Knowing the basic elements of color will help you control and design what’s happening in the world of your image. The six elements of colors are value, saturation, neutral, temperature, texture, opacity.


Value is the relative darkness or lightness of a color. If we look at a color in varying degrees of value, it’s easier to understand the value of the color if we slowly take away the chroma, or vibrancy, of the color.

Elements of Color
Color Picker Panel in Photoshop

As shown above image, saturation is set to 0, making the panel black and white. Bottom of the slider has black color (labeled Black in the image) and top of the slider has white color. As we move the arrow up/down on the slider, only B (Brightness) will change.


Saturation, also known as vibrancy or chroma, is the colorfulness or the perceived intensity of a specific color. It can be very colorful, vibrant or lacking in vibrancy. If you remove the chroma of a color, you’re neutralizing it.


Neutral is the lack of chroma in a color. If a color is lacking in vibrancy, it’s considered neutral. A color can be made neutral by adding black, by combining it with its complement, or combining it with three primaries. And by adding two colors opposite in temperature, you can also neutralize color.


Temperature is the degree to which a color appears to be warm or cool to the touch. With a cool color on one end of the scale and a warm on the other end, the colors in the middle are neutral in temperature and overall vibrancy.

Colors in the range of red, yellow, and orange, tend to read as warm or hot. Snow, the night sky, a leafless tree, colors in the range of white, blue, or gray, read as cool.


Texture is the appearance of the surface of a color in relationship to how it might feel to the touch. Colors can be highly textured or minimally so, but the variation affects the overall appearance of the color. In the examples here, the colors vary in the kind of texture as they might relate to different applications of media and style: graphic, painted, digital, drawn, etched, etc.

Texture Example


Opaque, translucent, and transparent color is dependent on the amount of light passing through a color. Opaque color does not let the light pass through it.
Translucent allows some light to pass through, and transparent color allows all the light to pass through.

Controlling the balance of value, vibrancy, neutrality, temperature, texture, and level of transparency is a way to harness the power of your imagery.