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Color Description Terms for Light

Hue, value and chroma are terms from the Munsel system of color notation (1905). A system designed for explaining color in ink and paint rather than color in light. However, the three descriptive terms are often used to define the color of light contributing more to the confusion than the clarity of the subject. The vocabulary of color is a minefield of contradictions and confused meanings. Colorimetry is another system for describing color which is of particular interest because it relates well to colored light. In colorimetry the following terms are used to describe the color in light. Dominant Wavelength (DWL), Brightness and Purity.

Dominant Wavelength - The apparent color of the light similar to the term hue meaning the apparent color i.e. red.

Brightness - The percentage of transmission of the full spectrum of energy similar to value and often described as intensity.

Purity - The purity of a color is similar to chroma. It describes the mixture of color of the DWL with "white" or the color of the source. If there is only color of the DWL, it is 100% pure; but if there is very little of the DWL in the mixture, as in a tint, the color could be as low as, say, 5% pure.

White - The presence of all colors in the light source.

Black - The absence of all colors.

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