Hue, Saturation, Lightness

I’ve met quite a few designers who are colourblind, but personally it affects my ability to distinguish between green and brown, or blue and purple. Tones and colour strength I can see, but certain colours are hard to tell apart.

You might already know I originally trained as a wildlife illustrator. I knew which colours to use by the helpful names on the paint tubes, and even the more obscure names like Oxide of Chromium were memorable (it’s the best base for natural greens by the way). Then when I transitioned to print design, I used the CMYK system. Even if I couldn’t differentiate colours, I knew how to create, for example, a bright red numerically. Especially as the way the colours were built up was simliar to using watercolour. It was logical.

Screen design was the biggest challenge though. RGB made no sense numerically or logically, and while others were fine using colour pickers, they were the hardest way for me to choose colour. The tiny area of colour, and it’s proximity to other colours is too confusing. Crucially, there are no labels!

When I discovered HSL colour via Molly’s Dev.Opera article 2 years ago it was an epiphany. Finally I could use numbers to select my colours, and once I’d learned where the hues sat on the scale, I was away! Not just for CSS either, as 85% of my work time is spent in Illustrator, creating either icons, logos, or illustrations.

The single thing that’s made the most difference to how I design on-screen is when I discovered the joy that is HSL colour. So, here’s to you HSL, you’re a saviour!

The Hickensian is the journal of Jon Hicks, one half of the creative partnership Hicksdesign. Take a look at the work we do.

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