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The HSV Color System - A More Intuitive Way

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We usually think of a color as having a particular "hue". We give this hue a name like "orange" or "yellow". We also often describe the "brightness" of a color as "light" or "dark". We might describe a "light yellow" or a "dark orange". We might also note that a color is less "vivid" than another, that it is like another color in hue and is equally bright, but that it appears to have "faded away to gray". When we think in that way we are using a third concept referred to as "saturation". The concepts of "hue", "saturation", and "brightness" are based on our subjective experience of seeing color when light enters our eyes.

These subjective concepts have been given objective scientific meanings that closely match our inituitive understanding. Generally, "brightness" is reffered to as "value" wehen we are speaking technically. Together "hue", "saturation", and "value" form another system of completely describing the range of possible colors. This system is called HSV ("hue", "saturation", "value").

Hue can take any value between 0 and 360. (The range of colors in the visible spectrum are often arranged in a circle or a hexagon and one rotation of 360 degrees encompasses each of the colors.) Saturation and Value are expressed as a proportion of their total possible value, either as a decimal between 0.0 and 0.1 or as a percentage between and 100 (as we will due here). We will explore what these ideas further on the next page.

For now, just use the applet on this page to get a feel for how changing the numerical values Hue, Saturation and Value relates to your inituitive sense of their meaning.

Now try the same simple exercise we used for RGB: Hold a object with a distinct color - like a paint sample or book cover - next to your monitor. Try to match the color on your object by adjusting the sliders on the applet. Do you find working with the HSV values more intuitive than RGB ?

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