These are universal terms used by many artisans, craftpersons and trade professions. It makes communication more efficient when talking across disciplines and professionals, when the terms are the same.  Efficiency is time, and in a professional capacity, time is money. The client’s money.

Color Terms

Hue is the technical term for color, it is the color family that most of us are familiar with. Red, yellow, blue, green, orange and purple. From this all variations descend.

Value in the context of color, has three levels. Light, medium and dark.  A typical gradation in a color study is seven levels. This is the most common distinction that most people can detect. An advanced color study, uses twelve levels. This is typically the level of distinction a color professional can easily detect.  Value then is the light, medium or darkness of a Hue.

Color itself is relative to its context, it is dualistic by nature.

Tint-Adding white to a hue, produces a tint. Red + white = pink, Orange + white = peach, etc.

Shade-Adding black to a hue, produces a shade. Red + black = burgundy (for simplicity) Yellow + black = olive green (odd but true… )

Tone-Adding gray to a hue, produces a tone.

Saturation is a bit trickier to define. It too, has three basic levels of distinction. Weak, medium and strong. These describe the intensity of the pure hue present in a color sample. When a color is at its maximum strength, there is nothing else mixed with it to produce that intensity. When another hue, tint, shade or tone is added, it is said to ‘desaturate’ the intensity.

A clear example of this is Black and White. Both, for the purposes of our illustration are fully saturated. When adding even the tiniest bit of one to the other, the purity has been diluted and a lesser level of saturation has been achieved.

This is true when adding black or white to a pure hue, like yellow, red or blue. The secondary colors, orange, green and purple are technically,  desaturations of their parent colors.  Any color added to another will desaturate it. Adding black, white, gray, brown, red, yellow, blue, green, etc. results in a desaturated color.  Neutrals are perfect examples of saturation. Understanding saturation will give your design longevity with strategic use of neutrals. (more on this in future posts)

Saturation is the trickiest of the dimensionality of color to grasp and it is my personal favorite. It makes unique and expressive color combinations an infinite possiblity!