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Hue, Brightness Saturation and Temperature

  • Hue — another word for color

  • Saturation (chroma) — the intensity or purity of a hue

  • Brightness (value) — the relative degree of black or white mixed with a given hue

  • Temperature — the perceived warmth or coolness of a color

Hues are colors and what hue we see is dependent on the wavelength of light being reflected or produced. I doubt I need to tell you what a color is and since color and hue are synonymous you should know what a hue is as well. One thing I will remind you about is we all perceive color differently. The hue you see may not be the same hue I see.


Brightness measures the relative degree of black or white that’s been mixed with a given hue. Adding white makes the color lighter (creates tints) and adding black makes it darker (creates shades). The effect of brightness or value is relative to other values in the composition. You can make a color seem lighter by placing it next to a darker color.


Saturation refers to how pure or intense a given hue is. 100% saturation means there’s no addition of gray to the hue. The color is completely pure. At the other extreme a hue with 0% saturation appears as a medium gray. The more saturated (closer to 100%) a color is, the more vivid or brighter it appears. Desaturated colors, on the other hand, appear duller.


Temperature is the perceived warmth or coolness of a color. Warm colors are red, orange, and yellow, while cool colors are green, blue, and violet. Somewhere in the green and violet spectrums the temperature changes between warm and cool. How the eye recognizes color temperature can change based on the source of light. 
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