HSL and HSV color model

HSL (Hue, Saturation, Lightness) and HSV (Hue, Saturation, Value) are two alternative representations of the RGB color model, designed in the 1970s by computer graphics researchers to more closely align with the way human vision perceives color-making attributes. In these models, colors of each hue are arranged in a radial slice, around a central axis of neutral colors which ranges from black at the bottom to white at the top. The HSV representation models the way paints of different colors mix together, with the saturation dimension resembling various shades of brightly colored paint, and the value dimension resembling the mixture of those paints with varying amounts of black or white paint. The HSL model attempts to resemble more perceptual color models such as NCS or Munsell, placing fully saturated colors around a circle at a lightness value of 1/2, where a lightness value of 0 or 1 is fully black or white, respectively.

Basic principle
HSL and HSV are both cylindrical geometries, with hue, their angular dimension, starting at the red primary at 0°, passing through the green primary at 120° and the blue primary at 240°, and then wrapping back to red at 360°. In each geometry, the central vertical axis comprises the neutral, achromatic, or gray colors, ranging from black at lightness 0 or value 0, the bottom, to white at lightness 1 or value 1, the top.

In both geometries, the additive primary and secondary colors—red, yellow, green, cyan, blue and magenta—and linear mixtures between adjacent pairs of them, sometimes called pure colors, are arranged around the outside edge of the cylinder with saturation 1. These saturated colors have lightness ½ in HSL, while in HSV they have value 1. Mixing these pure colors with black—producing so-called shades—leaves saturation unchanged. In HSL, saturation is also unchanged by tinting with white, and only mixtures with both black and white—called tones—have saturation less than 1. In HSV, tinting alone reduces saturation.

Because these definitions of saturation—in which very dark (in both models) or very light (in HSL) near-neutral colors are considered fully saturated (for instance,   from the bottom right in the sliced HSL cylinder or   from the top right)—conflict with the intuitive notion of color purity, often a conic or bi-conic solid is drawn instead, with what this article calls chroma as its radial dimension, instead of saturation. Confusingly, such diagrams usually label this radial dimension “saturation”, blurring or erasing the distinction between saturation and chroma. As described below, computing chroma is a helpful step in the derivation of each model. Because such an intermediate model—with dimensions hue, chroma, and HSV value or HSL lightness—takes the shape of a cone or bicone, HSV is often called the “hexcone model” while HSL is often called the “bi-hexcone model”.

The HSL color space was invented in 1938 by Georges Valensi as a method to add color encoding to existing monochrome (i.e. only containing the L signal) broadcasts, allowing existing receivers to receive new color broadcasts (in black and white) without modification as the Luminance (black and white) signal is broadcast unmodified. It has been used in all major analog broadcast television encoding including NTSC, PAL and SECAM and all major digital broadcast systems and is the basis for composite video.

Most televisions, computer displays, and projectors produce colors by combining red, green, and blue light in varying intensities—the so-called RGB additive primary colors. The resulting mixtures in RGB color space can reproduce a wide variety of colors (called a gamut); however, the relationship between the constituent amounts of red, green, and blue light and the resulting color is unintuitive, especially for inexperienced users, and for users familiar with subtractive color mixing of paints or traditional artists’ models based on tints and shades. Furthermore, neither additive nor subtractive color models define color relationships the same way the human eye does.

For example, imagine we have an RGB display whose color is controlled by three sliders ranging from 0–255, one controlling the intensity of each of the red, green, and blue primaries. If we begin with a relatively colorful orange, with sRGB values R = 217, G = 118, B = 33, and want to reduce its colorfulness by half to a less saturated orange  , we would need to drag the sliders to decrease R by 31, increase G by 24, and increase B by 59.

In an attempt to accommodate more traditional and intuitive color mixing models, computer graphics pioneers at PARC and NYIT developed the HSV model in the mid-1970s, formally described by Alvy Ray Smith in the August 1978 issue of Computer Graphics. In the same issue, Joblove and Greenberg described the HSL model—whose dimensions they labeled hue, relative chroma, and intensity—and compared it to HSV. Their model was based more upon how colors are organized and conceptualized in human vision in terms of other color-making attributes, such as hue, lightness, and chroma; as well as upon traditional color mixing methods—e.g., in painting—that involve mixing brightly colored pigments with black or white to achieve lighter, darker, or less colorful colors.

The following year, 1979, at SIGGRAPH, Tektronix introduced graphics terminals using HSL for color designation, and the Computer Graphics Standards Committee recommended it in their annual status report. These models were useful not only because they were more intuitive than raw RGB values, but also because the conversions to and from RGB were extremely fast to compute: they could run in real time on the hardware of the 1970s. Consequently, these models and similar ones have become ubiquitous throughout image editing and graphics software since then. Some of their uses are described below.

Formal derivation

Color-making attributes
See also: Color vision
The dimensions of the HSL and HSV geometries—simple transformations of the not-perceptually-based RGB model—are not directly related to the photometric color-making attributes of the same names, as defined by scientists such as the CIE or ASTM. Nonetheless, it is worth reviewing those definitions before leaping into the derivation of our models. For the definitions of color-making attributes which follow, see:

The “attribute of a visual sensation according to which an area appears to be similar to one of the perceived colors: red, yellow, green, and blue, or to a combination of two of them”.

Radiance (Le,Ω)
The radiant power of light passing through a particular surface per unit solid angle per unit projected area, measured in SI units in watt per steradian per square metre (W•sr−1•m−2).

Luminance (Y or Lv,Ω)
The radiance weighted by the effect of each wavelength on a typical human observer, measured in SI units in candela per square meter (cd/m2). Often the term luminance is used for the relative luminance, Y/Yn, where Yn is the luminance of the reference white point.

Luma (Y′)
The weighted sum of gamma-corrected R′, G′, and B′ values, and used in Y′CbCr, for JPEG compression and video transmission.

The “attribute of a visual sensation according to which an area appears to emit more or less light”.

Lightness, value
The “brightness relative to the brightness of a similarly illuminated white”.

The “attribute of a visual sensation according to which the perceived color of an area appears to be more or less chromatic”.

The “colorfulness relative to the brightness of a similarly illuminated white”.

The “colorfulness of a stimulus relative to its own brightness”.

Brightness and colorfulness are absolute measures, which usually describe the spectral distribution of light entering the eye, while lightness and chroma are measured relative to some white point, and are thus often used for descriptions of surface colors, remaining roughly constant even as brightness and colorfulness change with different illumination. Saturation can be defined as either the ratio of colorfulness to brightness or of chroma to lightness.

General approach
HSL, HSV, and related models can be derived via geometric strategies, or can be thought of as specific instances of a “generalized LHS model”. The HSL and HSV model-builders took an RGB cube—with constituent amounts of red, green, and blue light in a color denoted R, G, B ∈ [0, 1]—and tilted it on its corner, so that black rested at the origin with white directly above it along the vertical axis, then measured the hue of the colors in the cube by their angle around that axis, starting with red at 0°. Then they came up with a characterization of brightness/value/lightness, and defined saturation to range from 0 along the axis to 1 at the most colorful point for each pair of other parameters.

In each of our models, we calculate both hue and what this article will call chroma, after Joblove and Greenberg (1978), in the same way—that is, the hue of a color has the same numerical values in all of these models, as does its chroma. If we take our tilted RGB cube, and project it onto the “chromaticity plane” perpendicular to the neutral axis, our projection takes the shape of a hexagon, with red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, and magenta at its corners. Hue is roughly the angle of the vector to a point in the projection, with red at 0°, while chroma is roughly the distance of the point from the origin.

More precisely, both hue and chroma in this model are defined with respect to the hexagonal shape of the projection. The chroma is the proportion of the distance from the origin to the edge of the hexagon. In the lower part of the adjacent diagram, this is the ratio of lengths OP/OP′, or alternately the ratio of the radii of the two hexagons. This ratio is the difference between the largest and smallest values among R, G, or B in a color. To make our definitions easier to write, we’ll define these maximum, minimum, and chroma component values as M, m, and C, respectively.

To understand why chroma can be written as M − m, notice that any neutral color, with R = G = B, projects onto the origin and so has 0 chroma. Thus if we add or subtract the same amount from all three of R, G, and B, we move vertically within our tilted cube, and do not change the projection. Therefore, any two colors (R, G, B) and (R − m, G − m, B − m) project on the same point, and have the same chroma. The chroma of a color with one of its components equal to zero (m = 0) is simply the maximum of the other two components. This chroma is M in the particular case of a color with a zero component, and M − m in general.

The hue is the proportion of the distance around the edge of the hexagon which passes through the projected point, originally measured on the range [0, 1) but now typically measured in degrees [0°, 360°). For points which project onto the origin in the chromaticity plane (i.e., grays), hue is undefined. Mathematically, this definition of hue is written piecewise:

Sometimes, neutral colors (i.e. with C = 0) are assigned a hue of 0° for convenience of representation.

These definitions amount to a geometric warping of hexagons into circles: each side of the hexagon is mapped linearly onto a 60° arc of the circle (fig. 10). After such a transformation, hue is precisely the angle around the origin and chroma the distance from the origin: the angle and magnitude of the vector pointing to a color.

Instead of measuring hue and chroma with reference to the hexagonal edge of the projection of the RGB cube into the plane perpendicular to its neutral axis, we can define chromaticity coordinates alpha and beta in the plane—with alpha pointing in the direction of red, and beta perpendicular to it—and then define hue H2 and chroma C2 as the polar coordinates of these. That is, the tangent of hue is beta over alpha, and chroma squared is alpha squared plus beta squared.

Sometimes for image analysis applications, this hexagon-to-circle transformation is skipped, and hue and chroma (we’ll denote these H2 and C2) are defined by the usual cartesian-to-polar coordinate transformations. The easiest way to derive those is via a pair of cartesian chromaticity coordinates which we’ll call α and β:

Notice that these two definitions of hue (H and H2) nearly coincide, with a maximum difference between them for any color of about 1.12°—which occurs at twelve particular hues, for instance H = 13.38°, H2 = 12.26°—and with H = H2 for every multiple of 30°. The two definitions of chroma (C and C2) differ more substantially: they are equal at the corners of our hexagon, but at points halfway between two corners, such as H = H2 = 30°, we have C = 1, but C2 = √¾ ≈ 0.866, a difference of about 13.4%.

When we plot HSV value against chroma, the result, regardless of hue, is an upside-down isosceles triangle, with black at the bottom, and white at the top bracketed by the most chromatic colors of two complementary hues at the top right and left corners. When we plot HSL lightness against chroma, the result is a rhombus, again with black at the bottom and white at the top, but with the colorful complements at horizontal ends of the line halfway between them. When we plot the component average, sometimes called HSI intensity, against chroma, the result is a parallelogram whose shape changes depending on hue, as the most chromatic colors for each hue vary between one third and two thirds between black and white. Plotting luma against chroma yields a parallelogram of much more diverse shape: blue lies about 10 percent of the way from black to white, while its complement yellow lies 90 percent of the way there; by contrast, green is about 60 percent of the way from black to white while its complement magenta is 40 percent of the way there.

While the definition of hue is relatively uncontroversial—it roughly satisfies the criterion that colors of the same perceived hue should have the same numerical hue—the definition of a lightness or value dimension is less obvious: there are several possibilities depending on the purpose and goals of the representation. Here are four of the most common:

The simplest definition is just the average of the three components, in the HSI model called intensity. This is simply the projection of a point onto the neutral axis—the vertical height of a point in our tilted cube. The advantage is that, together with Euclidean-distance calculations of hue and chroma, this representation preserves distances and angles from the geometry of the RGB cube.

In the HSV “hexcone” model, value is defined as the largest component of a color, our M above. This places all three primaries, and also all of the “secondary colors”—cyan, yellow, and magenta—into a plane with white, forming a hexagonal pyramid out of the RGB cube.

In the HSL “bi-hexcone” model, lightness is defined as the average of the largest and smallest color components. This definition also puts the primary and secondary colors into a plane, but a plane passing halfway between white and black. The resulting color solid is a double-cone similar to Ostwald’s, shown above.

A more perceptually relevant alternative is to use luma, Y′, as a lightness dimension. Luma is the weighted average of gamma-corrected R, G, and B, based on their contribution to perceived lightness, long used as the monochromatic dimension in color television broadcast. For the Rec. 709 primaries used in sRGB, Y′709 = 0.21R + 0.72G + 0.07B; for the Rec. 601 NTSC primaries, Y′601 ≈ 0.30R + 0.59G + 0.11B; for other primaries different coefficients should be used.

All four of these leave the neutral axis alone. That is, for colors with R = G = B, any of the four formulations yields a lightness equal to the value of R, G, or B.

When encoding colors in a hue/lightness/chroma or hue/value/chroma model (using the definitions from the previous two sections) model, not all combinations of lightness (or value) and chroma are meaningful: that is, half of the colors denotable using H ∈ [0°, 360°), C ∈ [0, 1], and V ∈ [0, 1] fall outside the RGB gamut (the gray parts of the slices in figure 14). The creators of these models considered this a problem for some uses. For example, in a color selection interface with two of the dimensions in a rectangle and the third on a slider, half of that rectangle is made of unused space. Now imagine we have a slider for lightness: the user’s intent when adjusting this slider is potentially ambiguous: how should the software deal with out-of-gamut colors? Or conversely, If the user has selected as colorful as possible a dark purple  , and then shifts the lightness slider upward, what should be done: would the user prefer to see a lighter purple still as colorful as possible for the given hue and lightness  , or a lighter purple of exactly the same chroma as the original color  ?

To solve problems such as these, the HSL and HSV models scale the chroma so that it always fits into the range [0, 1] for every combination of hue and lightness or value, calling the new attribute saturation in both cases. To calculate either, simply divide the chroma by the maximum chroma for that value or lightness.

The HSI model commonly used for computer vision, which takes H2 as a hue dimension and the component average I (“intensity”) as a lightness dimension, does not attempt to “fill” a cylinder by its definition of saturation. Instead of presenting color choice or modification interfaces to end users, the goal of HSI is to facilitate separation of shapes in an image. Saturation is therefore defined in line with the psychometric definition: chroma relative to lightness. See the Use in image analysis section of this article.

Using the same name for these three different definitions of saturation leads to some confusion, as the three attributes describe substantially different color relationships; in HSV and HSI, the term roughly matches the psychometric definition, of a chroma of a color relative to its own lightness, but in HSL it does not come close. Even worse, the word saturation is also often used for one of the measurements we call chroma above (C or C2).

Use in end-user software
The original purpose of HSL and HSV and similar models, and their most common current application, is in color selection tools. At their simplest, some such color pickers provide three sliders, one for each attribute. Most, however, show a two-dimensional slice through the model, along with a slider controlling which particular slice is shown. The latter type of GUI exhibits great variety, because of the choice of cylinders, hexagonal prisms, or cones/bicones that the models suggest. Several color choosers from the 1990s are shown to the right, most of which have remained nearly unchanged in the intervening time: today, nearly every computer color chooser uses HSL or HSV, at least as an option. Some more sophisticated variants are designed for choosing whole sets of colors, basing their suggestions of compatible colors on the HSL or HSV relationships between them.

Most web applications needing color selection also base their tools on HSL or HSV, and pre-packaged open source color choosers exist for most major web front-end frameworks. The CSS 3 specification allows web authors to specify colors for their pages directly with HSL coordinates.

HSL and HSV are sometimes used to define gradients for data visualization, as in maps or medical images. For example, the popular GIS program ArcGIS historically applied customizable HSV-based gradients to numerical geographical data.

Image editing software also commonly includes tools for adjusting colors with reference to HSL or HSV coordinates, or to coordinates in a model based on the “intensity” or luma defined above. In particular, tools with a pair of “hue” and “saturation” sliders are commonplace, dating to at least the late-1980s, but various more complicated color tools have also been implemented. For instance, the Unix image viewer and color editor xv allowed six user-definable hue (H) ranges to be rotated and resized, included a dial-like control for saturation (SHSV), and a curves-like interface for controlling value (V)—. The image editor Picture Window Pro includes a “color correction” tool which affords complex remapping of points in a hue/saturation plane relative to either HSL or HSV space.

Video editors also use these models. For example, both Avid and Final Cut Pro include color tools based on HSL or a similar geometry for use adjusting the color in video. With the Avid tool, users pick a vector by clicking a point within the hue/saturation circle to shift all the colors at some lightness level (shadows, mid-tones, highlights) by that vector.

Since version 4.0, Adobe Photoshop’s “Luminosity”, “Hue”, “Saturation”, and “Color” blend modes composite layers using a luma/chroma/hue color geometry. These have been copied widely, but several imitators use the HSL (e.g. PhotoImpact, Paint Shop Pro) or HSV (e.g. GIMP) geometries instead.

Use in image analysis
HSL, HSV, HSI, or related models are often used in computer vision and image analysis for feature detection or image segmentation. The applications of such tools include object detection, for instance in robot vision; object recognition, for instance of faces, text, or license plates; content-based image retrieval; and analysis of medical images.

For the most part, computer vision algorithms used on color images are straightforward extensions to algorithms designed for grayscale images, for instance k-means or fuzzy clustering of pixel colors, or canny edge detection. At the simplest, each color component is separately passed through the same algorithm. It is important, therefore, that the features of interest can be distinguished in the color dimensions used. Because the R, G, and B components of an object’s color in a digital image are all correlated with the amount of light hitting the object, and therefore with each other, image descriptions in terms of those components make object discrimination difficult. Descriptions in terms of hue/lightness/chroma or hue/lightness/saturation are often more relevant.

Starting in the late 1970s, transformations like HSV or HSI were used as a compromise between effectiveness for segmentation and computational complexity. They can be thought of as similar in approach and intent to the neural processing used by human color vision, without agreeing in particulars: if the goal is object detection, roughly separating hue, lightness, and chroma or saturation is effective, but there is no particular reason to strictly mimic human color response. John Kender’s 1976 master’s thesis proposed the HSI model. Ohta et al. (1980) instead used a model made up of dimensions similar to those we have called I, α, and β. In recent years, such models have continued to see wide use, as their performance compares favorably with more complex models, and their computational simplicity remains compelling.

Charles Poynton, digital video expert, lists the above problems with HSL and HSV in his Color FAQ, and concludes that:

HSB and HLS were developed to specify numerical Hue, Saturation and Brightness (or Hue, Lightness and Saturation) in an age when users had to specify colors numerically. The usual formulations of HSB and HLS are flawed with respect to the properties of color vision. Now that users can choose colors visually, or choose colors related to other media (such as PANTONE), or use perceptually-based systems like L*u*v* and L*a*b*, HSB and HLS should be abandoned.

Source From Wikipedia