In my last article relating to colour theory I presented the term hue and an assortment of popular harmonious colour schemes.

Value Scale, courtesy of Creative Commons

There are two more terms that are very useful when describing a hue, and these are:

  • value, also known as “shades and tints”
  • saturation, also known as “intensity” or “chroma”

Value is used to describe how light or dark a hue is. We generally distinguish these values in colours without thinking, so instead of a complex description I decided to opt for a useful diagram, shown on the right.

Looking at the grey scale from top to bottom, your eyes can probably work out that there is a consistent gradual change between each scale number, from White to Black.

Your eyes can probably also perceive that the Blue, Violet and Orange hues have the same consistent gradual change to the corresponding grey scale values.

This is all achieved without compromising the hue and the saturation.

Saturation, courtesy of Wikipedia

Saturation is used to describe how bright or dull a hue is.

You can think of the brightest as the purest colour of the hue, and the dullest being where the purity of the colour is extinguished from recognition.

The diagram shown on the left demonstrates how the saturation of this particular red hue is gradually extinguished of pure colour until it becomes grey. Most saturation charts have a scale showing the brightest to the dullest.

One of the more effective methods to reduce a hue’s brightness is to add it’s complement, which dulls the hue.  See article Speak Colour Theory for more information on complements.

Along with the name of the hue, these two attributes, value and saturation, are very useful when describing a colour.

[1] Image courtesy of   [2] Image courtesy of

Originally published: Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 at 21:46 in Atelier, Inspiration


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