Concept: Color: 3

    Master Concepts List

    Concept: Color

    Color is a general category of visual experience that includes the components of hue, brightness, and saturation (see below). Color can be specifically defined as different wavelengths of light. Objects and the materials of which they are made reflect only part of the light spectrum and therefore appear as if they have a given color. The eye interprets these wavelengths as a low level perception, shortly after brightness awareness. As such a low level awareness, color is a dominant component in creating figure/ground relationships.

    Related Concepts

    Hue, Saturation, Brightness (HSB) - Color can be accurately described by defining the hue, saturation, and brightness of the color. Someone could say, "I made the shape blue" but that does not give enough information to understand the blue -- is the blue bright like the sky or dark like the ocean depths? is it vibrant like a neon light or dull like faded paint? To fully understand a color description, all three components of color must be described.
    * Alternate terms: Chroma-Intensity-Value, Hue-Tone-Tint

    Hue - Hue refers to a specific wavelength of color and is typically described as the name of the color. For example, blue, red, green, and yellow each name a specific color. The general guide for what constitutes a color name is the visible spectrum. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, red. All other name variations (pink, brown, cyan, etc.) can be defined as one of the spectrum colors when brightness and saturation are taken into consideration. In normal human vision, the wavelengths of visible hues fall between about 400 nm and 700 nm in the spectrum with the longer wavelengths equating to the red end of the spectrum.


    Visible Spectrum

    Saturation - Saturation refers to the purity or intensity of a color A "vivid" color is a highly saturated color and a "muted" or "dull" color is a low saturation color. Saturation generally diminishes when colors are mixed.


    Brightness - Brightness refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a color. This is generally achieved by adding black or white to a color and will, as a result, affect the saturation of a color.


    The image below illustrates a change in brightness from a low brightness red to a high brightness red. The gray squares below the red squares indicate the brightness of the appropriate red square for comparison. (Note: the saturation of the red changes as well, losing saturation as the brightness increases)

    Brightness Comparison

    The image below illustrates a change in saturation from high saturation blue on the left to low saturation blue on the right. The gray squares are provided for reference as they indicate the brightness of the appropriate blue square. Note that while the saturation changes, the brightness does not.

    Saturation Comparison

    Return to the Master Concepts List