The 3 Key Components of Color: Hue, Value, and Saturation
Understanding hue, value, and saturation is critical for creating beautiful color harmonies. These are the basic three key characteristics of color.
Hue is what most people think of when using the term ‘color.’ It corresponds to its position in the spectrum. Examples of hues are: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet.
In scientific terms, hue is the spectral wavelength composition of a color that produces the perception of being red, yellow, blue, and so on.
Value is the relative lightness or darkness of a color. This is what you see when you take a black and white photograph. Each tube color has a different value as shown in this chart.
The saturation of a color is its degree of richness, intensity, purity, or grayness. Other commonly used terms for saturation are intensity or chroma.
For example, cadmium orange and burnt sienna are the same hue (orange), but cadmium orange has a high saturation whereas burnt sienna has a low saturation.
See this example for how to match saturation in nature.
Key Discoveries In Practice
This balanced color harmony used by Edgar Payne is a good example of an artist who has controlled all three components of hue, value and saturation.
Payne uses four levels of values: dark, dark gray, light gray, and light.
He uses three levels of saturation: high in the foreground, middle saturation in the middle distance, and weak saturation in the distance.
And he uses mainly three hues: orange, violet, and green, which form a secondary color harmony. By limiting the variations in this way he gets a harmony in the painting that you would not get if there were too many changes in these three variables.
To learn more about how you can use hue, value, and saturation, see the Color Theory lessons in Year One of the Virtual Art Academy Apprentice Program.