In Hayter's “Introduction to Perspective Drawing and Painting,” is a diagram of the three primitive colours, with their combinations, which show the best contrasts. He says, this is highly useful for a painter to understand: and I think it is highly useful for a printer also to understand; for it will enable him to make the best disposition of colours in printing so as always to produce a superior effect to what could be done without the guidance of a correct principle. I shall give the passage.
“ You may try another experiment in proof of the primitive superiority of red, yellow, and blue, over all other colours. First draw a circle; then, with the same opening of the compasses, set one foot on the circumferent line, and draw a second circle; and again, with one foot of the compasses on the point where the two circles bisect, draw a third; cover one whole circle with yellow, another with red, and another with blue (letting each dry before you lay the next); the colours intermixing by the equilateral intersection of the three circles, will produce green, orange, and purple; and the central portion, taking all the three colours, will be neutral of the black class, and nearly black, according to the strength of the three separate lays of the primitive colours.
By this diagram you will have a certain proof of the colours which are most adapted to oppose each other, from which the knowledge of their harmonizing properties may be derived. You will find a primitive colour always opposite to a compound one; as, BLUE will be opposite orange, RED opposite green, and YELLOW opposite purple; which must determine them to be the natural opposites: this is highly useful for a painter to understand.”