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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds This is Julia Begbie from the KLC School of Design. This presentation is on hue and saturation and begins to look at the terminology that we use when describing colour and naming the effects that manipulation of colour can have upon visual impact. We will be considering how manipulating the value of a colour– increasing or decreasing its intensity or its vibrancy– can help to create hierarchy.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds So what is hierarchy? Well, visual hierarchy influences the order in which we see things. Colour is a powerful tool, and we can use it to draw attention to form . So by manipulating contrast, we create visual interest, and we can create drama. So I hope you can see that in this child’s bedroom, the dominant element within the room is this set of bunk beds. And the reason that these bunk beds claim dominance within the hierarchy of the space is because of the fully saturated colour with which they’ve been painted.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds Now, this fully saturated colour stands out boldly against a much more shaded backdrop.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 seconds When discussing design, we often consider that your eye needs interest. But it also needs to be able to rest.

Skip to 1 minute and 46 seconds To live within a space in which every element carries the same strong impact would be very tiring to experience.

Skip to 1 minute and 58 seconds And so the approach that designers and architects would usually take would be to consider that there should be a hierarchy within a space. Some elements should be bolder. Other elements should be more retiring. And we can use colour to achieve this effect.

Skip to 2 minutes and 16 seconds In this very delicate image of architectural form, you can see that by limiting contrast in tone and colour, we can achieve a serene effect. In this beautiful architectural interior, different design principles have been brought to play to create drama and impact. In this case, it’s repetition of form which creates a rhythm within the space. Without the addition of strong tonal contrast or colour contrast, the impact is very quiet.

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 seconds In this image of a woman’s face that you now see on the screen, you can see that amplifying contrast creates great drama. And theoretically, we can see that the greater the contrast the more impact the image has. Now, the greatest contrast in colour that you can achieve comes from combining what we call complementary colours. And these are colours that oppose each other on the colour wheel. We’ll see the impact of complementary schemes later on in this course. But for now, consider that the colours that oppose each other on the colour wheel, when brought together fully saturated, create great dramatic impact.

Skip to 3 minutes and 43 seconds Examples of complementary colours are blue and orange, as you see here, and also yellow and violet, or red and green. So I’ve used the word hue several times through the presentation. But what is a hue? Well, hue is the term used by artists and designers to describe a full value pigment. So a colour that is presented with full clarity and force, a fully saturated colour that has not been modified by the addition of other colours, including white and black.

Skip to 4 minutes and 27 seconds Once you begin to modify colour by adding agents to lighten or darken, we start to create a different impact. Adding black to a colour makes a shade, whereas adding white to a colour makes a tint. So the maroon colour to the far left of this band is a shade of red, and it has black added. And at the other end of the scale we have pink, which is a tint of red. It’s red plus white.

Skip to 5 minutes and 5 seconds So let’s look at saturation again. And by saturation, we mean the amount of pigment present within a colour. In this child’s bedroom, the fully saturated yellow of the bunk beds pops forward against the modified wall colour. However, I think it’s very interesting to note that if we begin to add black to this fully saturated yellow, we get close to the shade that is being used on the wall.

Skip to 5 minutes and 40 seconds So interestingly, in this room the wall colour is actually a shade of the yellow bunk bed hue. The reason that these apparently very different colours sit well together is because they come from the same family. They come from the family of yellow. The marked contrast in saturation enhances both parties. The yellow beds appear bold and bright, and the wall appears to be moody and sophisticated. There’s tonal contrast in this room as well. The brightness of the floor compared to the somewhat darker walls also creates drama. Now, strange as it may seem, colours that appear to be quite pure white can also have a faint colour tint to them.

Skip to 6 minutes and 36 seconds So in order to have the best outcome to create the most sympathetic family of colour for this interior, we would be looking for a white that had a very slight greenish yellow tint to it for use on the floor in this room in order to ensure that all of the colours at play within this interior came from that same yellow family. This would achieve the most successful result. And as we’ll discover elsewhere in this course, fully saturated colour has a particular impact on our eye, the way that we see things. And fully saturated colour has very high visibility, which is why it’s chosen for applications such as those seen on the screen at the moment.

Skip to 7 minutes and 27 seconds And here we see some mounted policemen.

Skip to 7 minutes and 32 seconds So tints are colours to which white has been added. And from the image on the screen, you will hopefully agree that tints can be soft and pretty. They could be described as being bright or happy colours. And they could also be criticised for lacking depth or character, or even being childish.

Skip to 7 minutes and 57 seconds The personality of shades is quite different, quite the opposite. They are moody and sophisticated. They’re very grown up, the opposite of the childish tint. And just as tints are bright and cheerful, shades can be sombre. They’re not energising colours.

Skip to 8 minutes and 17 seconds So next up, we’re going to consider accent. In this photograph, you can see fully saturated orange candles are deployed within an otherwise shaded palette, and they inject visual stimulation and help to give a slightly lighter mood within this interior. Now, accent colour is a contrast colour that is used in small quantities to add highlights to a colour palette. And it has the greatest impact when it’s used with the greatest restraint. So when applying accent colour, it’s important to put in enough to show that the effect is not accidental– an accidental object or item that has been temporarily put into a scheme, but isn’t intended to be there.

Skip to 9 minutes and 16 seconds So we have to use enough to show that the effect is not accidental, but not so much that the accent colour itself takes on a meaningful role within the palette.

Skip to 9 minutes and 29 seconds When combining colours and using accent, consider that the quantity of accent should be limited. This is because accent in its nature has greater impact than the background against which it sits. Therefore, in order to create harmony and balance, you would naturally want to have a little bit less of this more powerful element in order for it not to overwhelm and dominate within the scheme that it is intended to lift and brighten.

Skip to 10 minutes and 4 seconds So how can we apply this practically? Well, we have a number of activities and discussions planned for this week. So I’d like you to start to analyse colour palettes where you see them, and to look for saturated colours, and to look for tints and shades. Make a note too if you observe that accent colour has been used to bring interest to a scheme. Now, you could see this in a company’s branding, perhaps in a carrier bag. You could see it used on the fashion catwalk. You could see this applied in architecture or in another design discipline. So try this exercise.

Skip to 10 minutes and 45 seconds Where you observe accent colour is present, try to imagine the same combination of colour, but without the accent colour at play.

Skip to 10 minutes and 59 seconds Imagine the same palette of colour, but with the accent element removed. Ask yourself what difference the accent is making to the visual impact of the palette of colour. What does the accent colour add? How does it change the mood of the space? And as you go about your business this week, try to actively observe how colour is being used deliberately by designers, artists, architects. And start to use the knowledge that you’re building of colour theory to analyse and evaluate colour as you meet it.

Hue and saturation

In this video, Lead Educator Julia Begbie describes the concepts of hue and saturation, as well as shades, tints and accents.

  • Hue describes a full value pigment
  • Saturation describes the amount of pigment present within a colour.

Hue and saturation affect our visual hierarchy, or the order in which we see things and their impact.

Questions for discussion

  1. Look at your own surroundings. What do you notice about hue and saturation? How would you describe the visual hierarchy?
  2. Most of us have a preference for either fully-saturated colour or greyer or whiter colour - what is your view?
  3. Look for a palette that includes an accent colour. How would the palette be affected if the accent were removed? What is its impact?

Share your thoughts in the Comments.

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This video is from the free online course:

The Power of Colour

KLC School of Design