THE PROPERTIES OF COLOUR
To fully and completely understand colour, there are three things to remember:
1) be true to HUE 2) value VALUE 3) count on SATURATION to clarify the grey areas
HUE : WHAT COLOUR IS IT?
Most often, when we are talking about a colour, we are talking about its HUE.
Bold and bright, the pure hues are easy to define. White and Black can shift the spectrum up or down, but even the lightest pastels, the deepest shades, and the most complex 'neutrals' can be traced back to a base hue.
Like a wheel (yes, like a colour wheel) Hue is CIRCULAR. Not because it's a circle (because it isn't), but more because it's continuous. You can start anywhere, travel in either direction, and eventually find your way back to the beginning, no matter where that was.
VALUE : How light or dark is it?
Brightened by White, obscured by Black, or muted somewhere in between, without or without its colour, every hue has VALUE.
Ranging from all to nothing, empty to full, White to Black and back again, Value is LINEAR. Tints are easy to spot near the top, and Shades take us back down to Black. Even on its own, every pure hue has its place on the achromatic axis. Often overlooked, sometimes underestimated, shedding light on luminosity is a value-able key to understanding colour.
SATURATION : HOW PURE IS IT?
To fully explore colour in all directions, we need to start with the purity of Hue (the six Corner Colours, or any of the connector colour combos in between). Each Hue has its own Value and we can shift that up or down by adding White or Black. But there's a third factor in the colour theory mix that talks about Hue and Value and White and Black all at the same time. It seems to be the 'grey area' that gets talked about the least, but it can tell you the most about even the most complex colours. If you understand SATURATION, you'll be able to flow through colour without ever getting stuck in the mud.
By its purest (and not so purest) definition, Saturation is RADIAL, with Middle Grey, you guessed it, smack dab in the middle. If the study of colour starts with Hue, does that mean it ends without it? Do White, Black, and Grey even count as colours? In theory or practice, does Middle Grey even matter? Yes. Yes. And yes. Important enough to get capital letters and mentioned three times in a single paragraph, Middle Grey isn't just the hub of the wheel. It's the centre of everything.
These Colour Frames show the different qualities of the 12 Basic Hues – faded, shaded, desaturated – as they go from full strength to completely hueless. Click on any of them to see the full spectrum in the BTC collection.