Understand the science behind color mixing

February 29, 2012 //By Anshul Gulati
Understand the science behind color mixing
Anshul Gulati, Staff Applications Engineer at Cypress Semiconductor explains the science behind color mixing, including the mathematical equations involved and how to implement them efficiently.

   High-brightness (HB) LEDs continue to increase in popularity due to the numerous advantages they offer when compared to the conventional lighting solutions. One of the advantages of HB LEDs is their ability to generate different colors, opening a new dimension to the world of decorative lighting.  

   Color mixing is essentially a process where a secondary color is generated by mixing the appropriate proportion of base primary colors. This article will explain the science behind color mixing, including the mathematical equations involved and how to implement them efficiently. 

Science behind color mixing & multi-stimulus space

   Primary colors are not a fundamental property of light but are often related to the psychophysical response of the eye to light. It is conceived that primary colors are completely independent from each other and sets of colors that can be combined to generate a useful range ( gamut) of colors.

   Similar to any other mathematical representations of physical phenomenon, color models can be expressed in different ways. Each has its advantages and drawbacks. The goal of modeling is to minimize formulation complexity and the number of variables while maximizing “substance” and breadth of coverage.

   Historically, whatever the meaning assigned to the variables, three of them were enough to describe all colors: RGB, Hue-Saturation-Brightness (HSB), and other HS based models, such as L×a×b and xyY. One common feature was the number of variables or dimensions.

   In multi-stimulus space, color stimuli are denoted by letters, such as Q, R, G, B, and A. Q represents an arbitrary color stimulus and the letters R, G, B, and A are reserved for fixed primary stimuli chosen for color matching experiments. The primary stimuli are Red, Green, Blue, and Amber.

   A color matching between a given stimulus Q and the additive mixture in suitable amounts of the fixed various primary stimuli R, G, B, and A can be expressed by vector

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