What’s the Difference between a Hue, Tint, Shade and Tone ?

via http://www.color-wheel-artist.com/hue.html


What’s the difference between a Hue and a Color? Most people, even the pros, get confused about this. Basically they mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably.

Most Color Wheels only show bright colors which can create confusion. It’s not always easy to see that every color, even black, has a Primary, Secondary or Tertiary Color as its root.

Most Color Wheels only show bright colors which can create confusion. It’s not always easy to see that every color, even black, has a Primary, Secondary or Tertiary Color as its root.


What's a Hue

These are the family of twelve purest and brightest colors.

  • Three Primary Colors
  • Three Secondary Colors
  • Six Tertiary Colors

They form the full spectrum of colors which progress around the Primary Color Wheel in gradual increments.

With just these twelve colors, you can literally mix an infinite number of color schemes. Most of the time you will modify these twelve basic hues by mixing in other colors.

But nothing is stopping you from using them full-strength. This multi-color scheme would be bold, cheerful and exciting. It would be great in a child’s playroom. Bright, bold selections can also work to grab attention in advertising and marketing graphics. Creating a painting with these would be a little jarring.


What's a Tint

Every individual color on the Basic Color Wheel can be altered in three ways by Tinting, Shading or Toning. And that’s before we even think about mixing two colors together.

Let’s start with Lightening the twelve basic colors to createTints. 

A Tint is sometimes called a Pastel. Basically it’s simply any color with white added.  A tint is lighter than the original color.

That means you can go from an extremely pale, nearly white to a barely tinted pure hue. Artists often add a tiny touch of white to a pure pigment to give the color some body. So for example a bright Red can quickly become a bright Pink.

A color scheme using Tints is usually soft, youthful and soothing, especially the lighter versions. All tints work well in in feminine environments. You often see advertising, marketing and websites use pale and hot pastels if they are targeting women as a demographic. In painting you might save your lightest pastels for the focal point or use pastels for the entire painting.


What's a Shade

So now that you know how to lighten, what’s the easiest way to make your colors darker?

A Shade is simply any color with black added.  A shade is darker than the original color.

Just as with making tints, you can mix any of the twelve pure colors together.Then simply add any amount of black and you have created a shade of the mixture.

That means you can go from an extremely dark, nearly black to a barely shaded pure hue.

Most artists use black sparingly because it can quickly destroy your main color. Some artists prefer not to use it at all. Instead they understand the rules of color well enough to make their own black mixtures.

Shades are deep, powerful and mysterious. Be careful not to use too much black as it can get a little overpowering. These darks work well in a masculine environment. They are best used as dark accents in art and marketing graphics.


What's a Tone

Now that you understand how to lighten and darken your twelve colors how do you tone them down? A tone is softer than the original color.

Almost every color we see in our day-to-day world has been toned either a little or a lot. This makes for more appealing color combinations.

A Tone is created by adding both White and Black which is grey. Any color that is “greyed down” is considered a Tone.

Tones are somehow more pleasing to the eye. They are more complex, subtle and sophisticated.

Artists usually mix a little grey in every paint mixture to adjust the value and intensity of their pigment. Tones are the best choice for most interior decorating because they’re more interesting. They work well in any Color Scheme you might plan


Saturation is a color term commonly used by (digital / analog) imaging experts.

Saturation is usually one property of three when used to determine a certain color and measured as percentage value.
Saturation defines a range from pure color (100%) to gray (0%) at a constant lightness level. A pure color is fully saturated.
From a perceptional point of view saturation influences the grade of purity or vividness of a color/image. A desaturated image is said to be dull, less colorful or washed out but can also make the impression of being softer.
We will clear up the term saturation from a color mixing point of view in the color spaces section.

Lightness is a color term commonly used by (digital / analog) imaging experts.

Lightness is usually one property of three when used to determine a certain color and measured as percentage value.
Lightness defines a range from dark (0%) to fully illuminated (100%). Any original hue has the average lightness level of 50%.
A painter might say lightness is the range from fully shaded to fully tinted.
You can lighten or darken a color by changing its lightness value.

Chromatic Signal / Chromaticity / Chroma

This family of color terms is commonly used by (digital / analog) imaging andvideo experts.

In the previous section we learned that color perception is a result of achromatic and chromatic signals.

We can therefore define a chromatic signal as the component of color perception that is not achromatic, i.e. any deviation from neutral-color perception (dark, grayscale, illuminated).

The chromatic intensity or chromaticity is the intensity of the chromatic signal contributing to color perception. Chromaticity is similar to saturation since color / an image with a low chromaticity value is not very colorful.

Chroma is a component of a color model. There’s a blue-yellow and a red-green chroma component.
Intensity / Luminosity / Luma

In general, intensity is a synonym for magnitude, degree or strength. It can therefore be used in conjunction with any color property. Nevertheless, it carries special meaning in certain contexts.

For painters the meaning of intensity is equivalent to the meaning ofsaturation.
For physicists intensity refers to different aspects of radiation.
When speaking of light, the intensity can mean the number of photons a light source emits.

The following sources provide a deeper insight:
– Luminosity
– Intensity
– Luminosity Function
– Lumen

Luma (%) is the intensity of the achromatic signal contributing to our color perception.
Brightness / (relative) Luminance

Brightness is an attribute of our perception which is mainly influenced by a color’s lightness. This is probably why brightness and lightness are often mixed up. Brightness is not a color property, if used “correctly”.

For one color of specific hue the perception of brightness is also more intense, if we increase saturation. A higher level of saturation makes a color look brighter.
In relation to other colors the brightness intensity of a color is also influenced by its hue. We can then speak of (relative) luminance to refer to brightness.

It’s very important to know more about luminance.


A grayscale is a series of neutral colors, ranging from black to white, or the other way around. Each step’s color value is usually shifted by constant amounts.

A grayscale color can be determined by a value of a one-dimensional color space:
On a white surface (e.g. paper) the grayscale color’s value equals to therelative intensity of black (ink) applied to the medium.
On a black surface (e.g. monitor) the grayscale color’s value equals to therelative intensity of white (light) applied to the medium.

Primary Colors

Primary Colors

In theory, the Primary Colors are the root of every other hue imaginable. The primary pigments used in the manufacture of paint come from the pure source element of that Hue. There are no other pigments blended in to alter the formula.

Think of the three Primaries as the Parents in the family of colors.

In paint pigments, pure Yellow, pure Red, and pure Blue are the only hues that can’t be created by mixing any other colors together. Printer inks and digital primaries are referred to as Yellow, Magenta and Cyan.

Secondary Colors

Secondary Colors

When you combine any two of the Pure Primary Hues, you get three new mixtures called Secondary Colors.

Think of the three Secondaries as the Children in the family of colors.

  •  Yellow Red ORANGE
  • Red + Blue VIOLET or PURPLE
  • Blue + Yellow GREEN

Tertiary Colors

Tertiary Colors

When you mix a Primary and its nearest Secondary on the Basic Color Wheel you create six new mixtures called Tertiary colors.

Think of the six Tertiary Colors as the Grandchildren in the family of colors, since their genetic makeup combines a Primary and Secondary color.

  • Yellow + Orange YELLOW-ORANGE
  • Red + Orange RED-ORANGE
  • Red + Violet RED-VIOLET
  • Blue + Violet = BLUE-VIOLET
  • Blue + Green = BLUE-GREEN
  • Yellow + Green = YELLOW-GREEN


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