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Color Theory
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Color Perception

Color Harmony

Color Combinations

Bright Colors

12 Characteristics of Color

Color is a characteristic of human visual perception whereby different wavelengths of light and combinations of wavelengths are perceived with concepts such as white, black, brown, grey, blue, green, red, orange, yellow and purple. Humans can differentiate between about 10 million colors although this varies greatly from person to person. The following are the basic characteristics of color.


A hue is a pure color that has not been shaded with black or tinted with white.


A hue mixed with black.


A hue mixed with white.


A hue mixed with both black and white. In other words, a hue mixed with grey.


The degree to which a color looks like a colorful hue as opposed to black, white or grey. This is a result of human perception and can't necessarily be measured. Colorfulness increases with brightness of a color until the color becomes too bright such that it begins to look white.


The colorfulness of an object as compared to the light levels. For example, in a dark image a color may be saturated if it stands out as somewhat bright. In a bright image, a color has to appear brighter than the rest to be considered saturated.


Brightness is the degree to which a color appears to be radiating light. For example, changing the brightness of a flat screen display can have a significant influence on the perceived lightness and darkness of colors. This is one reason why items may look different in digital photographs than they do in person based on the screen you are using and its current brightness settings.

Spectral vs Non-Spectral

A spectral color is a pure wavelength of light. These are typically listed as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. A non-spectral color is a color that results from mixing different wavelengths of light such as white, brown, grey and pink. It should be noted that most colors perceived as red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet are mixes of non-spectral color. For example, RGB display technologies have no ability to display the spectral color violet but simulate this with combinations of blue and red.


People commonly view reds, oranges and yellows as being hot or warm. Greens and blues are viewed as cool. This reflects nature where greens are associated with vegetation and blue with the sky and sea. Reds, oranges and yellows are associated with hot things such as the sun or fire. Color temperature is also an area of science and engineering that looks at the ideal temperature for producing different colors in devices such as light bulbs.


Combinations of colors that are perceived as visually appealing. This can include both like colors and contrasts that are perceived positively. There is no science to color harmony as these perceptions can be subjective and are heavily influenced by culture.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are color pairs that have maximum contrast with each other. When complementary colors are mixed they produce a grey.


Colors are used to symbolize nature, food, ideas, ideologies, places, things, pastimes and holidays. This differs by culture and can be subjective.
Overview: Color Characteristics
A characteristic of human visual perception whereby different wavelengths of light and combinations of wavelengths are perceived with concepts such as white, black, brown, grey, blue, green, red, orange, yellow and purple.
Related Concepts

Color Theory

This is the complete list of articles we have written about color theory.
Analogous Color
Color Combinations
Color Depth
Color Harmony
Color is Real
Color Perception
Color Purity
Color Saturation
Color Scheme
Color Space
Color Symbolism
Color Temperature
Complementary Colors
Corporate Colors
Heat Map
Impossible Colors
Monochromatic Color
Primary Colors
Rainbow Colors
Spectral Color
Tints And Shades
Visible Spectrum
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Color Theory

An overview of color theory.


A large collection of color palettes.

Color Saturation

The definition of color saturation with examples.

Color Purity

The definition of color purity with examples.

Primary Colors

An overview of different types of primary colors.

Color Perception

The characteristics of color perception.

Matching Colors

Palettes of matching colors by matching method.

Light Red Is A Color

Why light red is a color with examples.

Does Color Exist

Why color does and doesn't exist.

White Color

An overview of white color with a large palette.


An overview of the colors purple and violet with a color palette.


An overview of the color grey with a large color palette.

Rainbow Colors

An overview of the colors of the rainbow including a few common myths.

Bright Colors

A large palette of bright colors.

Light Colors

A large palette of named light colors.

Neutral Colors

An overview of neutral color with a large palette.

Beige Color

An overview of beige color with a beige color palette.

Burgundy Color

An overview of the color burgundy with a burgundy palette.
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