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Colour Terminology

Terminology has evolved to help understand and discuss human responses to colour and its uses. Colours can be measured and classified in terms of various properties, including:


This is the actual named colour, such as green, red orange. Hues are pure colours with no black or white added. Adding more of the same colour may increase the intensity, but will not change the hue. Hue, along with saturation and brightness is one of the three colour components used to define all colours in the HSB colour model.


Saturation depends on the amount of white or black which has been added to a colour. It refers to the amount of pure colour it contains. The purer the colour, the more it is said to be saturated.

Shade, tint, tone and value

These terms describe the amount of black, white or grey which has been added to a colour:

  • If black is mixed with a colour it is said to produce a shade of that colour.
  • Adding white produces a tint of the colour.
  • If grey is added to a colour it is said to produce a tone of that colour.
  • The value of a colour ranges from light to dark. Value refers to the differences between shades of colours and tints of colours.

Next: Colour Models