Color Basics: Hue, Value & Chroma

Art 260 / Greg Clayton

Color is 3D

While there are many color models — or ways of describing color — all of them involve three dimensions or three parameters.

In terms of purely visual phenoma of color, the three essential traits of color are Hue, Value and Chroma. In our text, p. 19-24 introduce these topics.
Wikipedia on Munsell's Hue/Value/Chroma color model


Hue: the common distinction between colors positioned around a color wheel (which is, strictly, a Hue wheel)

Value: the quality lightness or darkness. That is, black is a dark value or low value. White is a light value or high value.

Chroma: the quality of a color's purity, intensity or saturation.
For example: A gray color is a neutral -- an extreme low chroma.
Fire-engine red may be a high-chroma red.
Brick red may be a middle-chroma red.


In the Munsell Color Solid (the Munsell 3D color model, above),
change as you move around the center.
Value changes from top-to-bottom;
changes as you move from the center outward.


This is a Munsell constant hue chart — a slice or a plane of the Munsell color solid.

Here the Hue is purple.
There are 60+ colors here, but all of them are purple-hued colors.

Chroma changes from left-to-right
Low chroma colors are on the left...
mid-chroma colors near the center...
high chroma colors on the right.

Value changes from bottom-to-top:
Low values (shades) near the bottom
High values (tints) near the top.

Here the Hue is Orange.
There are 50+ colors here, but all of them are orange-hued colors. (well...a few samples appear Red-Violet!)

Chroma changes from left-to-right

Value changes from bottom-to-top:

Playing with Hue, Value and Saturation: Adobe's Kuler

Kuler offers color designers some really interesting tools for playing with color.

Go to Kuler's Create a Color page....

Kuler allows you to manipulate colors using several different color models.
The one we're interested in is Hue-Saturation-Value (HSV)

For our purposes, there are some problems with HSV.
Saturation, here, is not fully consistent with Chroma, but the differences are difficult to explain without exploring the nature of digital color models, digital display devices and, in contrast, human vision and the phenomenon of Intrinsic Value, as represented in the Munsell Color Solid. HSV is useful for digitally specifying color, but HVC is more true to the visual experience of color and the process of developing color harmonies.
Suffice it to say that Kuler's HSV is similar to Hue, Chroma, Value, but eventually we'll discover significant differences.

A) Make sure you're on the "Create From a Color" page, as illustrated to the left.
This page allows you to specify (create) individual colors, or create a set of 5 colors for a color palette. Kuler allows you to play with simple color schemes, controling the hue-chroma structure and the traits of the individual colors.

B) Click on "HSV" near the bottom.
(this sets the active color model)

[HSV missing?: Kuler's interface may not show HSV initially. But if you click on the triangle left of "RGB, HEX", etc. the full panel of color models will appear, includeing HSV.]

C) Slide the triangles left-right on the H - S - V sliders just above "HSV".
You'll see your color swatch change as you change Hue traits, or Saturation traits, or Value traits. You'll also see the circle/marker on the color wheel change position.
Play around with that for a while, and Hue-Value-Chroma distinctions will start to make sense.

D) Also, go up to the Color Wheel and drag the circle inwards and outwards from the center of the color wheel.  The Color Wheel is just like the color wheel that we use for color charting.... neutral Chroma at the center, and high chroma at the outer edge.

Note that Kuler stores H-S-V traits as numbers.
Hue: 0-369 (360 degrees in a circle)
Saturation: 0 (neutral) to 100 (high saturation)
Value: 0 (black) to 100 (white)

In our course we use a more basic and human-readable set of terms:
Hue: R, RO, O, YO, Y, YG, G, BG, B, BV, V, RV
Value: 1 (black)... 5 (mid-tone) ... 9(white)
Chroma: N(neutral, L(low), ML, M(middle), MH, H(high)



Color Structure and Design, by Richard G. Ellinger ---

Adobe's Intro to Kuler
A nice video walk-through of Kuler's features.

Kuler Color Themes Intro
A first-timeer's intro

Use Kuler with Illustrator (video tutorial)



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