What is the difference between the primary color of an image, dominant color of an image, and the most prominent color in an image?

Is the primary color and the most prominent color (most frequent color) in an image conceptually the same? What about dominant color, is that taking the human eye/perception into account?

1 Answer 1


WOW, Veeeeery nice question.

In my opinion:

  • Most prominent color in an image is a perceptual concept. On an image with a red circle in the middle, the most prominent color is red.

enter image description here

But the most abundant color is white.

  • Dominant color of an image. If you separate this from the perceptual concept, could refer to the total area used by a color. This could be the white.

  • Primary color of an image, could also is relative, and could need another reference.

For example, if that image is part of a website, we could think the red is the primary color on a white background.

But if the site is based on a "philosophy" where white represents purity, or light or something like that, White could be the primary color. So we need some context.

But this is not carved in stone. These are just some possible interpretations to the combination of words.

  • I like your example image very much: it cuts right to the issue. Aside from "primary" used in color theory, I don't believe these words have any Jargon usage that I have encountered. Primary and Prominent seem to be virtually synonyms, but in a more complex image, the dominant color may be even more subtle, as it may be a small amount that contrasts so much from the context that it assumes control of our perception.
    – Yorik
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 21:58
  • SO what I have gotten from you both is it seems primary and prominence are both similar. Similar in the essence they have to do with the frequency of the color and its distribution in an image (with some flexibility/context in its interpretation). But then dominance is skewed more towards human perception, and what a human being would potentially "percieve" as the color to boldly strike out from an image. In general it still seems these notions are vague, I am surprised these concepts are not defined and set in stone. People throw them around a lot.
    – AyBayBay
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 6:48

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