Chroma vs Saturation vs Value vs Hue: What’s the Difference? (It’s Easy)

When it comes to color theory, there are a few key terms that every visual artist should be familiar with.

Chroma vs saturation vs value, and hue are all important concepts that play a role in creating visually appealing artwork.

While these terms may seem similar at first glance, there are important differences between them that can have a big impact on your artistic creations.

The term Chroma, for example, refers to the strength or intensity of a color.

It describes how pure a color is, with high chroma colors having no white or black in them. Saturation, on the other hand, refers to how strong or weak a color is.

While these terms are related, they are not interchangeable.

Understanding the difference between chroma and saturation can help you make informed decisions when choosing colors for your artwork.

There is a difference between chroma and value. Value refers to how light or dark a color is, with high value colors being light and low value colors being dark.

While chroma and value are both important concepts, they have different effects on how a color appears.

By understanding the difference between these terms, you can create artwork that is visually interesting and appealing.

TLDR; Chroma vs Saturation, Chroma vs Hue, Chroma vs Value

If you’re confused about the difference between chroma, saturation, hue and value, it’s understandable. They are too often used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

In Chroma vs Saturation, chroma refers to the intensity or purity of a color, while saturation refers to the combination of chroma and value. In other words, saturation is how vivid a color appears, while chroma is how pure it is. 

When it comes to chroma vs value, value refers to how light or dark a color is. A color with high value will appear lighter, while a color with low value will appear darker.

Chroma, on the other hand, is not affected by the lightness or darkness of a color. Highly chromatic colors will still appear as a bright colors, even if they are a dark color.

Finally, when comparing chroma vs hue, remember that hue refers to the specific color, such as red or blue. Chroma, as we’ve discussed, refers to the intensity or purity of that color. So, a highly chromatic red will be a bright, pure red, while a less chromatic red may appear more muted or dull.

Color Theory

Understanding color theory is essential for any visual artist. It involves the study of color perception, the color wheel, color models, and color combinations. In this section, we will explore the Munsell Color System, color models, and color harmonies.

The Munsell Color System

The Munsell Color System is a three-dimensional model that describes color based on three dimensions: hue, value, and chroma.

Hue is the color family, such as red or blue. Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color, and chroma is the color’s strength or purity.

This system is widely used in fields such as painting, graphic design, and photography.


The Munsell Color System is a color notation system that was developed by American artist and teacher Albert Munsell in the early 20th century.

In the Munsell System, each color is identified by a three-part notation that specifies its hue, value, and chroma. The hue is identified by a letter designation, such as R for red or Y for yellow.

The value is identified by a number from 0 to 10, with 0 being black and 10 being white. The chroma is identified by a number from 0 to 20 or higher, with higher numbers indicating more intense and pure colors.

The Munsell System is widely used in a variety of fields, including art, design, and science, and it has been influential in the development of other color systems and technologies.

Its use of three dimensions of color allows for more precise and nuanced color identification and comparison, and it has been used in applications ranging from color matching in manufacturing to the development of color standards for maps and charts.

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Color Models

Color models are mathematical representations of color. They are used to define colors in digital and analog systems.

Some popular color models include RGB, CMYK, and HSV. RGB is used in web design and digital media, while CMYK is used in print media.

HSV is a cylindrical color model that describes colors based on hue, saturation, and value.

Color Combinations and Harmonies

Color combinations and harmonies are used to create visually appealing color schemes. Some popular color schemes include complementary, analogous, and triadic.

Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel, while analogous colors are next to each other. Triadic colors are evenly spaced on the color wheel.

When creating a color scheme, it’s important to consider the total color harmony. This refers to the overall balance of colors in the design.

Pure colors have high chroma and are very strong, while pastel colors have low chroma and are more subdued. A good color scheme should have a balance of both pure and pastel colors.

Understanding color theory is crucial for any visual artist. By understanding the dimensions of color, chromatic intensity, and color harmonies, you can create visually stunning designs that are pleasing to the eye.

Hue and Saturation

Understanding the difference between hue and saturation is crucial for any artist. In this section, we’ll explore what these terms mean and how they relate to each other.

What are Hue and Saturation?

Hue refers to the color itself – red, blue, green, etc. Saturation, on the other hand, refers to the intensity or purity of that color. A highly saturated color is bright and vivid, while a desaturated color is more muted or grayed-out.

What is a Pure Hue?

A pure hue is a color that is not mixed with any other color or shade. It is a color that is at its most intense and vivid form, without any addition of white, black, or gray.

For example, a pure hue of blue would be a bright, vibrant blue without any hint of green or purple, while a less pure or less saturated blue might have some gray or white added to it, making it less intense and more muted.

Pure hues are often used in art, design, and fashion to create bold and striking visual effects, and they can be mixed with other pure hues to create a wide range of colors and shades. Pure hues are also sometimes referred to as “primary colors,” as they are the basic building blocks of all other colors.

What is meant by the Saturation of a Color?

Saturation refers to the intensity or purity of a color, and it measures the amount of gray that is added to a hue. A color with high saturation is pure and intense, while a color with low saturation appears muted or washed out.

In technical terms, saturation is the amount of pure hue in a color relative to its brightness. The more pure hue in a color, the higher its saturation, and the less pure hue in a color, the lower its saturation.

Saturation can be measured using different color models, such as the HSL (hue, saturation, lightness) or HSV (hue, saturation, value) color spaces.

For example, a bright red with high saturation would appear vivid and intense, while a red with low saturation would appear more pink or orange.

Similarly, a bright green with high saturation would be a vibrant, almost neon green, while a green with low saturation would be more of a grayish or muted green.

Saturation is an important aspect of color design and can be used to create various effects in visual media, such as making a color scheme appear bold and bright or more muted and subdued.

What is a High Saturation Color?

A high saturation color is a pure color, one that is pure and intense, with no added white, black, or gray. Saturation refers to the degree to which a color is pure or intense, as opposed to being mixed with white, black, or gray. 

A color with high saturation appears very bright and vivid, while a color with low saturation appears dull and muted.

For example, a bright, pure red is a high saturation color, while a muted or desaturated red with a grayish or brownish tone is a low saturation color.

Similarly, a bright, pure yellow is a high saturation color, while a dull or desaturated yellow with a grayish or greenish tone is a low saturation color. 

High saturation colors are often used in design and advertising to create a bold and eye-catching effect.

Shades and Tints

When we add black or white to a hue, we create shades and tints, respectively. Shades are darker versions of a color, while tints are lighter.

Adding black or white also affects the saturation of the color – shades have lower saturation, while tints have higher saturation.

For example, if you start with a highly saturated red hue and add black, you create a darker, less saturated shade of red. If you add white instead, you create a lighter, more saturated tint of red.

High Chroma Colors

High chroma colors have a high level of saturation and are often described as “pure” or “intense”. They are created by mixing a hue with a small amount of its complementary color (the color opposite it on the color wheel).

For example, if you mix red (which is opposite green on the color wheel) with a small amount of green, you create a highly saturated, high chroma red color. High chroma colors are often used to create bold, eye-catching designs.

Now that you understand the difference between hue and saturation, you can use this knowledge to create more dynamic and interesting color palettes in your artwork.

Low Chroma Colors

Low chroma colors are colors that have a low level of purity or intensity. They are colors that have been desaturated or muted, often by the addition of gray, black, or white, or by mixing the color with its complementary color.

Low chroma colors are often referred to as pastels, earth tones, or muted colors, and they tend to be less vibrant and more subdued than high chroma colors. Examples of low chroma colors include pale pink, light gray, muted olive, and soft beige.

Low chroma colors are often used in design, fashion, and art to create a more subtle and understated effect, or to create a sense of nostalgia or vintage style.

They can also be used to balance out or tone down brighter, more intense colors in a color scheme, or to create a sense of depth or texture by layering different levels of chroma within a design or artwork.

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How do Chroma, Saturation and Hue Affect Secondary Colors

Secondary colors are created by mixing two primary colors together. For example, mixing yellow and blue creates green, which is a secondary color.

The properties of hue, saturation, and chroma still apply to secondary colors, but their values can be influenced by the primary colors used to create them.


The hue of a secondary color is determined by the combination of the primary colors used to create it.

For example, mixing red and yellow creates orange, which has a hue that is a combination of red and yellow. Mixing blue and yellow creates green, which has a hue that is a combination of blue and yellow.


The saturation or chroma of a secondary color can vary depending on the proportions of the primary colors used to create it.

If equal amounts of two primary colors are used, the resulting secondary color will have a high saturation or chroma, as it is made up of only those two colors.

if one primary color is used in greater proportion than the other, the resulting secondary color will have a lower saturation or chroma, as it is more diluted with the other primary color.


The value of a secondary color is determined by the lightness or darkness of the primary colors used to create it.

For example, mixing yellow, which is a light color, with blue, which is a dark color, creates a green that is lighter than a green created by mixing blue with a darker primary color like red.

To sum things up, secondary colors still have a hue, saturation, and chroma, but their values can be influenced by the primary colors used to create them.

Is the value scale of a color affected by chroma or saturation?

A value scale is a progression of colors from light to dark, with no change in hue or saturation. It is used to show the range of values within a single color.

So chroma and saturation are not factors that affect a value scale, as a value scale only deals with the lightness or darkness of a single color.

Hue, on the other hand, can affect a value scale if it changes within the progression.

For example, if a value scale goes from light to dark blue, but changes to light to dark green in the middle, then the change in hue can affect the overall appearance and perception of the value scale.

In a traditional value scale where there is no change in hue, the lightness or darkness of the color is the only variable, and chroma and saturation remain constant. 

A value scale can be created using any hue, but the hue itself is not a factor in determining the progression of values within the scale.

Value and Lightness

What is Value and Lightness?

When it comes to color theory, value and lightness are two terms that are often used interchangeably. However, they have slightly different meanings.

Value refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a color, while lightness refers to the perceived brightness of a color.

Dark and Light Colors

Dark colors have a low value, while light colors have a high value. For example, black has a value of 0, while white has a value of 100.

Shades of gray fall somewhere in between, with darker grays having a lower value and lighter grays having a higher value.

Brightness and Tone

Brightness and tone are also important concepts to consider when discussing value and lightness. Brightness refers to the overall intensity of a color, while tone refers to the amount of gray added to a color.  

In art, understanding value and lightness is crucial for creating depth and contrast in your work. By using a range of values, from dark to light, you can create the illusion of form and volume.

Using contrasting values can help draw the viewer’s eye to certain areas of your composition.  When it comes to design, value and lightness can be used to create visual hierarchy and balance.

By using lighter colors for elements that you want to draw attention to and darker colors for elements that you want to recede into the background, you can create a more visually pleasing composition.

Value and lightness are important concepts to understand when it comes to color theory. By using a range of values and understanding how they interact with brightness and tone, you can create more dynamic and visually interesting artwork and designs.


When it comes to color, there are two main color models: RGB and CMYK. Understanding these color models is essential for any artist or designer.

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What are RGB and CMYK?

RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue. It is an additive color model used in electronic displays, such as computer screens and televisions.

In the RGB model, colors are created by adding different amounts of red, green, and blue light. When all three colors are combined at full intensity, white light is produced.

On the other hand, CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black). It is a subtractive color model used in printing.

In the CMYK model, colors are created by subtracting different amounts of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink from white paper. When all four colors are combined at full intensity, black is produced.

Color Models and Color Spaces

Color models and color spaces are used to define and standardize colors across different devices and mediums. A color model is a mathematical representation of color, while a color space is a specific implementation of that model.

RGB and CMYK are both color models, but they are used in different color spaces. RGB is used in digital displays, while CMYK is used in print. Other common color models include HSB (Hue, Saturation, Brightness) and HSL (Hue, Saturation, Lightness).

Color spaces are defined by specific color profiles, such as sRGB (standard RGB) and Adobe RGB. These profiles define the range of colors that can be displayed or printed and ensure consistency across different devices and mediums.

Understanding color models and color spaces is important for artists and designers who want to create consistent and accurate colors across different devices and mediums.

By using the right color model and color space, you can ensure that your colors look the way you intended, no matter where they are displayed or printed.

Color Perception

For artists, understanding how humans perceive color is essential to creating visually appealing artwork. Color perception is a complex process that involves the eyes, brain, and external factors such as light sources and colorful illumination. 

How Humans Perceive Color

Human perception of color is based on three factors: hue, saturation, and value. Hue refers to the actual color of an object, such as red or blue. Saturation, also known as chroma, is the intensity or purity of a color. Value refers to the brightness or darkness of a color.

When it comes to color perception, the human eye is most sensitive to green light, followed by red and blue. This is why displays and screens use a combination of red, green, and blue pixels to create a full spectrum of colors.

How do colorblind artists perceive color?

As a colorblind artist, this topic is close to me, and it took me way too long to realize that my perception of color is different to how others see color. I have a theory that even people who are not colorblind perceive color differently.

Colorblindness is a condition that affects the perception of color, and it can vary in severity and type depending on the individual.

Generally, colorblind people have difficulty distinguishing between certain colors, or they may see colors differently than people with normal color vision.

The most common type of colorblindness is red-green colorblindness, which affects the ability to distinguish between shades of red and green.

People with red-green colorblindness may see these colors as different shades of brown or gray, or they may have difficulty distinguishing between red and green traffic lights or signs.

Other types of colorblindness include blue-yellow colorblindness and total colorblindness (achromatopsia), which affects the ability to distinguish between shades of blue and yellow, and the ability to perceive any colors at all, respectively.

I found that I can see most colors but I get confused when one of the colors that makes up a tertiary color starts to dominate. Like the red in a brown, the yellow in a green, the blue in a purple and so forth.

People with colorblindness may use various techniques to help them distinguish between colors, such as using color filters or relying on other visual cues, such as brightness or contrast.

In some cases, colorblindness can affect a person’s ability to perform certain tasks, such as reading charts or graphs, or distinguishing between colors in art or design.

It’s important to note that colorblindness is not a form of blindness, and people with colorblindness can still see and appreciate many colors, although they may perceive them differently than people with normal color vision or they just don’t know what the color is.

Colorful Illumination

Colorful illumination is the use of colored lights to create a specific mood or effect. It can be used in photography, film, and theater to add depth and interest to a scene. 

When using colorful illumination, it’s important to consider the color temperature of the light source. Warm colors, such as red and orange, have a lower color temperature and are often used to create a cozy or intimate atmosphere.

Cool colors, such as blue and green, have a higher color temperature and are often used to create a calm or peaceful atmosphere.

The Role of Light Sources

Light sources play a crucial role in color perception. The color of an object can appear different depending on the type of light source used to illuminate it.

For example, a red apple may appear more vibrant under natural sunlight compared to artificial fluorescent lighting.

When selecting a light source for your artwork, it’s important to consider the color rendering index (CRI).

The CRI measures how accurately a light source reproduces colors compared to natural sunlight. A light source with a higher CRI will produce more accurate and vibrant colors in your artwork.

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