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For those who are uninitiated into the world of colour, the terms hue, tint, tone and shade are used interchangeably. However, most of these terms refer to the way a colour is rendered. Brush up on your terms with this quick guide to colour terminology.


In basic terms, hue is another word for colour. It refers to any colour found on the colour wheel, namely primary, secondary and tertiary colours. Bear in mind that black and white do not fall on the colour wheel; therefore, neither are hues. Tints, tones and shades are products of mixing hues with white and/or black.


When white is added to a hue it renders a tint, also called a pastel. White makes hues less intense, lightening the colour. No matter how much white is added to a hue, it is a tint; for example, light pink is a tint of primary red.

Tints are calming and youthful when used in design.


When black is added to a hue it renders a shade. Where white desaturates, black saturates and intensifies. Any amount of black mixed with a colour is a shade. It is very easy to lose a colour in black as it darkens hues substantially even in small quantities. Shades are deep and powerful and, as such, can be overwhelming. Shades are best used as accents or in monochromatic designs. 


When white and black are added to a hue a shade is rendered. Some would say toning is simply adding grey. It is the proportions of black and white that shape the end product; an abundance of black and a small dab of white added to primary blue will look very different than a huge glob of white and a dab of black.

A tone will be some variation of the original hue, whether darker, lighter, saturated or desaturated. Tones are more on par with colours seen in daily life because of the countless combinations that come from mixing in different levels of white and black. These colours are seen as complex in comparison to shades and tints. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).
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