Design Glossary: Basic Color Terminology

Color is one of the fundamentals that design is built of. It can be a powerful tool in the expert’s hands affecting numerous factors that are vital for the compelling visual perception. Color has a significant impact on our minds. It changes the way we feel about an object within a few seconds as well as makes people react and even take certain actions. At first sight color science may seem not that difficult to master but diving into the details it’s obvious that there are many peculiarities which demand to be comprehended. In the article Color Theory: Brief Guide For Designers, we touched upon the basics of the science helping designers in their craft. Today we gathered a handy glossary with the essential terms of the color theory which will help graphic and UI designers get a better understanding of how color works. Color Before we step any further, it’s important to figure out the essence of color itself. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as a phenomenon of light (such as red, brown, pink, or gray) or visual perception that enables one to differentiate otherwise identical objects. Simply put, color is a quality of an object which is caused due to the light being reflected or emitted by this object. Color can be verified visually by measurement of its properties such as hue, saturation, chromaticity, and value. To gain proper awareness of color meaning let’s define its characteristics. Color Properties Hue The term hue is often mistaken for the color so it needs to be cleared out. First, we should understand that “color” is a general term that people use to name all the hues, tints, and tones. On the other hand, a hue is exactly the thing we mean asking “what color is it?”. Basically, it is a family of twelve pure and bold colors presented on the color wheel. A hue serves as a basic material that can be transformed in three different ways – tinting, shading, and toning. Depending on the applied technique, a hue is modified into tint, shade, or tone. They are easy to distinguish. A tint is created by mixing a hue with white, while a shade is a mix of a hue and black. Toning is a more delicate process because it requires adding both black and white the reason why the results may seem more natural than shades and tints. Source Value As we said above colors have certain characteristics by which they can be recognized. Value is a property telling how light or dark a color is. The characteristic is defined by the level of whiteness. The more white has been added to a hue, the higher the value it receives. Chromaticity Chroma, or chromaticity, shows the purity of a hue. The characteristic is measured by the presence of white, grey, or black in a color. Twelve basic hues described above have the highest level of chromaticity since they don’t contain any additional elements. Colors with high chroma usually look bold and vivid. Saturation This characteristic has much in common with value and chroma, so sometimes they may be mistaken. Still, it’s vital to understand the differences. Unlike two previous properties, saturation doesn’t apply to mix hues with any other colors. It is about how a color looks under different lighting conditions. Saturation describes how bold or pale color is according to its look in the daylight and weak light. The property is also known as the intensity of a color. Color Wheel If you had any lessons related to painting, you must have seen the circle consisting of different colors….

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