2D Design (Art 107)


Color Terminology

As in many others areas of knowledge, Color has its own set of terms which convey specific meaning and which may not always coincide with common usage of a term.


Hue is the traditional color “name”, such as red, which represents a specific wavelength of visible light. In most instances color and hue are used interchangably even though they do not exactly mean the same thing or refer to the same phenomenon. The hues in the spectrum are traditionally listed as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. ROYGBIV is a common mnemonic for remembering the order of colored light in the spectrum. Black, white and the grays produced from them are not usually considered to be hues. The average eye can differentiate approximately 150 different hues.


Value: Color also has value, i.e. a relative degree of lightness or darkness. Most colors are recognizable in a full range of values; e.g. we identify as a form of “red” everything from the palest pink to the darkest maroon. Even though we assign different names to the different values of red we still know that they are derived from red. All hues have a normal value; the lightness or darkness of that hue as it appears in the spectrum. Yellow, for example, is a light-valued color while violet is a dark-valued color. As a result, there will be an uneven range of light or dark values for each hue.

Tint is the term used to describe a hue that has been lighted in value from its normal value. Pink is tint of red. Tints are achieved by mixing white with a pigment or by using a pigment in a dilute form to allow for the white of the ground to show through.

Shade is the term used to describe a hue that has be darkened in value from its normal value. Maroon is a shade of red. Shades are achieved by mixing black with a pigment.

NOTE This use of the term shade is specific to color theory. In common usage a “shade” is usually a variation in color of a hue. To say “your coat is a nice shade of blue” usually means that your coat is not true blue but some blend of blue with other colors.

Intensity refers to the purity of a hue. Intensity is also known as Chroma or Saturation. The highest intensity or purity of a hue is the hue as it appears in the spectrum or on the color wheel. A hue reduced in intensity is called a Tone. A tone is a hue with reduced or dulled strength.

A tone of a hue is created in two ways;
1. By adding a neutral gray, equal in value to the hue. For example, a light gray added to yellow or a medium gray added to red or a dark gray added to violet.
2. By adding its complement.
Tones that have their intensity reduced almost to the point of appearing gray are referred to as a Chromatic Gray.

Local Color referrs to the natural hue/color of something independent of any lighting conditions. For example, the local color of a STOP sign is red; grass is green, the sky is blue.

Complementary Hue: In most color systems the complement of a hue is the hue directly opposite it on the color wheel. For example, in the Prang system green is the complement of red, yellow the complement of violet and orange the complement of blue. The dictionary defines “complement” as something that fills in or makes up what is lacking.

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