Color is often difficult to communicate about. The reason is that the words we use to describe color are vague and frequently misunderstood. Technical terms such as “value,” “saturation,” and “chromaticity” are confusing but even simple words such as “bright,” “pure,” “shiny” and “dim” are hard to use accurately. I’ve started compiling a glossary containing the words and concepts to help you understand the terminology of color.
The name of the color family, for example, red. This is what we usually mean when we ask “what color is that?”
Hue Contrast – strikingly different hues
Hue Constant – different colors, same hue (blue)
The lightness or darkness of a color. When we describe a color as “light” or “dark”, we are discussing its value or “brightness.” Variations include tints, tones, and shades.
Low Value, Constant- same brightness level
Contrast of Value – grayscale = no chroma
Contrast of Value – stark differences in brightness
A color that has been lightened by adding white only.
A color that has been modified by adding gray (both black and white).
A color that has been darkened by adding black only.
The brightness or dullness of a color based on the purity of the color. This property of color tells us how pure a hue is. That means there is no white, black, or gray present in a color that has high chroma. These colors will appear very vivid and well, … pure. This concept is related to and often confused with saturation.
High Chroma – very shiny, vivid
Low Chroma- achromatic, no hue
Constant Chroma – medium chroma
Related to chromaticity, saturation tells us how a color looks under certain lighting conditions. For example, a room painted a solid color will appear different at night than in daylight. Over the course of the day, although the color is the same, the saturation changes. This property of color can also be called intensity. Be careful not to think about saturation in terms of light and dark but rather in terms of pale or weak and pure or strong.
Saturation Const. – same intensity, different hues
Saturation Contrast – various levels of fullness, same hue
Reds, oranges, and yellows.
Greens, blues and violets.
A color scheme which uses various values of one color.
A colorless scheme which uses only blacks, whites and grays.
Terms of the Color Wheel
Red, yellow and blue. These colors cannot be made by mixing other colors together.
Orange, green and violet. These colors are created by mixing two primary colors together.
The color achieved by mixing one primary and one secondary color. These are also called intermediate colors.
These are colors located next to each other on the color wheel, such as yellow, yellow-green and yellow-orange.
These are colors opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red and green, or blue and orange.
Selecting one color and using the color located on each side of its complementary color, such as blue with red-orange and yellow-orange.