from the June 2006 Margie’s Muse

While I appreciate and learn from all colors, its the saturated colors, those vibrant royal jewels, that make me swoon.

Brew the components of value, hue, and saturation together and you’ve got color. Of these three properties, saturation is the seasoning, enabling you to concoct a dynamic range of palettes.

Saturation, also referred to as intensity, is the amount of hue that is in a color. From the subtlety of neutral colors to lively, tangy super-saturated palettes, the overall flavor of what you create derives much of its impact from the saturation level of your palette.


Neutral colors are characterized by a lack of saturation: black, white, and grays.

Black and white photos exemplify a neutral palette. Lacking hue, they must rely on value – the degree of lightness and darkness – to convey form and spatial relationships. 

Semi-neutral palettes wield a low level of saturation. Classic sepia and warm-toned images come to mind. Delicate and nuanced, they impact us in more subtle ways.

Fully saturated palettes are representational; they depict they way most of us view the world. Straightforward color photography uses the fully saturated palette.

Advertising graphics, fabrics, plastics, and contemporary paintings use super-saturated palettes to arrest attention and delight or shock viewers. Think of Matisse’s paper cut outs or Gauguin’s tropical paintings.

There are many degrees of saturation for a color and for a palette in general. You can step closer to color mastery by choosing your saturation purposefully.



Download the June 2006 Margie’s Muse to read the full article.