What’s Hue, Tint, Shade and Tone

By | September 24, 2015
Hue, Tint, Shade and Tone

If I ask a question, that 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.

The words are a general terms to describe the color family on the Basic Color Wheel that your swatch is rooted in. They indicate the root of the variations we see. To make things simpler, think of a Hue as one of the twelve colors on the mixing wheel.

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.

Navy = the root Color or Hue is BLUE


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.


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 create Tints.

A Tint is sometimes called a Pastel. Basically it’s simply any color with white added.


A Shade is simply any color with black added.

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.


Now that you understand how to lighten and darken your twelve colors how do you tone them down?

Almost every color we see in our day-to-day world has beentonedeither 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.
Hue, Tint, Shade and Tone