Color theory 101: saturation

Welcome to the third post in this series on color theory and how it relates to knitting and spinning. Want to catch up? Find the entire series here.

So far, we've talked about hue and value. You might remember that hue is another word for the basic, brightest colors on the color wheel and value is a measure of how much black, white, or gray is mixed into a particular hue.

Now, I'll share with you a bit about the final piece to making sense of color: saturation. Saturation is a measure of how bright or intense a color is; the more saturated it is, the closer it is to the purest or brightest version of itself. You can think of earthy tones and neutral colors (like grays and browns) as being less saturated, and bright rainbow hues as more saturated.

My big book o' dye samples.

My big book o' dye samples.

This last measure is confusing for some people because we're used to talking about a color wheel—that is, a two-dimensional diagram of color. But in reality, color has three dimensions, which I've shared with you here: hue, value, and saturation. Maggie Maggio, an amazing polymer clay artist and one of my favorite bloggers on color theory, has a great description of how to visualize color in three dimensions here.

If you're interested in color theory, do poke around on Maggie's website, Smashing Color—it's a fantastic resource. Another fun way to play with color (literally) is to try Blendoku, an online game you can download for your smartphone or tablet that asks you to fill in the intermediate steps between two colors. It sounds complicated, but it's really fun (and addictive!) to drag and drop different shades of blue to get from gray to purple.

Next, I'll be sharing perspectives on color theory from a few favorite spinners, knitters, and fiber artists. Stay tuned!

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