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Color as an element of design is a vast topic, I have deliberately tried to avoid this topic as I thought someone more qualified should take it. Finally I decided to take it as a challenge. Hope to receive a feedback from members on it. The discussion would be divided in to small sections, starting with color models, then color contrast schemes and finally its effect on human psychology and cultural aspects.

Color models: There are multiple color models but the three most common models are RYB (Red, Yellow, Blue) , CMYK (cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) and Most editing program allow to choose between the models.

CMYK (cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black): Basically used for printing and design and  and represents only colors that can be created by using process inks.

 RYB (Red, Yellow, Blue): Basically used by painters and illustrators working by non-digital methods. It is based on the traditional theory that red, yellow and blue are primary colors and source of all other colors.  The system is of little use to photographic composition. I have mentioned it only as it may be a source of confusion if someone is looking for information on color schemes.

RGB (Red, Green, Blue): This model is most familiar to photographers and most of the digital camera systems operate under this model.

In the RGB (additive) color model, the Primary colors are: red, green, blue.

The Secondary colors: cyan, magenta and yellow, are formed by the sum of two primary colors of equal intensity.

Lastly we have (six) Tertiary colors, which are comprised of mixing half primary color and half secondary color: orange, yellow-green (lime), cyan-green, cyan-blue, blue-magenta (purple), red-magenta (pink).

Elements of colors: Color consists of Hue, Saturation and Value.
1. Hue: is unadulterated color of full intensity– with no black or white mixing.   Hues are assingned values in color system of  a software. the number is a numeral value indicating degrees ranging between 0-360 degree. both 0 and 360 degree being top of the color circle. 

In a clock wise direction, primary and secondary colors are listed as coordinates.

Red. o

Yellow 60

 Green 120

Cyan 180

Blue 240

Magenta 300

Red 360

In the image below, showing color picker of photoshop, color values are 0 and 360 in two pictures, yet the color chosen is the same in both the images

In the two images, H value changes from 270 to 90 degree respectively. Both the colors are full intensity colors on opposite sides of color wheels (complimentary colors)

Tints: are the result of mixing white with the fully saturated colors.   In the images below, portion of a circle at upper right corner of color picker field indicates fully saturated color. Moving in horizontal direction would show the effect of adding tint to the color hue. Moving the cursor all the way to the left would always produce white color with no trace of the original hue. 

In short, tints are always lighter than original hues

Shades: Shades are created by mixing black with the original hues. This mixing results in darkening the original hue. The images below show result of adding shades to the hue on the color picker of photoshop. As the cursor is moved downward, we would no longer have a hue and only black color remains. In short shades are always darker than the original colors.

Tones: are the result of mixing any amount of black and white to the hue. As shown in the images below, as the cursor is moved downward diagonally the resulting color is a tone, regardless of the angle. Original hue now looses intensity and is flat.


1. Hues are pure fully saturated colors.

2. Tints are desaturated by adding whites

3. Shades are desaturated by adding blacks

4. Tones are desaturated by adding grays.


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Replies to This Discussion

Aamir, I am really and truly at a loss for words. This is a scholarly treatise, yet written and illustrated in such a way that anyone, no matter what level of expertise, can plainly and easily grasp. Kudos to you my friend. It will be tough to follow, except perhaps with your own succeeding installments. You are the right person to do this.

Thanks for such a generous appreciation. In fact I was not the right person. I wanted someone else, properly trained in art school to delve in such a vast topic and there are quite a few members who are genuine artist here. But due to their own personal / professional commitments, they were not available. I hope my humble attempt would not be considered wanting in academic excellence.


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