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What does shade of hue mean?

What does shade of hue mean?

Shade of hue refers to variations in the pure color within a certain hue family. Hue represents the base color, while shade describes how light or dark a color is. Understanding shades of hue allows for more nuanced use of color in design, art, fashion, and beyond.

Defining Key Terms

To fully understand shade of hue, it’s helpful to define some key color theory concepts:

Hue – The attribute of a color that allows it to be categorized by name. For example red, blue, green, yellow.

Shade – A hue with black added to darken the color and create variations of the original hue. Adding black reduces lightness.

Tint – A hue with white added to lighten the color and create variations. Adding white increases lightness.

Tone – Produced by adding gray to a hue to create variations. Doesn’t affect lightness as much as shade and tint.

Saturation – The intensity or purity of a color. Highly saturated colors are vivid, less saturated colors are muted.

Shades of Primary Hues

The primary hues are red, blue, and yellow. These are pure hues from which all other colors are derived. Here are some common shades of the primary hues:

Shades of Red

Scarlet Crimson
Ruby Maroon
Burgundy Wine

Scarlet is a bright red with a slightly orange tint. Crimson is also bright, but leans more blue-based. Ruby is a vivid saturated red, while maroon is a darker red with brown tones. Burgundy is a deep rich red, darker than maroon. Wine is the deepest shade of red, almost black.

Shades of Blue

Navy Cobalt
Azure Indigo

Navy is a very dark midnight blue. Cobalt is a rich blue a couple shades lighter than navy. Azure is light bright blue, while indigo is a dark violet-blue.

Shades of Yellow

Lemon Mustard
Gold Amber

Lemon yellow is a light, bright yellow. Mustard is darker with brownish olive undertones. Gold is a metallic shimmery shade of yellow. Amber is a dark orange-brown yellow.

Shades of Secondary Hues

Secondary hues are created by mixing two primary hues. Common secondary hues include green, orange, and purple. Here are some shades of secondary hues:

Shades of Green

Mint Seafoam
Forest Olive
Jade Avocado

Mint green has a light, cool tone. Seafoam is a pale pastel green. Forest green is very dark with depth. Olive green has muted, brownish-grey tones. Jade is rich and vibrant, while avocado is muted with hints of yellow.

Shades of Orange

Peach Coral
Rust Terracotta

Peach is a pale orange with a pink tint. Coral is vibrant reddish-orange. Rust has a muted, earthy tone. Terracotta is a deeper reddish-brown orange.

Shades of Purple

Lavender Lilac
Plum Eggplant
Magenta Fuchsia

Lavender is a light purple with a blue tone. Lilac is also light, but more pink-based. Plum is rich and deep purple. Eggplant is an extremely deep, dark purple that appears almost black. Magenta leans more towards pink, while fuchsia is a vivid reddish purple.

Using Shades of Hue

Understanding shades of hue allows for more thoughtful, nuanced use of color. Here are some ways shades are utilized:

Gradual Shading

Shades can be used gradually to visually communicate a transition or progression. For example, a sunset scene fading from bright yellow to deep amber and gold. Or a ombre hair style smoothly fading from light blonde to dark brown.

Color Harmony

Shades of the same hue family are considered harmonious colors. Light blue walls with navy blue accent pillows, for example. Monochromatic color harmony creates bold, sophisticated visual interest.

Define Depth

Using lighter and darker shades of a hue can define depth and dimensions. Light shades in the foreground and darker shades in the background help create perspective in artistic compositions and photography.

Convey Mood

Darker shades can convey somberness or mystery, while light tints feel joyful and uplifting. Selecting appropriate shades helps communicate desired moods and emotions.

Accent Key Elements

Using a shade to accent or highlight a key element draws attention. A vivid orange call-to-action button stands out against a black background.

Selecting Shades of Hue

Here are some tips for selecting appealing and effective shades of hue:

Consider Undertones

Pay attention to undertones that affect the look of different shades like warm, cool, muted, clear, etc. For example cool blue shades versus warm red shades.

Observe Lighting

Lighting conditions impact the appearance of shades. View colors in the intended environment before finalizing selections.

Use Color Harmony

Choosing shades within one hue family creates color harmony. Or complement shades with analogous hues like purple with red.

Define Roles

Use darker shades for backgrounds and lighter tints to make elements stand out in the foreground.

Convey Consistent Meaning

Use the same shades consistently to develop color symbolism. Dark red for danger, green for go, etc.


Shade of hue refers to the variations created within a hue color family by adjusting lightness and darkness. Mastering shades allows for more skilled use of color to visually communicate, create emphasis, convey meaning, and design aesthetically appealing palettes. With an endless spectrum of shades available, there is great flexibility in fine-tuning colors for any project or purpose. Understanding and leveraging shades of hue opens up a world of colorful possibility.