Color Saturation

This video explores color saturation, explaining how intense and muted colors can work together effectively in fine art, illustration, film, character design, and more.

49 min. video

Both muted and intense colors contribute important elements of color that are both equally important in an artwork.

Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Jordan McCracken-Foster.

Clara Lieu
Watercolor in Utah: Goblin Valley & Mushrooms

Video Walkthrough

  • Saturation is the level of intensity of a color.
  • High saturation is bright colors.
  • Low saturation is muted colors.
  • Muted colors and bright colors have to work together.
  • Muted colors are necessary to support and enhance bright colors.
  • Consider color relationships, how 1 color affects the other.
  • People often ignore muted colors, but they are hugely important in a composition.
  • Color saturation can greatly impact the movie of an artwork, or a film.
  • Don’t look at colors in isolation.
  • There is no “correct” shade of blue.
  • Paint straight out of the tube is the highest saturation possible.
  • Once you start mixing paint, the saturation inherently is lower.
  • Value and saturation are easily confused.
  • Looking at color scripts for films is a terrific way to see many color schemes.

Prof Lieu’s Tips

Clara cartoon

I find that value and saturation are often mistaken for another, they can be very close so sometimes distinguishing them clearly is really hard. Or in some cases impossible, depending on the context.

Painting Basics Track: White on White Still Life, Palette
Painting Basics Track

Generally speaking, people usually have an easier time grasping how to achieve a broad of value vs. getting a wide range of saturation. Saturation is a lot tougher to notice and grasp, as it’s usually not as clear cut as value is.

I did this idiotic color chart in art school where we added white to make the color lighter, and then black to make it darker. That chart was purely about value, it had nothing to do with saturation!

As a free educational source, Art Prof uses Amazon affiliate links (found in this page) to help pay the bills. This means, Art Prof earns from qualifying purchases.