Colour Terminology

COLOR is the general term used to describe every hue, tint, tone or shade we see. White, Black and Gray are often referred to as a color.

A HUE refers to the dominant Color Family of the specific color we’re looking at. White, Black and Grey are never referred to as a Hue.

SATURATION defines the brilliance and intensity of a color. When a pigment hue is “toned,” both white and black (grey) are added to the color to reduce the color’s saturation. In terms of the “additive” light color model, though, saturation works on a scale based on how much or how little other hues are represented in the color.

Saturation is also referred to as “intensity” and “chroma.” It refers to the dominance of hue in the color. On the outer edge of the hue wheel are the ‘pure’ hues. As you move into the center of the wheel, the hue we are using to describe the color dominates less and less. When you reach the center of the wheel, no hue dominates. These colors directly on the central axis are considered desaturated.

VALUE refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. It indicates the quantity of light reflected. When referring to pigments, dark values with black added are called “shades” of the given hue name. Light values with white pigment added are called “tints” of the hue name.

A TONE is produced either by mixing a color with grey, or by both tinting and shading. Mixing a color with any neutral color (including black, gray, and white) reduces the chroma, or colorfulness, while the hue (the relative mixture of red, yellow, green, etc. depending on the color space) remains unchanged.