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  • Writer's pictureGabriela Torres Vanegas

Dive into the World of Colour: Hue, Value, and Saturation

Have you ever wondered why certain colours make you feel a certain way? It's like magic, right? Well, colours do a lot more than just add beauty to our world. They play with our emotions, shape our choices, and often sneak into our day-to-day decisions.

Think about it: the clothes we wear, the wallpapers we choose, even the Instagram filters we love - they're all influenced by colours!

Colour Theory

Colour theory is like the rulebook for how colours play well together. It’s not just about the obvious shades but about setting moods and vibes, especially in art and design. Think of an artist’s palette. It’s not just about splashing paint but telling a story with every brushstroke

Colour Explained (In Simple Terms)

Describing a colour is kind of like describing how chocolate tastes. It’s subjective! We often use fun names like "lemony-green" or "cherry-red." These aren’t just fancy names; they help pin down exactly what we mean by hue, value, and saturation.

Colour is Subjective

My choice of colour does not rest on any scientific theory, it is based on observation, on feeling, on the experience of my sensibility

- Henri Matisse

You might notice in everyday conversation that we hardly ever refer to the colour of something as simple "red" or "blue, but we often used adjectives to better describe the colour we are talking about. Colour is subjective and using adjectives to describe colour helps us understand that colour is not only represented by its color name


What’s in a Hue?


In the simplest way, hue is the colour name. So, we have hues of blue, yellow, red, and so on. Just remember that everyone has their unique take on hues

Keep in mind that perceptions of hue are personal. Your understanding of red might differ from someone else's (which is why we use adjectives to describe it). Don't stress too much about finding the 'truest' form of blue or any other color; it's as elusive as the answer to the meaning of life. There's no definitive center for any hue

Colour Wheel and Hue

The colour wheel arranges hues in a circular way, of course this is not only way to display them, but it is the ways that helps us see and understand the relationship between primary (red, blue, yellow), secondary (Green, orange, purple), and tertiary colours

What is Value?

Grayscale Rendering of Colour

Value describes the relative darkness or brightness of a color. By adding black or white to a hue, its position on the value scale shifts from high to low, where white represent the highest value and black the lowest.

By adding white or black to a hue, it either darkens or lightens based on a grayscale,

This is where understanding value gets intricate. Two colors might appear distinct yet possess the same value. How can this be? Though the range of values between white and black is potentially infinite, for simplicity's sake, we often use a scale from 1 to 10.

10-Point Grayscale Value

Colour Value

From a grayscale perspective, every color can be pinpointed somewhere on this scale. Thus, two entirely different hues might share the same value.

Relationship between colour and value: Tints, Tones, and Shades

Tint: Achieved by adding white to a hue, making it lighter.

Shade: Achieved by adding black to a hue, making it darker.

Tone: Achieved by adding both white and black (or gray) to a hue

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What is Saturation?


Saturation is the intensity or purity of a colour. A colour with high saturation will appear vivid, like the colours in a rainbow, and with low saturation it will appear more muted or gray-out

It sounds a lot like value doesn’t it? But these are two independent components.



Saturation refers to the intensity or purity of a color. A highly saturated color is vivid and bold, while a desaturated color appears more faded or grayish.

The lightness or darkness of a color. It doesn't refer to the color itself but how light or dark that color appears.

Saturation Vs Value


If saturation is the intensity or purity of the colour, then desaturation is the toned-down, dulled version of that colour. Desaturation can be achieved by mixing a colour with its complementary colour. The more you mix, the more disaturated and neutral (greyish) the colour becomes

Saturation in Real World Context

Highly saturated Colours are a double edged sword
  • Attention grabbing: Highly saturated colour can act as immediate shouts, immediately grabbing our attention. This is why they are often used in design to drive out attention to specific areas in a website, brochure, poster, and so on

  • Evoking emotion: Vivid colour are good at evoking strong emotion. A bright red might evoke feeling of passion or urgency, while a bright blue might evoke feelings of peace and reliability

  • Overwhelming: everything in moderation, the overabundance of highly saturated colours can overwhelm and tire the eyes. Visually, it stops the viewer from grasping the essential information

Muted colours are the heroes of design
  • Balance: Muted colours, in their lowest saturation, can act as a counterbalance to the highly saturated colours. They allow for breathing room in an artwork and design

  • Elegance: They evoke a sense of calm and confidence, and sophistication. Many luxury brands will use a muted colour palette to evoke a sense of timelessness and sophistication

  • Conveying moods and themes: For example, vintage designs will often use desaturated earthy colour palette, while minimalis design will often stick to a monochromatic muted palette



Hue, value, and saturation are the cornerstones of understanding and mastering colour. By familiarizing ourselves with these elements, we can better appreciate the complexities of the colours we encounter daily and use them more effectively in our creative endeavours. Whether you're a budding artist, a digital designer, or someone looking to paint their living room, a grasp on these fundamental concepts will undoubtedly enrich your colour journey.

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