Color is the property of an object or substance to produce different sensations on the eye as a result of reflecting or emitting light.

Color Attributes

Every color can be described in terms of hue, saturation, and lightness.


Hue refers to the color family or color name (like red, green, or violet). Hue is directly linked to a color’s wavelength.


Saturation (or chroma) refers to the purity of a color. As you increase saturation, a color appears more vivid.


Lightness (also called brightness, luminance, or value) refers to the shade (darkness) or tint (lightness) of a color.


Tint is a mixture of a color with white.


Tone is a mixture of a color with grey.


Shade is a mixture of a color with black.

Color Models

Abstract mathematical models describing the way colors can be represented are called color models. Color models are independent from physical devices.

RGB (Additive)

Media that transmit light (like a screen) use additive color mixing.

The mixing of the additive primary colors red, green, and blue results in white (hence why it’s called additive).

CMY and CMYK (Subtractive)

Media that are reliant on reflecting light (such as paper) use subtractive color mixing.

The subtraction of its primary colors cyan, magenta, and yellow results in white.

In printing, an additional key color is offen added – black. If that wasn’t done, dark colors would look more brown than black.

Color Spaces

A color space is the implementation of a color model. Color spaces differ in encompassing colors.

RGB Color Spaces

Here are a couple common RGB color spaces. RGB values in one color space may differ in another.

  • sRGB
  • Adobe RGB
  • ProPhoto RGB
  • eciRGB

CMYK Color Spaces

Here you can find a few common CMYK color spaces.

  • Coated FOGRA27
  • Web Coated FOGRA28
  • Uncoated FOGRA29
  • ISO Coated v2

Other Color Spaces


CIELAB or L*a*b* is a color space based on human perception. It uses three axis: L* for lightness, a* for red and green, and b* for yellow and blue. These four colors correspond to human vision.


Pantone colors aren’t based on a model. But they are a standardized system used by graphic designers and printers worldwide. Most of Pantone’s spot colors can’t be simulated with CMYK. Instead, it allows for many special colors to be produced, like metallics and fluorescents.

Color Profiles

Simply said, a color profile specifies how a device deviates from a color space.

Monitors may display colors differently (i. e. they may have a color cast). We need to profile that monitor so that it displays colors correctly according to the chosen color space.

Color Harmonies

Some color combinations are aesthetically pleasing to the eye.


Color Contrast

Color contrast is the difference in luminance or color between two colors.

It’s important to make sure that information is accessible – which can mean adjusting colors to make sure they are accessible.

Here’s a good tool to check for constrast:

Color Associations

Color have and are being used symbolically. Note that associations may differ in some cultures.


Power, strength, energy, heat, love, passion, danger, warning, anger


Excitement, confidence, encouragement, health, vitality, extroversion


Bright, vibrant, youthful, energetic, sunshine, hope, intellect, happiness


Earth, growth, freshness, nature, balance, harmony, money, jealousy, envy, guilt


Peace, tranquility, loyalty, security, trust, intelligence, cold, fear, masculine


Happiness, compassion, sweet, playful, immaturity, hope, inspiration, feminine


Royalty, nobility, spirituality, luxury, ambition, mystery, fantasy, moodiness


Earth, outdoors, longevity, conservative, honest, natural, reliable


Formal, classic, elegance, power, luxury, protection, death, mystery, evil


Purity, innocence, goodness, fresh, clean, easy, simplicity

This article is neither painting a complete picture of the topic nor is it trying to. It serves as a mnemonic and notebook for Marvin.

If you found a mistake, want to add something or found the article helpful, please get in touch.