Color - (Lightness|Value|Tone) (White, Gray, Black scale)


Lightness, also known as value or tone, is a relative color property.

Some colors are naturally:

  • light like yellow (high lightness, high value)
  • darker, like violet (low lightness, low value)

Black, white and gray are values without color. (without hue ?)

  • White is the highest possible value
  • Black is the lowest value.
  • Gray is the a medium value. The midpoint between black and white, neither dark nor light.

A value is linear and progressive.


In subtractive color (i.e. paints) value changes can be achieved by adding black or white to the color.

  • Adding white paint will make any pigment lighter.
  • Adding black paint will make most pigments darker, but will cause yellow paint to shift in hue to green.

Technical definition:

  • Value is the brightness of an area judged relative to the brightness of a similarly illuminated area that appears to be white (ie highly transmitting). It is then the representation of variation (relative) in the perception of a color or color space's brightness.

The hues have a natural value where they look the purest. All hues can be made in all values.

Value can exist without hue (see achromatic).


Various color models have an explicit term for this property.

  • The Munsell color model uses the term value
  • The HSL color model and Lab color space use the term lightness.
  • The HSV model uses the term value a little differently: a color with a low value is nearly black, but one with a high value is the pure, fully saturated color.

Documentation / Reference

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