Color Model and Color Wheel in Textile Industry

Last Updated on 02/10/2022

What is Color?
Color is a highly significant component of our everyday life. Color is the visual property of light which is not related to lightness, saturation, texture, glossiness or translucency. In a physical sense the definition of color could be described by the reflectance curves of a material. However, this does not include the fact that color is a perceived signal which includes a substantially higher number of factors than the simple reflectance curve of a non-transparent sample. Color measurement is an experimental approach to transfer the perception of color into an objective and measurable system. In the textile industry, a fabric’s color is often one of its most important features. The industry uses color to segregate and market materials, products and product lines, and to drive sales

Color Model:
A color model is an abstract mathematical model which is used to describe a color. A model describes how color will appear on the computer screen or on paper. There are different kinds of color models used for different purposes, and each has a slightly different range of colors they can produce.

Additive Color:
Additive color model describe the addition of colored lights at varying wavelengths. Where all three color lights are added or superimposed, white is the result. The additive primaries are red green and blue, sometimes called one-third colors, or tri-chromatic colors. RGB color model is an additive color model. It is describe below.

RGB Color Model:
RGB colour model is an additive color model. This color model is one of the most commonly used and one of the most well-known color models in the world. It combines red, green, and blue light to create the colors we see on our TV screens, computer monitors, and smartphones. The most common uses for RGB color model are things like graphics, buttons, icons and web-based logos.

RGB color model
Figure 1: RGB color model

Subtractive Color:
A subtractive color model explains the mixing of paints, dyes, inks, and natural colorants to create a full range of colors, each caused by subtracting (that is, absorbing) some wavelengths of light and reflecting the others. The color that a surface displays depends on which colors of the electromagnetic spectrum are reflected by it and therefore made visible. Subtractive color models are:

  1. CMYK Color Model
  2. RYB Color Model

1. CMYK Color Model:
CMYK is a subtractive color process as used in the print industry for the reproduction of images, where pure translucent process color inks: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (key) are over printed using half tone dot patterns in varying degrees to obtain a range of colors and tones.

CYMK color model
Figure 2: CYMK color model

2. RYB Color Model:
RYB (an abbreviation of red-yellow-blue) is a historical set of colors used in subtractive color mixing, and was once thought to be the set of primary colors. It is primarily used in art and design education, particularly painting.

RYB color model
Figure 3: RYB color model

Color has three dimensions or qualities:

  1. Hue
  2. Value
  3. Intensity/Chroma

Hue is defined as ‘that attribute of color whereby it is recognized as being predominantly red, green, blue, yellow, violet, etc.’ Differences in hue between two colors therefore may result in one being described as redder, greener, bluer, yellower and so on.

Value / Tone:
The lightness or darkness of a color. Value or tone is a relative measurement from white to black or from lightest to darkest. The value of a color can be described as to the extent to which a color reflects or absorbs light. A color by its own intrinsic value, ie. ultramarine blue, absorbs less light than cobalt blue, which absorbs even less light than Prussian blue.

Intensity / Chroma:
The brightness or dullness of a color. Chroma is determined also by the brilliance or brightness of the color, for example vermilion has a higher chroma than rose madder; however, vermilion appears to be lighter than rose madder and so the tonal value of the color is different.

Made by adding white to a color so that it is lighter.


Tints are lightened colors. Always begin with white and add a bit of color to the white until the desired tint is obtained.

Made by adding black to a color so that it is darker.


Shades are darkened colors. Always begin with the color and add just a bit of black at a time to get the desired shade of a color. This is an example of a value scale for the shades of blue.

Color Wheel
If the ends of the spectrum are bent around a color wheel is formed:

Colors on the wheel can be described using three parameters:

  1. Hue: degrees from 0˚ to 360˚
  2. Saturation: brightness or dullness
  3. Value: lightness or darkness

(As suggested by Henry Albert Munsell in A Colour Notation, 1905)

Color Wheel
Figure 4: Color Wheel (Source wikipedia)

Hue or Spectral Color is represented as an angle.

Primary Colors:

  • 0˚ = Red
  • 120˚ = Green
  • 240˚ = Blue

Secondary Colors:

  • 60˚ = Yellow
  • 180˚ = Cyan
  • 300˚ = Magenta


  • Saturation or Chroma is the intensity of a color.
  • A highly saturated color is bright and appears closer to the edge of the wheel.
  • A more unsaturated color is dull.
  • A color with no saturation is achromatic or in the grey scale.

“The quality by which we distinguish a light color from a dark one.” Value represents the luminescent contrast value between black and white

You may also like:

  1. Color and Textile Dyes – An Overview
  2. Basic Concepts of Light and Color
  3. Application of Color and Light Theory in Textile Dyeing
  4. Basic Concepts of Colour Measurement
  5. Psychology of Colour in Branding and Marketing
  6. Coloring of Textile Materials without Wet Processing
  7. Perception of Color and Its Importance in Textiles
  8. Pantone Color Guide in Textile Industry

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