Who Owns the Color Magenta?


The color magenta, depending on your color settings

I was disturbed to read, on the back cover of a recent Newsweek, that the color magenta is no longer public property. “T-Mobile and the magenta color are registered trademarks of Deutsche Telekon AG,” that’s what I read at the bottom of a friendly looking ad featuring Whoopi Goldberg.

Holy Cow, I feel – perhaps – the way Native Americans must have felt as invaders claimed to own parcels of the great outdoors.  Colors aren’t trademark-able, and aren’t own-able either!  Should I rush to Trademark Black or White?  Perhaps the Photo Arts Monthly banner color at the top of this page?

Is just one little color important?  Yes.  To have all options open to all artists is important.  Magenta might not be a top shelf color, a Crayola top five.  You rarely hear someone say “my favorite color is definitely Magenta” or “I like the way it drives, I just wish it came in Magenta” (well, here in Oakland, CA maybe…)  Magenta, though, is a very important color, especially for digital artists.  Not just for the occasional Valentines Day promo design or promotions of alt wedding vendors, but for the day to day.  Seriously.

The balance of color correcting operates on two continuums, the first is yellow to blue, as in blue daylight to yellow indoor bulbs to very yellow candle light.  We think of that as the Kelvin Scale.  The second scale, the Y axis to Kelvin’s X, is green to magenta.  It’s more subtle, perhaps even a processing afterthought, but too much or too little magenta will suck the “pop” right out of a photo.  Magenta is the other warm tone, the other adjustment for nice skin tone.

Secondly, for print work, magenta is a primary color.  The traditional primary colors, red, yellow, and blue, are pretty limited when dye hits paper.  Cameras capture in RGB or red, green, and blue, just as monitors project.  Inks, however, reflect certain colors, not project them.  Inks, then, more often use the Subtractive Primary Colors, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow.  A wide range of blues, as one example, can be printed by combining varying amounts of cyan and magenta, while blue dye can’t be mixed with red or yellow, or green to produce cyan or magenta.  The subtractive colors, including the newly-trademarked color magenta, offer printers a wider gamut.

So, designing a punk wedding, color correcting a recent photo, or peeking under the hood of your ink jet printer…. it’s magenta. Let me say this: Down With Color Trademarking!  Shame on you, Deutche Telekon AG! My little business has equal right to the whole color wheel as anyone else.  Coke Red?  Ford Blue?  Duracell Copper?  Starbucks Green?  No, no, no, no.  Colors to the People!

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2 Responses to “Who Owns the Color Magenta?”
  1. Matteo – My Matt feels the same way about this color trademarking ordeal. One of my favorite artists, Yves Klein, patented a specific blue pigment. It is beautiful…And I think his paintings are fabulous. But Matt thinks it is the most ridiculous thing ever…nobody can patent a color!

  2. Sanja says:

    Exactly! Well said! I agree 100%! By the way, my favourite colour IS magenta – or some similar shade of pink… LOL 🙂