Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Three Properties of Color

Sometimes, color terminology can be a gray* area, pun intended. I would like to help by explaining the basics of color vocabulary here.

Sometimes, I write something that I want to remember, and so it was when I edited a certain Wikipedia page on the Elements of Art** and wrote this:
"There are three properties to color. The first is hue, which simply means the name we give to a color (red, yellow, blue, green, etc.). The second property is intensity, which refers to the vividness of the color. For example, we may describe an intense blue color as "bright, rich, and vibrant". We may conversely describe a low-intensity blue color as "dull, subtle and grayed". A color's intensity is sometimes referred to as its "colorfulness", its "saturation", its "purity" or its "strength". A color's perceived intensity is related to its perceived brightness (brighter colors are more intense). The third and final property of color is its value, meaning how light or dark it is. The terms shade and tint are in reference to value changes in colors. In painting, shades are created by adding black to a color, while tints are created by adding white to a color"***

And sometimes, when I really want to remember something, I create an infographic.

Some clarification here regarding the concepts described in the Wikipedia article.
  • First, what is considered a hue is debatable. If you are using paint, it is blue, red, and yellow. But if you are using light or RGB graphics, then it is red, green, and blue. Some people consider all the colors of the ROYGBIV rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet) a hue.
  • Second, although Wikipedia puts color saturation under "colorfulness," if you are sitting in art class the words "color saturation" and "purity" will probably be used instead of the word "colorfulness."
If you are really interested in color and want to know more, I would recommend taking a color theory class at a local college. It was probably the best class I took when I got my minor in Fine Art. Alber's color theory book is also a great place to learn more.

*A fun side note is that "gray" and "grey" mean the same thing (unless you are talking about a specific person or specific thing, like Earl Grey tea). A minority of people insist that they are actually separate colors and that gray is a darker color whereas grey is lighter. However, the majority of people think the words are interchangeable and that the difference is merely that Americans prefer to spell it with an 'a' whereas the British prefer to spell it with an 'e'.
**I pasted what I wrote here because, since Wikipedia is an ever-evolving medium, what I wrote could be changed at any time. I wanted a static copy of what I wrote.
***I did not include my reference sources here, but I submitted the source information to Wikipedia when I submitted my verbiage.

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