Exploring Color - applications, tools and resources

Colorist for Artists Help - the Visual Color Wheel

The Color System

The visual color wheel in Colorist for Artists represents color in the 3 dimensions of hue, chroma and lightness. This is consistent with the most recent scientific color models. Older models used dimensions of hue, saturation and lightness (or value). Colorist for Artists is based upon the CIECAM02 Color Appearance Model, which has been described by Bruce MacEvoy of handprint.com as " probably the most advanced and accurate color modeling system in current use" and "probably the most accurate representation of visual complementary colors available today".

Colorist for Artists uses a 2 dimensional hue-chroma color wheel to select one of 72 hues, and a companion chroma-lightness chart to show 100 variations of each hue. Note that in the illustration below, the colors of the color wheel sector outlined in red are repeated in the hue-chroma row outlined in red. A black dot is always used to mark this row. It is the row that contains the colors of purest hue; colors above and below have increasing components of grey.


The benefit of visualizing color in this way is that an artist's paint color can be shown both as belonging to one of the hue-chroma "bins" of the color wheel, and to one of the chroma-lightness "bins" of the chroma-lightness chart. Furthermore, entire brands (such as Winsor Newton Artists' Watercolor) can be displayed at one time, and even collections of brands.

How to Select Hues

change color hue

There are 3 ways to change the selected hue:

  • drag the hue selection knob with the mouse
  • click on any sector of the color wheel
  • move the mouse wheel

Color Gamuts

A color gamut is a range of colors. Color technologies like film, monitors/tvs and paints are not able to reproduce the full gamut of colors that the human eye can perceive. Some technologies, listed in order of decreasing gamut, are:

  • photographic film
  • computer monitors and televisions
  • paints
  • printing

Since technology is always changing, color gamuts of existing and new color systems will continue to expand. Broadly speaking, the color gamut of paints and dyes approximately match that of traditional CRT monitors. And while printing methods have tended to have a smaller gamut than RGB display devices and paints, newer printing technologies with more primary colors and more saturated dyes are reducing those differences.


The above image shows in an approximate way how several color gamuts relate to the full color gamut that the human eye can perceive.

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