for free with purchase, see left, or in the “Books, Patterns, & More” section, under “Bead Accessories”).
Also, the CMY wheel is more contemporary, accounting for the wide range of chemical dyes available to us.
This is especially important to bead artists who work with a wide range of colors, yet cannot mix their colors as painters do. If you’re an artist working with a wide range of purples, pinks, teals and blue-greens, the colors of cyan and magenta are critical to your palette.