Can anyone tell me why the definition of Tertiary colour on many websites and other literature is being wrongly defined?
Primary is the colour we start with, red, yellow and blue are commonly used in subtractive colour painting (but magenta, yellow and cyan in print primaries). Secondary is the mix in any proportions of any two primaries. Tertiary is a mix of the three primaries in any proportion, or a secondary and its complementary primary.
In many definitions now it is said to be a mix of a primary colour and an adjacent secondary, which according to me, is still a secondary colour! Has any one else noticed this disturbing trend? It appears to have infected most of the common websites such as Wikipedia and is being replicated in viral way.
The question is, if tertiary is not what it used to be, what term to we now use for a tertiary colour? Grey, brown, olive ... you see the problem! If we are not careful secondary will become primary and primaries will disappear altogether and then where will we be?
I feel like I'm walking into some sort of linguistic swamp here. As far as traditional painting is concerned, here goes:
Primary colors— You have it right. There are three primaries, red, yellow and blue. Secondary colors— You have it correct there, also. Secondaries are formed by mixing any two primaries.Tertiary colors— However, your statement regarding the definition of tertiary colors and how they are acheived should be corrected. Tertiary colors are not acheived by a mix of the three primaries in any proportion, or a secondary and its complementary primary.
Tertiary colors are acheived by mixing any single primary and its adjacent secondary color. Here is an example. Red, a primary color, mixed with violet, an adjacent secondary color, produces red violet, a tertiary color. There are only six basic tertiary colors: yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange, and yellow-orange.
What we are dealing with are the origins and hierarchy of color, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary—the basic twelve colors with which we work. All of these statements are made with direct reference to the color wheel. The mixture of compliments is another ballgame. Mixing a color with its compliment can produce marvelous toning or darkening effects and can produce rich browns and neutrals. These colors are derivatives or modifications of the primary, secondary and tertiary colors.
None of this is my opinion—it is just fundemental information.
You referred to the defination of tertiary color by Wikipedia. As painters, we have to understand these definations in reference to the color wheel.
Wikipedia's first defination of a tertiary color is, "a color produced by mixing two secondary colors." This is not correct.
Mixing green and violet, two secondary colors will not produce a tertiary color. Generally, I think it is best to take extra caution when mixing two secondaries — such as orange and green or green and voilet. It is very easy to come up with mud, something we all want to avoid. However, it is possible to acheive some interesting browns and neutrals. The safest way to work with two secondaries is to use one as a dominate and the other as an influencing color, a subtile toner. Whatever color you produce by mixing two secondaries, it is simply a derivative color or a modified color, not a tertiary color. There are only six tertiary colors, as noted above.
Wikipedia's second defination of a tertiary color is, "a color produced by an equal mixture of a primary color with a secondary color adjacent to it on the color wheel." This is correct.