Oil Painting, Color and Intensity Scales

The Chroma Scale

Chroma is an important aspect of Color. Remember chroma and intensity mean the same thing, it is how bright or dull a color appears. By having a variety of intensities with your colors you increase the the depth of your color relationships in your paintings. You seldom hear mention of  the chroma or intensity scale so let’s explore what it means.

The Chroma wheel shows the primary colors decreasing in intensity or chroma down threw the chroma scale to a neutral gray. Pictured above in the color wheel are the primary, secondary and tertiary colors progressing from their most intense down the 5 steps to neutral gray. There are several levels of intensity but for the chroma scale we will use a five steps of intensity. Step 5 is a color at its most intense Step 1 is neutral gray.

Since chroma doesn’t refer to value or hue a very light violet may be a step 4 on the chroma scale as well as raw sienna and venetian red though the colors differ in hue and value they are the same chroma or intensity.



Try to ignore the color’s differences and instead focus on their similarities. Their intensity, by learning to observe a color’s intensity you will be taking a large step in understanding color.

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