Color Constants within Interior Decorating
Hue is that property of a color which depends upon its optical composition, and determines its position in the chromatic circle. Thus red, orange, yellow-green, blue-violet and purple are hues. Normal hues are hues which approach as closely as possible in pigments to the colors of the solar spectrum. Emerald is the normal hue of green, and grenadine red the normal hue of red-orange. Colors which are darker than the normal hue are called dark colors; those which are lighter than the normal are called light colors. Those variations of a hue which are produced by the addition of black to the normal are called shades of that hue; while those formed by the addition of white are called tints of the hue. Thus carmine is a shade of red and begonia rose is a tint of red.
The purity or intensity of a color depends upon its relative freedom from white light. Purity therefore expresses the amount or degree of the hue present, as distinguished form the total amount of light, both white and colored, present. While no pigments are wholly free from white light, the normal hues are called pure. They lose purity as they are progressively neutralized by union with their complementaries, or degraded by the admixture of black, white or neutral grey. Thus garnet, la France, and jasper red are impure variants of scarlet-red, formed respectively by the addition of black, white and neutral grey to the normal.
Luminosity or value is that characteristic of a color which depends upon the total amount of light, both colored and white, reflected to the eye. Value, in painting and the allied arts, is defined by the Century dictionary as the relation of one object, part or atmospheric plane of a picture to the others with reference to light and shade, the idea of hue being abstracted. Thus normal yellow, though it is identical with normal red in purity, exceeds it in luminosity. White exceeds all the hues in luminosity , while the tints of any hue are more luminous than its shades, in direct proportion to the white in the mixture, and without any reference to the relative purity or neutrality of the hue. The value of a given color may be determined by comparing it with a scale of neutral greys, ranging from black with a value of o to white with a value of 100; or, roughly, with the gamut black, dark-grey, grey, light-grey and white.
Variations in the luminosity or brightness of a color are called tones of that color. The summer sky, surveyed from horizon to zenith, reveals numberless tones of blue, as a distant forest or a field of young grain reveal numberless tones of green or yellow-green. This usage of the word tone must be carefully noted, for it will be constantly and consistently employed. It differs from the usage of painters, who ordinarily employ the word tone to express similarity of tone, or the prevalence of like tones.
It is in fact imperative that the reader who desires to understand the discussion of color included in this study of interior decoration accept the few definitions of color terms precisely as they are stated. Definitions are absolutely necessary to clear concepts, and inasmuch as writers on color habitually use its terms with varying connotations, the words employed in this volume with one significance may be encountered elsewhere with another. The study of color is perplexing a best. It becomes unintelligible when there is any doubt as to the meaning of the terms employed.
The unscientific and confusing system of color nomenclature is, unhappily, a source of perplexities which no care can unravel. Color has always been more a mater of fancy ane of fashion than of exact knowledge, and as a result the hundreds of color names used in the arts have been drawn indiscriminately from any source that proved suggestive-from the earth and the heavens above the earth and the waters beneath it-and applied in ways nearly always inexact and frequently misleading. Of all the hues the blue-reds have the most accurately-descriptive terms, perhaps because the violets and purples have always been of more interest to poets than to common men; yet even here there is no pretence of a scientific or even of an accurate nomenclature. For example, to take a few only of these color names, the term purple comes from a shell; violet, lilac, lavender, mauve, iris, amaranth, petunia and hyacinth from flowers; mulberry, raspberry, plum and prune from fruits; and amethyst-the word itself means a remedy for drunkenness-from a stone. Puce is French for flea; gridelin is contracted from gris de lin; Bishop’s purple and London smoke are loosely descriptive, and elephant’s breath is a pure creation of the fancy of an earlier day.
With the best intentions in the world it is quite impossible to use such terms exactly, or even intelligibly, so that among professional workers in color-to say nothing of laymen-a given color name will rarely convey precisely the same idea to two different individuals. The inevitable confusion is heightened by manufacturers, who not only constantly launch new color names, but also employ widely varying colors under the old names. Many more or less complete and elaborate systems of color notation have been devised, notable\y those Chevreul, Maxwell, Oberthur et Dauthenay, and Ridgeway; but these systems have never been widely adopted. Considerable progress toward standardization has been made in the last decade; but at the present time the great number of color sensations can be described with approximate accuracy only in terms of their relations to the primary and binary hues, and to black, and white and grey. This system is clumsy and tedious, but it is the best available to one who desires to be widely understood.