Join Jim Krause for an in-depth discussion in this video The three components of color, part of Color for Design and Art.
- A lot of designers are confused, and even intimidated by the whole topic of color. Maybe you're one of those designers, or maybe you're an illustrator or a fine artist who feels unsure about either choosing colors individually, or combining them into good-looking palettes. So, don't worry about it. There's a good chance you're just seeing color as being way more complicated than it really is. That's all. Here's the deal: any color that you could imagine has just three things going on with it.
Just three, only three, and always three. What we're talking about here is a color's hue, saturation, and value. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. Just these three qualities. So if a color looks bad, it doesn't seem to be getting along very well with other nearby colors, then in the overwhelming majority of cases, you just need to make an adjustment to one or two of these characteristics. Yeah, sometimes all three, but even then, we're still just talking about three things to look at and possibly adjust.
Three. Hue, saturation, and/or value. And now that we've simplified the whole idea of color into just three components, let's look at each piece individually, starting with hue. Hue is just another word for color. The two words can be used interchangably. Hues or colors can be given fancy names like periwinkle, pumpkin, fuchsia, or they can go by names borrowed from the color wheel like blue, orange, or yellow-green.
Saturation. This refers to a color's brightness or its intensity. A fully saturated hue is fully bright. It's fully intense. A desaturated hue is usually described as being muted or grayed out. Any hue can be any degree between fully saturated and highly desaturated. Browns and grays, by the way, these are simply desaturated versions of a particular hue. Browns are generally semi-muted versions of orange, red-orange, yellow-orange or red.
Grays are generally highly muted versions of any color, and they come in two flavors: cool and warm. Grays come from the colors ranging from blue-green to violet. Warm grays come from colors ranging from yellow through red, and these colors have been muted beyond the point of being what we call browns. There are also neutral grays, which have absolutely no hint of any color. And last, but definitely not least is value. Value is how light or how dark a color appears, or a shade of gray.
Value is extremely important because, simply put, hue and saturation, it can't even exist without a value to latch onto. If there's no value, there can't be any color. Another important thing to know about value is that our eyes actually depend on value differences way more than they depend on hues or levels of saturation to make sense of what we see. Value tells us where one thing ends and another thing begins.
Value establishes clarity. Compare these two photos, one with clear value differences, and one without. Yes, value is really important when it comes to visual clarity, obviously. Which isn't to say that all three components of color aren't critical when it comes to choosing and using colors, especially when creating color schemes. Hue, saturation, and value, they're all extremely important, for sure. But just know that without clear differences in value, things start falling apart really fast.
Alright, let's wrap up by summarizing. There are only three things to look at when assessing a color. Its hue, otherwise known as its color, its saturation, which is how bright or how muted the color is, and value, which is how light or dark the color is. There you have it, the three and the only three, and the always three components of color.
Primarily aimed at designers and illustrators, the course leans heavily toward digital tools such as Photoshop and Illustrator, but concludes with some challenges using real-world media (inks and paints!), so members can get a solid understanding of mixing colors and what tools and combinations work best.
- Navigating the color wheel and color vocabulary
- Why a color's value is so important
- RGB vs. CMYK vs. spot
- Finding the perfect color
- Working with grays and browns
- Building a color palette
- Borrowing hues for palettes
- Establishing color hierarchies
- Fixing color problems
- Altering color in photos and illustrations
- Using texture with color
- Painting for learning and fun