The Wheel of Color

The Wheel of Color

WEB9

Last week I had the pleasure of teaching a color mixing program for adults at a local library. The “mixed” results were wonderful, and it was thrilling to see the participants get creative with color and the color wheel.

We talked about the vocabulary of color, and I offered the students an overview of some of the most common color terms. Color is a very complex subject, and could be the subject of study over many lifetimes, so I tried to keep it simple and clear, yet informative.

 One of the most important terms is Hue: The “color of a color”. Hue is what we usually mean when we ask “what color is that? Hue is the term for the pure spectrum colors commonly referred to by the color names, such as red, yellow and blue. Different hues are caused by different wavelengths of light. But the relationship of light and color (color is actually an “effect” of light) is a subject for a different post!

WEB5

I also touched upon Chromaticity. This property of color tells us how pure a hue is. That means there is no white, black, or gray in a color that has high Chroma. Often referred to as “colorfulness,” Chroma is the amount of identifiable hue in a color. A color without hue is achromatic or monochromatic and will look gray.

As the students moved around and through the color wheel mixing colors, they discovered how the purity of  a hue effected what could be mixed from it. Some reds are a bit closer to blue, and some to orange. Some blues are closer to purple, and others to green. This effects the hue of the secondary colors can be mixed from these primary colors. Thus color mixing can become a real adventure, a challenge, stupendous fun, and always a voyage of discovery.

WEB2

Students experienced “saturation” of the colors they worked with. Saturation, also known as “Intensity”,  describes the strength of a color.  Related to chromaticity, saturation tells us how a color looks under certain lighting conditions. A room painted a solid color will look different at night than in daylight.Think about Saturation in terms of pale or weak and pure or strong, NOT light or dark. The terms Purity, Intensity, Saturation and Chroma are often used interchangeably when discussing color.

WEB3Mixing Color1 Video

When mixing colors, hues can be desaturated (reduced in purity or weakened), in one of three ways: mixed with white to lighten the value (creating a tint), mixed with black to darken the value (shade), or mixed with gray or the complement to either lighten or darken the value ( tone).

WEB8Color Wheel Design Video

Students were given the three Primary Colors: (Paint colors) Red, Blue, Yellow to work with. These are the colors which cannot be mixed or created through combining other colors.

Color Mixing 2 Video

They created Secondary Colors, which are mixtures of each two of the primary colors: Purple (blue + red), Orange, (yellow + red),  Green (yellow + blue).

Color Mixing 3 Video

 We also explored Tertiary Colors which are mixtures of a primary and secondary color next to each other on the color wheel, and contain the names of those colors in their names! The Tertiary Colors are:  yellow-green, yellow- orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-green, and blue-violet. (For our purposes, we are using purple and violet interchangeably).

WEB7

WEB1

Students also learned about Value, or the lightness or darkness of a color. When we describe a color as “light” or “dark”, we are discussing its value . The property of Value tells us how light or dark a color is, based on how close it is to white. For instance, yellow would be considered lighter than navy blue which in turn is lighter than black. The value of a color is also is also related its brightness.

WEB4The Face of Color Video

One of the most endlessly  fascinating color relationships is that of  Complementary Colors, which are color pairs  opposite or across from each other on the color wheel. Combining complimentary colors can produce “neutral” browns and grays, as their combination effectively “cancels out” the color properties of Hue, Value and Saturation. The complimentary pairs are made up of one primary and one secondary color, which are directly opposite each other on the color wheel:  blue and orange, yellow and purple, and red and green are compliments.

Above we see how the complimentary pair red and green, as well as blue and orange help this artist to reveal another face of color.

Color is science, but it is also emotional, expressive, and FUN! Find some paints, and start your color exploration… investigate, experiment, explore and experience the power of color to change your state of mind, or even how warm or cold you feel. We can actually FEEL a difference of 7 degrees in temperature, depending on what colors we see and are surrounded by. Such is the power of color. Color is powerful, but don’t forget to play with it, too!

Advertisements

Coming to Terms: Brightness & Lightness

Coming to Terms: Brightness & Lightness

WEB1

Many of us love to “geek out’ on color…whether it be with tools, materials or terms.  There isn’t always agreement about what each term actually means, and some of them seem to overlap.  Maybe some color terms cannot be neatly tied up in  one definition.

WEB1

Let’s perceive this post as an exploration, an investigation, and a drilling down into some of the color terms we use every day.  Well, the color terms we may use often, without truly thinking about it, or considering what they mean.  Perception…that’s the ticket!  We’re going to take this slowly, step-by-step, working (and playing) through the Terms, like Noah’s Ark, two by two. We started at the beginning, with Color &  Hue.  We worked  our way through Colorfulness  & Chroma and Saturation & Intensity, (which was, no pun intended…tee hee…intense!)

web5Luminous Intensity


Now we are ready to wind up the series with a look at the concepts of “Brightness and Lightness“, which sounds like a definition of Grace.   May this exploration (just can’t quite call it a romp…drilling down into the definition of these Terms does take some fortitude!) be an illuminating experience for us all.

light8What is “Brightness”?

Brightness  is an attribute of visual perception in which a source appears to be radiating or reflecting light.[1] In other words, brightness is the perception elicited by the luminance of a visual target. This is a subjective attribute/property of an object being observed. 

WEB6

In other words..the experience of “brightness” is “subjective”, or personal which can vary from person to person, as I understand the latter definition.  We experience “brightness’, as a response to the scientific phenomena of “Luminance” ...a photometric measure of the luminous intensity per unit area of light travelling in a given direction. It [Luminance] describes the amount of light that passes through or is emitted from a particular area, and falls within a given solid angle.

Thus, Brightness is what we see/perceive/experience as a result of that travel and “fall” of Light.  Still poetic.

WEB5Speaking of Light

What is “Lightness“…and how does it relate to “Brightness”…(besides rhyming with it…and creating poetry!)

Lightness  (sometimes called value or tone) is a property of a color, or a dimension of a color space, that is defined in a way to reflect the subjective brightness perception of a color for humans along a lightness–darkness axis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightness

light9Speaking of Light and Shadow…

Key here is the phrase “…along a lightness-darkness axis.” “Value” is the property, aspect or dimension of color that references its relative lightness or darkness. We may speak of “That is a sky blue, lighter in value, then the darker midnight blue of the night sky.” Also note the use of the word “subjective” (“…defined in a way to reflect the subjective brightness perception of a color for humans…).  Our perception of Brightness is to at least some extent, personable and variable.  The measure of Luminance, which causes the level of brightness that we perceive, is an amount.  Lightness refers to our perception of Brightness in terms of lightness to darkness.  This is about as far as I am able to break it down at this time!

light7

At one time in San Francisco, there was a Theatre Company called “Thick Description“.  This term also refers to an explanation of behavior, as well as its context…so that it can become meaningful to to others.  Sounds about as “thick” as our attempt to clarify the meaning of the Color Terms we use.

We may have to work through the “Thick Descriptions”, but my hope is for this series of post to shed some Light on Color…for YOU!  Out of the Darkness..into the Light…and Color!  We know Color is an effect of Light…after all.

Cheers!

 


Coming to Terms: Saturation & Intensity

Coming to Terms: Saturation & Intensity

web5

Many of us love to “geek out’ on color…whether it be with tools, materials or terms.  There isn’t always agreement about what each term actually means, and some of them seem to overlap.  Maybe some color terms cannot be neatly tied up in  one definition.

barb60

Let’s perceive this post as an exploration, an investigation, and a drilling down into some of the color terms we use every day.  Well, the color terms we may use often, without truly thinking about it, or considering what they mean. Perception…that’s the ticket!  We’re going to take this slowly, step-by-step, working (and playing) through the terms, like Noah’s Ark, two by two. We started at the beginning, with Color &  Hue.  We worked  our way through Colorfulness  & Chroma. Now let’s look at the intertwined concepts of Saturation and Intensity.

Dec192011_6427

Many of us use the term “saturated” often…and the term “intensity” even more. But, what do they mean? is there even an agreement as to what they mean?

Saturation has been described as the strength of a color, the dominance, and/or vividness of hue in a color, the intensity of a color,, the degree of difference of a color from a gray of the same lightness or brightness as the color.  Saturation is one of the three aspects by which a color is described, the others being hue, and value.

We learned that “Colorfulness can be defined as ‘”the degree of difference between a color and gray…and Chroma is the colorfulness relative to the brightness of another color that appears white under similar viewing conditions.”

cc3

Saturation may be defined as “the colorfulness of a color relative to its own brightness.”   or “ the degree to which it is different than gray at a given lightness.” Saturation measures the degree to which a color differs from a gray of the same darkness or lightness.

Thus, the Saturation aspect of a color may be defined as how far is from gray (“Colorfulness”), as regards to the aspect of “ visual perception in which a source appears to be radiating or reflecting light.”, or, Brightness. Thus Saturation relates to Brightness, which relates to to Luminance, which will be discussed in a subsequent post!

We have ascertained that “unpacking’ these Color Terms is akin to a a tongue-twister AND a brain-teaser!

cc2

To desaturate, (lessen saturation, or make less intense, give the appearance of being less strong, or, less full of, color) in a subtractive system, such as paint color, gray, black, white, or the complement (the color opposite on the color wheel) of the color in question can be added.  All will serve to lessen the intensity, strength, “purity”, concentration, and / or colorfulness of the color, and thus make it less saturated.

WEBc1

The term “Intensity” is often used interchangeably with “Saturation”, by painters and others.  I prefer to think of the term “Intensity” as a descriptor or adjective of “Saturation”.  Also known as “intensity,” saturation describes the strength of a color with respect to its value or lightness. What that means is a color’s saturation is the degree to which it is different than gray at a given lightness. For instance, colors near middle gray are relatively unsaturated compared to brighter, more vibrant colors….”–http://www.colorcube.com/articles/theory/theory.htm

“….saturation tells us how a color looks under certain lighting conditions. For instance, a room painted a solid color will appear different at night than in daylight. Over the course of the day, although the color is the same, the saturation changes. This property of color can also be called intensity. Be careful not to think about SATURATION in terms of light and dark but rather in terms of pale or weak and pure or strong.”http://www.colorcube.com/articles/theory/glossary.htm

Remember, Saturation is related to brightness, light, and luminance.

WEB3

Well, I hope your brain is not completely scrambled! It may be time to take a deep breath, relax, let our minds unwind, and take a moment to simply enjoy and revel in color…and saturate our soul and senses with it…pure, intense and full.

Coming to Terms: Colorfulness & Chroma

Coming to Terms: Colorfulness & Chroma

WEB5

Many of us love to “geek out’ on color…whether it be with tools, materials or terms.  There isn’t always agreement about what each term actually means, and some of them seem to overlap.  Maybe some color terms cannot be neatly tied up in even a colorful bow of one definition.

WEB1

Let’s perceive this post as an exploration, an investigation, and a drilling down into some of the color terms we use every day.   Well, the color terms we may use often, without truly thinking about it, or considering what they mean.  Perception…that’s the ticket!  We’re going to take this slowly, step-by-step, working (and playing) through the terms, like Noah’s Ark, two by two. We started at the beginning, with Color &  Hue.  Now let’s work our way through, and look at the inter-related terms Colorfulness and Chroma.

WEBc1

Colorfulness:  The definition that made the most sense to me is: ‘”the degree of difference between a color and gray. “–https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorfulness   In essence, Colorfulness is the level, or amount of color in a color! Not to be confused with “Hue“, or the “color of a color”. IE-the question,  “What color is it?” Relates to Hue, while “How full of Color is it?” relates to Colorfulness.

Weba

Gray is a mixture of black and white, Grey or gray is an intermediate color between black and white, a neutral or achromatic color, meaning literally a color “without color.” To drill down a bit on “Gray”, and its components, Black and White: “Black…. is the darkest color, the result of the absence of or complete absorption of light. It is the opposite of white. ….the color the human eye sees when it looks at light which contains all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum, at full brightness and without absorption. White does not have any hue.”

ZEBRAa

Chroma may be described as “the colorfulness relative to the brightness of another color that appears white under similar viewing conditions.”  According to this definition, Chroma is a type, or aspect of Colorfulness, which relates to Brightness (which relates to Light, and  Lightness.)  This exploration  is becoming quite a tongue-twister as well as a brain-teaser!

light2a

Thus, according to the above definitions, Chroma, means how far a color is from achromatic gray (Colorfulness),  as compared to the brightness of another color that appears white under similar viewing conditions.  Spoiler alert: “Saturation is the colorfulness of a color relative to its own brightness.     (We will get into Saturation, Brightness, Purity and Intensity in subsequent posts!)

Thus the term Chroma is associated with Brightness, or the perception of luminance.  I am repeating here, but sometime repetition helps us to drill down into, dissect and finally understand meaning.

WEB4

Well, that is about all the drilling down we have time for at the moment, so I  will leave You with my heartfelt wish that your Life be filled with as much Colorfulness, and the highest level of Chroma that you desire, with the Achromatic moments far and few between.  Unless you love shades of Gray, of course!