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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Understanding Intensity in Color

Color contains three attributes:  hue, its location in the spectrum;  value, how much light or dark it holds, and intensity (also called chroma) or the saturation of hue within the color.

Look at this graphic.  The colors are full saturated even though one hue merges into another.   
 Fully saturated means the hue is not neutralized by a complement.  The hues closest to the center are darker in value, but they remain as saturated as their lighter versions close at the edge.  All these hues are at their highest intensity.

Here's the same example with some of the saturation taken away or neutralized, each having a bit of its complement mixed into it.

The hues remain the same, but the intensity is slightly lowered, a bit more neutralized.

And here it is again with all the hues totally neutralized.  Notice that with the hues totally neutralized they disappear and the intensity is gone, but the values remain.  
So, why is this important to a painter?

Being aware of the complexities of color and knowing how to manipulate them opens up for the painter an abundance of options so that the ability to see nuances increases both in observing and in making decisions.

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