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There are many terms that will allow you to speak accurately about colour. We’ve covered the definition of hue, shade, tint and tone; here we will go over some of the more advanced terms.


Chroma is the quality of a colour’s purity in relation to grey or the chromatic strength of a colour. A colour with no grey in it has a high chroma and will appear vivid, like the bright red pictured below. Adding grey to a colour reduces its chroma, muting and dulling it.

Sometimes chroma is referred to as saturation, though erroneously so. The two are similar though distinct.


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Saturation is the degree of purity of a hue. This term is used to describe how a colour looks under certain lighting. Colour Cube uses the example of a painted room to demonstrate how saturation works. The room will look different in the daytime than at night, changing in saturation based on the light in the room at the time. It can be tempting to think of colour saturation in terms of light and dark as it is related to light, but terms like weak or strong more accurately describe the effect. Unlike chroma, saturation does not account for a hue’s relation to grey. A highly saturated colour has a higher chroma.


Intensity measures how bright or dull a hue is. Adding white or black to a colour, tinting or shading it respectively, decreases the intensity. Intensity is a muddy term as it is interchangeably used to describe saturation and chroma.


Value measures the amount of light reflected from a colour or the quality of light or dark. Colours that are closer to white (i.e. brighter) have a high value. Colours that are closer to black (i.e. darker) have a low value. Therefore, white is a light/high value and black is a dark/low value.

Value is also known as luminance. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).
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