HSV and the Colour Wheel: How to Define and Arrange Colours
Hello again! It’s been a little while, but we’re finally ready to move into the world of colour theory. Today’s guide in particular will probably be the most technical guide by far in this artistic fundamentals series. The good news is that it’ll all be relatively straightforward. The bad news is that these are the rules, and nobody really gets to bend or break them (unless you can alter the laws of physics). Do note that an image editing software will open up vast opportunities for adjusting and manipulating colour in your pieces–meaning that we’ll be touching on 3rd party tools that are not native to FFXIV’s /gpose. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should feel left out if you don’t own Photoshop! GIMP is one of many free options, and an excellent one at that.
Sounds strange to need a definition for colour, right? But as artists, it’s worth our time to have working definitions for everything in our toolbox, and colour is most certainly one of our most commonly used tools. That said, there are several common methods that we can use to define individual colours: RGB, HSV, CMYK, and Hex Codes. The two methods that concern us the most are RGB and HSV. Let’s break those down first.
RGB stands for “Red, Green, Blue”, and it’s the colour space used to define lamp colours within /gpose. As the name implies, RGB defines colours as mixtures of red, green, and blue in varying ratios. Within /gpose, the aspects of RGB can be set between 0 and 10. Outside of /gpose and in most image editing software, the aspects of RGB are defined with values between 0 and 255. While this is an excellent colour space for selecting the colour families we want in our palettes, it can be a little unintuitive to make finer adjustments to those colours.
Enter HSV, or “Hue, Saturation, Value”. The “V” sometimes turns into other letters, like HSB (Brightness) or HSL (Lightness, sometimes Luminosity), but these are essentially referring to the same colour space. Instead of mixing red, green, and blue, HSV takes a slightly different approach to defining colours. Colour families instead are defined along the Hue axis, which is defined from 0 to 359 (it loops back into itself at 360).
Saturation and Value are the other two control nodes in the HSV model. We can control Saturation by modifying the ratio of our Hue’s strength compared to the dominance of our greyscale Value. As you may remember from the last guide, we can control our Value rating by adding black (shading) or adding white (tinting). We also talked about toning, or adding grey–you may consider this tantamount to adjusting the saturation, as the idea behind toning is to add a grey of the same value of your hue in order to desaturate it.
But don’t forget! I cannot stress this enough: the technical process that you go through to obtain the colour(s) you want is not nearly as important as the colour(s) themselves! We’re only laying out colour spaces and their inner workings so that you can better understand exactly how to modify a colour that you want to change in a specific way. What really matters is that you end up with colours that you like. This takes us into our next topic: palettes.
Selecting a Palette
Colour palettes are usually a topic more reserved for illustrators and the like, since they have full and total control over the colours that are present in their pieces. In photography (or gposing, for us), we have a lot less control over our colours. But we still have some! And that’s why we’re going to talk about colour selection, and assembling pleasing and eye-popping palettes.
I won’t get into the weeds on the colour wheel and its uses in selecting/pairing colours, since there are a million guides all over the net on how to do that. Besides, crafting the perfect palette is often not practical, given the constraints of photography outside the studio. That is, our location often dictates what colours we have to work with. But instead of treating this like a limiting factor, we can use it to our advantage–and a reason to explore the world besides!
To keep things simple, we’ll limit this guide to 3 types of palette selection: monochromatic, colour matching, and complementary.
By far the simplest of our 3 palette types. Monochromatic palettes are exactly what they sound like: palettes that only feature one colour. Do note that this does not mean “black and white only”, nor does it mean that there can be no variation in saturation/value within that colour. Often, we must make use of an image editor to render something truly monochromatic. There are monochromatic filter options native to /gpose itself, but I generally prefer the added levels of control that an image editor provides.
As the name implies, colour matching involves trying to match the colours of your subject matter (usually your character) with the colours of your environment. This is where location scouting starts to come into play. Your best results with this type of palette will come with careful consideration of both your shooting location, your glamour, and the actions you use for the shot. To make your life a little easier, I recommend colour matching only one or two very significant, very salient colours. This also prevents visual overload with too many colours, and helps make your picture pop.
While these are by far the more difficult type of palette to assemble (especially in photography), they have the potential to hold the most depth and complexity. Complementary palettes are similar to colour matched palettes in that you must carefully consider your shooting location. However, your aim is not to simply replicate the colours of your backdrop, but to select different colours for both subject and backdrop that will come together harmoniously.
Again, I won’t be getting into the nitty gritty on how to build palettes using the colour wheel or anything like that. There are many, many guides out there on how to construct and select effective and pleasing colour combinations–please feel free to use them as much as you like! And of course, don’t be afraid to experiment. The ultimate rule for colour palette creation is pretty simple: if it looks good, it’s good!
And that brings us to the end of this introduction to colour! The next guide will be a little looser on the technical aspect, so please look forward to that if you found this one a bit dry. If there’s anything at all I’d want you to take away from today’s guide, it’s these two things:
- Location, location, location. Explore the world and scout out compelling shooting spots!
- HOW you get the colours you want isn’t important; focus on the colours themselves!
Of course, don’t forget that practice makes perfect. Now go out there and snap to your heart’s content! Till next time!
Art Fundamentals Article Index
- Focal Points and Their Hierarchies: A Guide to Guiding the Eye (click me!)
- Framing the Shot: Concepts and Solutions for Camera Placement (click me!)
- Light and Dark: An Introduction to Contrast and Value (click me!)
- HSV and the Colour Wheel: How to Define and Arrange Colours (you’re here!)
- Warm and Cold: Injecting Meaning into Colours (click me!)
Demonstration of Principles (work in progress)