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Chroma, Hue, and Value in Graphic Designing

Understanding Chroma, Hue, and Value in Graphic Designing

In graphic design, chroma refers to the quality of the purity, saturation, or intensity of a color. For instance, a gray is a neutral color, meaning it has an extreme low chroma. Meanwhile, fire-engine red can be a high chroma red while brick red is a middle chroma one. We can also translate chroma as a representation of the “purity” of any particular color, in association with saturation. The lower chroma means the less pure or more washed out, just like in pastel colors.

The inherent upper limit to chroma is not present. However, various aspects of the color space feature different maximum chroma coordinates. As an example, colors such as light yellow considerably have more possible chroma compared to light purples. It is because of the character of the eye in addition to the color stimuliphyrics. It thus leads to a vast array of potential chroma levels, the ones that can reach the high 30s when it comes to some combinations of hue and value, although it is impossible or difficult to create physical objects using colors of said high chromas. It is especially true with displays of current computer still cannot produce them.

Chroma is one of the three important traits of color when it comes to the purely visual phenomena of color. Aside from chroma, there are hue and value. Hue itself refers to the general distinction between colors that are positioned around a color wheel, which we also strictly refer to as a hue wheel. Meanwhile, value means the quality of darkness or lightness of the color. For example, black is considered as a dark or low value while white is a light or high value. Regardless of the various color models, meaning there are many ways to describe colors, these three parameters or three dimensions are always involved: chroma, hue, and value.

For example, when you are using the Munsell 3D color model or Munsell Color Solid, hues change when you move around the center of the chart. Meanwhile, values will change from the top to the bottom and chroma changes when you move outward from the center. On the other hand, when you are using a Munsell constant hue char, refer to the plane or slice of the Munsell Color Solid. We will use purple hue as an example. Regardless the display of more than 60 colors for instance, all of them are purple-hued. Chroma, in Munsell constant hue chart, changes from left to right—meaning the colors with low chroma are on the left side, ones with mid chroma are near the center, and ones with high chroma are on the right.

Before Munsell, it was difficult to understand the relationship between hue, chroma, and value. In his attempt to establish a way to describe color rationally, he used decimal notation rather than color names—to which he referred to foolish and misleading—to teach his students. In his A Color Notation (1905), he published his work on the system from 1989. However, his 1929’s Munsell Book of Color was probably the most influencing one, followed by the modern version.

On the other hand, Adobe’s Kuler provides the really interesting tools you can use to play with color. With this one, you can manipulate colors with several different color models. However, the one we are very interested in is HSV or hue-saturation-value. However, this has some issues. First, saturation here is not completely consistent with chroma, yet the differences are pretty hard to explain if we don’t explore the nature of color models in digital form and digital display devices. Human vision is also one problem here.

Even so, HSV is helpful to specify color digitally. Even so, HSV is more true to the color’s visual experience, in addition to the process in developing harmonies of color. Simply put, we can say that the HSV developed by Kuler is similar to Hue, chroma, and Value, yet we will still discover their significant differences anyway.


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