What are the four basic colors

The 4 main colors and their meaning


Of course, it would be possible to paint a picture with just black and white oil paint. But even if the two colors were repeatedly mixed differently to create different shades of gray, the images would be pretty monotonous in the long run. Art cannot do without real colors. And each color has its own meaning.

In nature, the different colors sometimes have functions that ensure survival. For humans, on the other hand, colors primarily serve as an ornament. Fashion, for example, would be just as unthinkable without colors as art. But it is also interesting to take a look at cultural history. Because unlike in art, where color effects and expressiveness are what counts, in cultural history each color has its own symbolism.

In art there is what is known as the three-color theory. This theory assumes that there are three basic colors. These three basic colors are yellow, red and blue. All other colors can be mixed from these three basic colors. For this reason, the basic colors are also called primary colors, while the hues that have been mixed from the primary colors are called secondary colors. The three-color principle is not only used by art. Instead, television screens and color monitors, for example, also work with this theory.

If a hobby painter wants to get basic equipment for oil painting, it is in principle sufficient if he gets himself yellow, red and blue oil paint. Together with white and black oil paint, he can mix all the other colors he needs for his oil paintings from these colors. Indeed, yellow, blue, and red are also the most commonly used.

There is also the color green, even if green is not a basic color, but a mixture of yellow and blue. In this respect, yellow, red, blue and green can be described as something like main colors. But what do these four main colors actually stand for?

We will investigate this question below.


In the past, yellow was reserved for the Chinese emperor and monks. Because of this, the people were not allowed to wear yellow robes. The yellow color was supplied by saffron. However, since around 80 crocus flowers are required for one gram of saffron, saffron was very, very valuable. Even today, saffron is one of the most expensive spices of all. At the same time, saffron has an extremely intense coloring power.

A single thread of saffron is enough to color several liters of water yellow. The dye called corcin is created automatically when dried saffron threads come into contact with water. Later, yellow dye was increasingly extracted from the reseda plant and turmeric, both of which are many times cheaper than saffron.

The color yellow, on the other hand, has long been the color of love. But later it also became a symbol of lust. The clergy therefore assigned the color yellow to prostitutes in the Middle Ages. From then on, they were obliged to identify themselves by means of a yellow belt or other yellow accessory. In the further course the color yellow got an increasingly bad reputation. Judas, for example, who betrayed Jesus, was depicted in a yellow coat. Under National Socialism, Jews had to wear a yellow star.

A similar obligation had already existed in the 12th century, when Jews had to identify themselves with a yellow hat. Phrases that reflected the bad image of the color yellow were also established in linguistic usage. Be yellow with envy or Spit bile are two examples of this.

Today there is nothing left of the bad reputation. So the color yellow is the color of the sun. It stands for happiness and joie de vivre, but also symbolizes knowledge and maturity.


The color blue has always had a positive connotation. After all, blue is considered the color of the gods who sit in the infinitely wide, blue sky for a reason. In Persia, ancient Egypt and ancient Babylonia, deities were always depicted in pictures in blue robes. The Mother of God, too, is usually dressed in a blue coat and even in fairy tales, the good fairy tale characters very often wear blue clothes. Indian deities have blue skin and a blue elephant is the symbol for enlightenment.

Hinduism assumes that the world emerged from a blue light. There is also an element that occurs in innumerable shades of blue and is vital: water. In everyday life, on the other hand, the blue light on emergency vehicles shows that help is coming.

Infinity, hope and help are only three meanings of the color blue. Two other meanings are depth and loyalty. From this, in turn, various customs for living together and marriage are derived. For example, the engagement jewelry should be set with sapphires and a bride should always wear something blue.

In nature, suppliers of blue dyes are few and far between. The best-known raw materials are indigo, woad and lapis lazuli.


The color red stands for fire, blood, love and passion. Legend has it that God used red earth to shape Adam. Jewelery with rubies is said to ward off disaster and red bedclothes are said to keep diseases away. In China, brides in red wedding dresses appear before the age of marriage. The red wedding dress should express the hope of a happy marriage, bring happiness and at the same time emphasize femininity. In this country, too, it was customary to marry in a red dress until the 18th century.

In many primitive peoples, the color red was the color that was supposed to keep away evil forces. It was also a common practice to bathe the weapon in blood before going into battle. In addition, red symbolizes power. For this reason, the executioners who decided between life and death used to wear red robes. And even today the highest judges in this country wear red robes.

At the same time, red is an alarm color that signals danger. In the Middle Ages, redheads were considered witches, red was the color of the devil and the fox with its red fur was not very popular. In the animal world, the color red is said to attract attention during courtship and otherwise scare off potential enemies. Even in people's everyday life, the color red is intended to indicate dangers or to urge caution. For this reason, for example, stop signs, alarm buttons, on / off switches or brake lights are red.

As a supplier of red dyes, nature has numerous raw materials ready. Iron oxide, cinnabar, henna, clay or the scale insect are a few examples.


The name Grün derives from the Germanic ghro ab and translated means something like grow or flourish. In the time of the minstrels, green symbolized love. Single women put on green clothes at the time, giving possible admirers to understand that their recruitment could be crowned with success. In Korea, a green shawl is still a classic accessory for every bride today. On the one hand, the cloth should express that the woman is newly wed and, on the other hand, bring her fertility.

The church was initially quite skeptical about the color green. For them, the symbol of fertility went hand in hand with something disreputable. Therefore, the Church declared that the devil is dressed in a green skirt in his hunt for souls. This attitude was supported by the so-called Schweinfurt green. This green was made up of arsenic and verdigris and was therefore known under the nickname poison green.

Despite all the adversities, the color green was able to assert itself with a positive symbolism. So green is considered the color of hope, growth, renewal and fertility. The church has also made friends with the color green. Lent, for example, ends on Maundy Thursday. On the last day of Lent, traditional green vegetables are also eaten, which symbolize the remission of sins.

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Internet media owner Ferya Gülcan
The two artists and painters RZA & Feryal, alias Christian Gülcan and Ferya Gülcan, write here. Both built in 1974, with partly different entry points (grafitti, drawing & design) into acrylic painting and oil painting. We are the brand owner of the art blacksmith kooZal and mainly paint modern and abstract acrylic and oil paintings in large format.

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The two artists and painters RZA & Feryal, alias Christian Gülcan and Ferya Gülcan, write here. Both built in 1974, with partly different entry points (grafitti, drawing & design) into acrylic painting and oil painting. We are the brand owner of the art blacksmith kooZal and mainly paint modern and abstract acrylic and oil paintings in large format. Show all contributions by editors

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