Magenta is a purplish red color evoked by lights with less power in yellowish-green wavelengths than in blue and red wavelengths (complements of magenta have wavelength 500–530 nm). In light experiments, magenta can be produced by removing the lime-green wavelengths from white light. It is an extra-spectral color, meaning it cannot be generated by a single wavelength of light, being a mixture of red and blue wavelengths. The name magenta comes from the dye magenta, commonly called fuchsine, discovered shortly after the 1859 Battle of Magenta near Magenta, Italy.

In the Munsell color system, magenta is called red-purple. In the CMYK color model used in printing, it is one of the primary colors of ink. In the RGB color model, the secondary color created by mixing the red and blue primaries is called magenta or fuchsia, though this color differs in hue from printer’s magenta.

Historical development

Magenta dye (1860)

Before printer's magenta was invented in the 1890s for CMYK printing, and electric magenta was invented in the 1980s for computer displays, these two artificially engineered colors were preceded by the color displayed at right, which is the color originally called fuchsine made from coal tar dyes in the year 1859. The name of the color was soon changed to magenta, being named after the Battle of Magenta near Magenta, Italy.

Process magenta (pigment magenta; printer's magenta) (1890s)

In color printing, the color called process magenta, or pigment magenta, or printer's magenta is one of the three primary pigment colors which, along with yellow and cyan, constitute the three subtractive primary colors of pigment. (The secondary colors of pigment are blue, green, and red.) As such, the hue magenta, is the complement of green: magenta pigments absorb green light; thus magenta and green are opposite colors.

The CMYK printing process was invented in the 1890s, when newspapers began to publish color comic strips.

Process magenta is not an RGB color, and there is no fixed conversion from CMYK primaries to RGB. Different formulations are used for printer's ink, so there can be variations in the printed color that is pure magenta ink. A typical formulation of process magenta is shown in the color box at right. The source of the color shown at right is the color magenta that is shown in the diagram located at the bottom of the following website offering tintbooks for CMYK printing: A printer’s magenta is usually out of gamut on a computer display, so the color at right is only an approximation.

In Prismacolor colored pencils, this color (Prismacolor PC 994) is called process red (it would have been more accurate to call it process magenta). The Prismacolor colored pencil process red color is not quite as saturated as the color process magenta shown above.

Electric magenta (additive secondary magenta) (web color fuchsia) (1990s)

Electric magenta, shown at the right, is one of the three secondary colors in the RGB color model. For computer color rendition, that specific hue of magenta composed of equal parts of red and blue light was termed the web color fuchsia and was assigned as an alias for the RGB code of magenta on a list of standardized web colors. "Electric" magenta and fuchsia are exactly the same color. Sometimes electric magenta is called electronic magenta.

The color fuchsia is named after the color of the flowers of the Fuchsia plant, named after Leonhart Fuchs, although most of the flowers of the plant are not quite so bright.

Electric magenta vs. process magenta

Note that while both of these colors are called magenta they are actually substantially different from one another. Process magenta (the color used for magenta printing ink--also called printer's or pigment magenta) is much less vivid than the color electric magenta achievable on a computer screen--indeed, CMYK printing technology cannot accurately reproduce pure magenta as described above as electric magenta (1/2 100% blue light + 1/2 100% red light=magenta) on paper.

When electric magenta is reproduced on paper, it is called fuchsia and it is physically impossible for it to appear on paper as vivid as on a computer screen. In order to reproduce it, a small amount of cyan printer's ink must be added to printer's magenta to make fuchsia, and therefore fuchsia is not a primary color of pigment--it is the color of printer's magenta that is one of the primary colors of pigment (along with cyan and yellow).

The name fuchsia was chosen as the alias for electric magenta because that is the color name for the color that in printed reproduction is its equivalent.

Since prior to the introduction of personal computers magenta was synonymous with printer's magenta, colored pencils and crayons called "magenta" are usually colored the color of process magenta (printer's magenta) shown above.

On the color wheel

If the visible spectrum is wrapped to form a color wheel, magenta (additive secondary) appears midway between red and blue:

In culture

In art

  • Since the mid 1960s, water based fluorescent magenta paint has been available to paint psychedelic black light paintings. (Fluorescent magenta is one of the seven main colors used, in addition to fluorescent orange, fluorescent red, fluorescent cerise, fluorescent chartreuse yellow, fluorescent blue, and fluorescent green.)
  • By the early 1960s, vivid colors in the magenta range became available, and as a result many become aware that magenta, yellow, and cyan make better primary pigments than red, blue, and yellow.

In astronomy

  • Astronomers have reported that spectral class T brown dwarves (the ones with the coolest temperatures) are colored magenta because of absorption by sodium and potassium atoms of light in the green portion of the spectrum.

In music

In parapsychology

  • To psychics who claim to be able to observe the aura with their third eye, someone who has a magenta aura is usually described as being artistic and creative. It is reported that typical occupations for someone with a magenta aura would be such professions as artist, art dealer, actor, author, costume designer, or set designer.

In politics

  • The color magenta is used to symbolize anti-racism by the Amsterdam-based anti-racism Magenta Foundation.

See also


External links

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