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What is a tint on the color wheel?

What is a tint on the color wheel?

A tint is a lighter shade of a color that is created by adding white to the original hue. On the standard color wheel, tints are colors that fall on the right side of the base color they are derived from. Understanding tints and how they relate to other colors on the wheel is important for artists, designers, and anyone who works with color theory.

What is the color wheel?

The color wheel is a circular representation of colors designed to show relationships between primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. The basic color wheel consists of 12 colors:

Primary colors Red, yellow, blue
Secondary colors Green, orange, purple
Tertiary colors Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, yellow-green

The primary colors are the most basic colors and can be mixed together to create all other colors. Secondary colors are created by mixing adjacent primary colors – red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green, and blue and red make purple.

Tertiary colors are made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color next to it on the wheel, like red with purple to make red-purple.

Understanding color tints

A tint is created when you add white to any pure hue on the color wheel. By lightening a color in this way, you are creating a softer, paler version of the original shade.

On the standard 12-part color wheel, tints are any colors that fall on the right side of the parent color they derive from. For example, a tint of blue would fall somewhere on the right side of the blue section, between blue and green.

The more white you add to a color, the lighter the tint becomes. A tint with just a small amount of white added is referred to as a “light tint.” With more white added, you get a “pale tint” followed by a “very pale tint.”

Examples of tints from primary colors

Parent color Light tint Pale tint Very pale tint
Red Pink Baby pink Pastel pink
Yellow Light yellow Pale yellow Cream
Blue Light blue Sky blue Baby blue

As you can see, tints have lighter, softer qualities than their parent hues. Pastel pink has a much softer effect than bold red. Cream appears lighter and more muted than bright yellow.

Tints vs. tones

Unlike tints, tones are created by adding gray to a pure color. This also dulls down the color but in a different way than adding white does.

A tone is essentially a muted or shaded version of the original color. Tones allow you to subtly darken a color without actually changing the hue.

Tones have a more serious, somber effect than tints. While tints feel light and airy, tones feel more formal and elegant.

Tint vs. tone examples

Base color Tint Tone
Orange Peach Dusk orange
Purple Lilac Mauve
Green Mint green Olive green

Peach feels sweet, lighthearted, and energetic compared to the more earthy, muted dusk orange. Lilac is playful and romantic whereas mauve comes across as more sophisticated and elegant.

Using tints in design

In design, tints allow you to expand your color palette into lighter, softer shades. Tints are commonly used for:

  • Lightening a bold color to make it less overpowering
  • Adding highlights and dimension to a design
  • Making vibrant colors feel more subdued and elegant
  • Adding fresh, airy colors to a palette

Tints inject brightness and luminosity into designs. They create a sense of energy, optimism, and youthfulness. Soft tints like pastel pinks, blues, and peaches feel feminine, sweet, and romantic.

Pale tints also allow you to diverge from colors perceived as overly feminine. For example, a pale tint of sage green reads as much lighter and brighter than the bold green, making it more unisex.

In web design, tints are commonly used for background colors. A very pale tint helps text stand out while keeping an airy, unobtrusive feel.

In logos and branding, tints can give your visual identity a more friendly, approachable look. Soft tints are especially well-suited for brands aiming for a lighthearted, energetic, and fun aesthetic.

Examples of tints in branding

  • Fanta – Pastel oranges and yellows
  • Trolli – Pale greens, pinks, purples, and blues
  • Baskin Robbins – Pastel pinks and blues
  • Lisa Frank – Rainbow palette of pale tints

Brands use tints to capture a playful, youthful energy. The lighter colors feel inviting, nostalgic, and fun.

Creating tints

To create a tint, you simply add white to a pure hue. This can be achieved through:

Mixing paints/pigments

With paints and other pigmented mediums, you physically mix white paint/ink into the pure color to lighten the shade. Start with small amounts of white until you achieve your desired lightness.

Acrylic paint and gouache work especially well for mixing smooth tints. Watercolors can also be easily diluted with water to create a tinted effect.

Digital programs

In digital design programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, you can lighten colors using the tint slider. This allows you to pick the exact percentage of white you want added to the color.

Begin with 5-10% white and increase from there. Going above 40% or 50% white will result in a very pale pastel tint.

Web/print design

When designing for web or print, tints can be created by manually lightening the HEX or RGB values of the color. There are also online tools that allow you to easily input a color and adjust the tint percentage.

As with the digital programs, incrementally increase the amount of white added to achieve subtle light tints. Don’t add too much white at once or the color will become washed out.


A tint is any pale, lightened shade of a color created by adding white. On the color wheel, tints are found on the right side of their parent hue in graduated lightness. Tints add brightness and luminosity to designs, creating an energetic, optimistic effect. By understanding how to create and use tints, you can expand your color palettes into soft, inviting shades.