Color Terminology

Color is highly subjective as it is dependent on the personal taste. Color becomes more subjective when the viewer has color deficiencies such as color blindness.

When talking about color, it is important to understand the terms associated with color. Otherwise, it is easy to confuse tints and tones or chroma and saturation. Below is a glossary of important color terms.

  • Hue: Hue is often confused with the word "color." Hues are a result of different wavelengths of light. A hue is the property of color that can be seen in a spectrum of colors that include red, yellow, green and blue. The color wheel is the perfect example of this spectrum. Hues are the purest and brightest colors.
  • Value: Value is used to describe light or dark. The property of a color informs its lightness or darkness based on its proximity to white or black. A bright yellow has higher value than navy blue. You can also have a range of low value colors of different hues. In other words, colors with the same value will not have a gradation of light to dark.
  • Saturation: Saturation is the brightness and intensity of color. It refers to the amount of color used. The key is that saturation depends on lighting conditions. Saturation can be classified as pure or strong, pale or weak. At full saturation, colors will be vibrant. When color is taken away, it becomes desaturated.
  • Chromaticity: Chromaticity refers to the pureness of a color. There is no white, black or gray in a color that has high chroma.
  • Tint: A tint is any pure hue mixed with white.
  • Tone: A tone is any pure hue mixed with gray or its complement.
  • Shade: A shade is any pure hue mixed with black.
  • Color Contrast: Contrast in color is the level of value difference between two or more colors. Yellow and blue have high contrast while green and red do not.