RGB vs RYB colour schemes

Hi All,

tl;dr: Should I use RGB or RYB colour wheels to pick colour schemes?

I’m starting to dive into some basic colour theory and something that isn’t making much sense to me is whether to use an RGB or RYB colour wheel. I know that RYB are the primary colours and traditionally when it came to painting the colour wheel was set up around these colours. RGB as far as I can tell only came about later with discoveries around light and LED displays.

That’s all well and good but my issue is that if I take a widely established colour combination, for example a triad combination, and I then look at this on the colour wheel, I get different colours schemes depending on if the wheel is RGB or RYB. It seems odd that one wheel would say the colours work well together and the other wheel would say they don’t.

A number of sources seem to promote RYB as being the better when it comes to establishing colours that work well together, but then something like Adobe Colour is set around the RGB wheel so it’s a little confusing. One would think that the medium is irrelevant when deciding which colours look good together. So which one should I use and why?


If you understand that RYB is actually Magenta Yellow Cyan (CYM) - it is the compliment of RGB or the exact opposite. Your printer has CYM or CYMK (K = Black) ink. Your TV has RGB light sources.

Printers (the profession) call Magenta red and Cyan blue, thus creating confusion.

RGB and CYM plus black and white make the 8 corners of a color cube.

Thanks for the reply, however, I’m still a little confused. I can see on an RGB colour wheel that CYM would be complementary, however, the hues are still arranged slightly different on an RYB colour wheel.

To illustrate my point a little better, this example website allows you to pick a colour and generate colour schemes. It also allows you to select either an RGB or a RYB colour wheel:

If I take a red colour (e.g #ff0000) and then generate a complementary harmony I get two different answers depending on which wheel I’m using. RGB says it’s red and cyan (#00ffff), RYB says it’s red and green (#00ff00).

So it’s a little confusing getting contradicting information. Which one of the wheels should I be using?