Thursday, February 14, 2013

On hold

It's dissertation crunch time. I'll be back in March.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How to Talk about Colour

This is the third post in my series about a personal discovery I recently made about colour. This isn't new information, but it's new to me, and I'm excited about it. I’ve talked about the traditional colour wheel, and the “real” colour wheel already, so today I’ll address what other components of colour are important. Next time, I’ll cover which colours work best together. Also, I'm Canadian, and I spell colour with a U. Deal with it.

The colours I’ve been showing you in these painted swatches are very bright, but most of the colours we live with on a day to day basis are much less concentrated. Bright blue walls would be too intense to live with. Primary yellow furniture would look cartoonish. Our living room has blue walls and yellow couches, but not like the blue and yellow you see in the colour wheel above. Both the furniture and walls are tones. Here's a bit of vocabulary to clear up what I mean:
Hue: a pure colour like cyan or orange.
Tint: a hue plus white
Shade: a hue plus black
Tone: a hue plus grey

We use hues the least frequently because they are so jarring. Unless you live in the tropics, the colours you see most days are probably mostly tones with a few tints and shades. There are a few other ways to describe how colours change.
Chromaticity describes how pure a colour is in relation to grey. As we add more and more grey to a colour, it becomes less pure.
Value describes how light or dark a colour is.
Colours can vary in both value and chromaticity. Tints, shades, and tones don't describe how colours vary in enough detail. The blue tone of out living room walls, for instance, has a low degree of chromaticity which means that the walls are a little bit grey. The colour also has a light value; it is more light than dark. So our walls are blue (hue), but also a bit grey (chromaticity) and rather light (value). Simply calling our walls a tone of blue does not explain in enough detail what colour they actually are.
Saturation is a third way in which colours vary, but it is very subjective, and not often used. Saturation describes how pure a colour is, but not in relation to grey. Imagine a very thick glob of paint – it would be totally saturated. A thin layer of paint, though, would have a low level of saturation. You can also see how saturation would change depending on the lighting. At night, our walls will not look very saturated; they will look more dull. During the day, when there is a lot of natural light, our walls will look more saturated: brighter and more intense. The same exact colour can vary in saturation depending on the context. That's why we get pain chips before painting - to see what they look like in our home and at different times.
The three most important ways that colours vary are according to
(a) Hue
(b) Value
(c) Chroma

You can see how hues change around the circle; a new wedge is a new hue. Value changes along the diameter of the circle, getting lighter toward the center and darker toward the outer edge. Chroma varies up and down the cylinder so that at the bottom of the cylinder we have very grey colours and at the top of the cylinder the colours are not grey at all. Now you understand how colours vary. It's not just blue and yellow, but light and dark, and grey and pure. An important question remains, though. Which colours work well together? I’ll cover that and more next time.