Properties of Colors

The scientific description of color, or colorimetry, involves the specification of all relevant properties of a color either subjectively or objectively. The subjective description gives the hue, saturation, and lightness or brightness of a color. Hue refers to what is commonly called color, i.e., red, green, blue-green, orange, etc. Saturation refers to the richness of a hue as compared to a gray of the same brightness; in some color notation systems, saturation is also known as chroma. The brightness of a light source or the lightness of an opaque object is measured on a scale ranging from dim to bright for a source or from black to white for an opaque object (or from black to colorless for a transparent object). In some systems, brightness is called value. A subjective color notation system provides comparison samples of colors rated according to these three properties. In an objective system for color description, the corresponding properties are dominant wavelength, purity, and luminance. Much of the research in objective color description has been carried out in cooperation with the Commission Internationale de l'Eclairage (CIE), which has set standards for such measurements. In addition to the description of color according to these physical and psychological standards, a number of color-related physiological and psychological phenomena have been studied. These include color constancy under varying viewing conditions, color contrast, afterimages, and advancing and retreating colors.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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