Definitions and Terms in Design: Color

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One of the cornerstones of design is color. In the hands of an expert, it can impact many aspects crucial to captivating visual perception, making it a potent tool. The psychological effects of color are substantial. It has the power to influence people’s reactions and actions in the blink of an eye, altering our perceptions of objects in the process.

The study of color may not appear to be particularly challenging at first glance, but as one delves into the specifics, it becomes clear that there are numerous quirks that must be understood. Color Theory: A Concise Guide for Design covered the fundamentals of the science that design can use in their work. For the benefit of graphic and user interface design, we have compiled a glossary of key terms from color theory to help them better understand the role of color in their work.

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A color

It is necessary to determine the very nature of color before proceeding. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is the ability to perceive different shades of light (red, brown, pink, or gray) or differences in color that allow us to distinguish between seemingly identical objects. To put it simply, an object’s color is a property that results from the way it reflects or emits light. Shade, saturation, chromaticity, and value are some of the visual characteristics of color that can be measured to confirm its accuracy. First, let’s define color so we can understand it properly.

Color Characteristics


It is necessary to clarify the term hue because it is frequently confused with the color. To start, know that “color” is just a word for all the different shades of color. Conversely, when we ask, “What color is it?” we are referring to a hue. On the color wheel, it represents a family of twelve vibrant, pure hues.

Tinting, shading, and toning are three ways in which a hue can be transformed from its basic material state. Tint, shade, and tone are all possible transformations of a hue, depending on the method used.

They stand out easily. Tints are made by combining hues with white, while shades are made by combining hues with black. Compared to shades and tints, toning is a more delicate process that involves adding both black and white. This is why the results may seem more natural.


As we mentioned earlier, there are distinct qualities that allow us to identify different colors. One way to describe the intensity of a color is by looking at its value. The degree of whiteness defines the trait. A color is given a higher value when more white is added to it.

The idea of color

A color’s chromaticity, or chroma, reveals how true to life its hue is. Whether a color contains white, grey, or black is a measure of the characteristic. Because they are element-free, the twelve primary colors mentioned earlier have the highest chromaticity. Colors that have a lot of chroma tend to be very striking and vibrant.

Saturation Levels

They might be mistaken occasionally because this attribute is very similar to value and chroma. The distinctions must be understood, though. Saturation is not applicable when blending colors, unlike the first two properties. The topic at hand is the effect of various lighting on the appearance of colors. According to its appearance in both strong and weak light, saturation describes how bold or pale a color is. Color intensity is another name for this quality.

Color Palette

A circle made of various colors is something you’ve probably seen in art classes. The color wheel is a useful tool for visualizing the relationships between and possible combinations of various colors. Typically, the color wheel is constructed using hues, or primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

Although it has undergone numerous revisions since its 1666 schematic creation by Isaac Newton, the color circle is still the primary tool for combining colors. The basic premise is that in order for colors to be mixed properly, the color wheel should be design in that way.

Variety of Color

Basic hues

You can’t make any other color combination out of those three pigment colors. All systems are built upon the foundation of the primary colors. The basic hues change from one color scheme to another. Cyan, magenta, and yellow make up a subtractive system, whereas green, red, and blue make up an additive system. Red, yellow, and blue make up the RYB color scheme.

Alternate hues

Two primary colors are mixed to produce these secondary hues. As a result of inherent color differences between systems, secondary colors also differ. A visual representation of the secondary colors found in each system is presented here.

Secondary hues

Tertiary colors, which are a combination of primary and secondary hues, are often named with two words, like red-violet or yellow-orange.

Neutral, warm, and chilly hues

There are three distinct categories into which each of the colors we just discussed can be placed: cool, warm, and neutral.

On the color wheel, the greenish-blue hues represent cool colors. They impart a chilly sensation, which is why they are referred to as cool. Colors that evoke warmth, or warm hues, are the polar opposite of cool ones. Colors associated with the warm type include yellow, orange, and red. Finally, the color wheel does not include any neutral colors, such as beige, gray, or brown.

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