LEAP!Tracy Holmes2 Comments

Welcome to the first and likely only page on this colourful website that is completely colour-free. Why? Because it's all about nothing: the 'All and Nothing' of BLACK and WHITE . . .



White and Black are Corner Cards. They are named, White and Black, and also ID'd with a full Colour Square in the corner, like the other Corner Cards in the Colour Basics deck.

In the BTC deck, their Colour Codes are a triple dose of 0s or 5s: White is 000, and Black is 555, making them not only complete opposites, but the 'lowest' and 'highest' cards in the deck, absolutely zero to maximum capacity.

In the previous 'Leap!' we met the Corner Hues, the 6 cards that are the cornerstone colours in both decks, the ones we need, and need to get to know, to go just about anywhere else, whether we're playing cards, strolling along a spectrum, spinning a wheel, or whatever.

But like I said, I'm not going to showcase those Hues again here, on this completely hueless page. You can find them (and others) in the Library, filed under HUES. And you can see them featured first in both the January and February issues of Colour Every Month, leading the way, two months in a row... that's how much they matter. But I digress... (curse you, colourful Corners, tempting me away with your saturated scrumptiousness and palette potential!).

Back to Black. And White. Right? What could be more black and white than that? A blank canvas, a clean slate. An empty page, a dark stage. Alpha and omega. The beginning and the end. Yin and yang. Full of nothing, nothing but full. Zip, zilch, zero, or five out of five out of five. Naught, nil, nada, or one hundred per cent. A snowman's bald spot during winter in Nepal, or the dust on the soles of the coal miner's boots at the bottom of the shaft during a midnight shift, also in winter. No matter what your analogy, you won't find two more opposite cards, no matter how you stack the deck.

But is that all there is? Just one, and/or the other?

No way. There's Grey.


The Colour Basics deck has more than 50 Colour Cards with at least a little bit o' colour in the mix. And the BTC deck has more than 200. But flip to the back of the Basics box and you'll find the Axis Cards, a subtle and subdued set of 11: another White, another Black, and 9 True Greys connecting them in ten perfect paces, 0 to 10 going one way, and 10 to 0 coming back.

The little equation in the top right corner is the Value Code, a simple pair of numbers that tells you the ratio of how much Black (the first addend) plus how much White (the second addend). As one goes up, the other goes down, always summing up to a perfect 10, shifting the Value from pure White (and zero Black) through light, to medium (with a balanced 5+5 middle Grey in the middle), to dark, darker, darkest, towards full Black (and 0 White).

A traditional Greyscale often uses just one Value, only implying the other. Some favour White, and the 'higher' the number, the lighter the Value. Others (like the slider in a computer graphics program) equate 100% with 100% Black. Really, these are just two ways to describe the same thing, and BTC balances the scale by valuing both.  

Without any Hue at all, White and Black and Grey can teach us a lot about colour. In the next few 'Leap!' lessons, we'll see what happens when White shines light on our simple spectrum, when Black draws us to the dark side, and when Hue loses itself to both. Colour without Hue? Who knew? Does Grey matter? As a matter of fact, it does.


Adding White to a Hue will make it lighter: Hue + White = Tint. Adding Black will make it darker: Hue + Black = Shade. Adding Grey will lighten and darker it at the same time: Hue + White + Black = Tone. But even without any of these hueless influencers, every pure Hue has a Value all its own. Even without White, some colours are obviously 'lighter' than others (like light bright Yellow); even void of Black, some are definitely dark (like deep dark Blue). 

With many Hues, with all that pure vivid full colour to distract us, it's not always easy to tell the lighters from the darkers. But the scale of Grey is as noteworthy as the spectrum itself. Picture a photo in black & white. Or a classic film, pre-Technicolor. Or an old-school Xerox photocopy. The people and places and things in those photos and films aren't actually 'in black & white.' But the varying 'value' of Hue allows us to discern all the colours because all the colours are there, they're just not 'in colour.'


I promised no colour here, but just for fun, take a look at this 'b&w photo' of the 12 Colour Basics Hues arranged in sequence from lightest to darkest. Can you figure out which Hue is who?

Here's a clue: the lightest one (the one on the left) is Yellow.

Clue number two: the darkest one is Blue.

Two opposite colours, at opposite ends of the Grey scale. Can you line up the other ten? It's harder than you'd think, but like anything, with a little practice and some coded cards to help you train your brain, you'll start to see the 'Value' in every Hue, Tint, Shade, Tone, and Grey in the deck.