What you see is what you give
Color differentiates objects from one another and can establish a mood and tempo just like music. Although intangible and not having a specific weight, temperature or size, color can make an object appear heavy or light, warm or cool, large or small. Color only exists when there is a viewer, light source and an object; by removing any one of these factors – color no longer exists.
Turns out, all colors are not on the surface of an object but in your brain! Your brain translates the frequency of the reflected light waves off of an object and instead of telling you a number, it tells you a color.
Hue you callin’ yella’?
The human eye is in effect a spectrometer, but without all the switches. And since we do not have a printer attached to our heads to provide us with the quantitative analysis of the reflected light waves, we must describe color qualitatively – by the use of words alone. In doing so, we will typically start a color description by stating its hue. Hue describes the specific color family like red or blue and is the broadest of the qualitative measurements we use, but least subjective.
As we further narrow our description of a color, we use terms like dark or light which describe the overall value of a color. When we see a color, we can render a degree of lightness or darkness based on our experience and memory of that hue on the color wheel. The value of a color provides a much needed qualification, but can be subjective.
The third level of qualitative narrowing may be the trickiest. Though you may not have heard the term saturation before, you have probably used it when describing colors. When we say things like “bluish gray” or the infamous “taupe”, we are actually describing a color’s saturation. Simply stated, saturation is the purity of a color and is changed by the addition of any other hue or black and white. Furthermore, the terms tint, tone and shade are used to describe “how” a saturation level was altered.