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What is hue shade and tint?

What is hue shade and tint?

Hue, shade, and tint are important concepts in color theory. Understanding these terms allows artists to mix colors effectively and achieve the desired effect in their work. Knowing how to manipulate hue, shade, and tint gives artists great control over the colors they use.

Hue refers to the basic color – red, blue, yellow, etc. It is what distinguishes one color from another. Shades are colors that have been mixed with black to make them darker, while tints are colors that have been mixed with white to make them lighter. Utilizing these techniques allows artists to take a base color and alter it to suit their needs.

What is Hue?

Hue is the purest form of a color. It refers to the pigment or wavelength of light before any other colors have been added to it to alter its appearance. The primary hues are red, blue, and yellow – these colors cannot be created by mixing any other colors together. Secondary hues are created by mixing two primary colors, such as purple (red + blue), green (blue + yellow), and orange (red + yellow).

Some common hues include:

Primary Hues Secondary Hues
Red Purple
Blue Green
Yellow Orange

These pure hues are found in the visible spectrum and make up the familiar colors of the rainbow. When speaking about color, hue refers to the name of the color rather than how light or dark it is. For example, both navy blue and sky blue have the same blue hue despite being different shades.

What are Shades?

Shades are colors that have been darkened by adding black pigment. When black is added to a hue, it reduces the saturation and brightens the color. Since black absorbs light, it creates a darker version of the original hue. Adding more black will continue darkening the shade.

Some common shades include:

Hue Shade
Red Maroon
Yellow Mustard
Green Forest Green

Shades are useful for adding definition and depth to artwork. They can be used to create shadows or silhouettes. When placed next to the original hue, shades make the unaltered color appear lighter by contrast. Using shades of analogous colors (colors next to each other on the color wheel) can create a visually pleasing and sophisticated color scheme.

What are Tints?

Tints are made by adding white to a hue, making the color lighter. The white pigment dilutes the saturation of the original color and reflects more light. Just like adding black, incrementally adding more white will make the tint progressively lighter.

Some examples of tints:

Hue Tint
Red Pink
Orange Peach
Green Mint Green

Tints lend themselves to being soft, cheerful colors. They are useful for expressing delicacy, romance, and youthfulness in art. Tints also allow more flexibility in mixing light and desaturated versions of colors. Using tints of analogous colors creates pleasant, subtle color combinations.

Comparing Hue, Tint, and Shade

Let’s compare hue, tint, and shade using the color red:

Hue Tint Shade
Red Pink Maroon
  • Red is the hue – the pure color before any other pigments are added.
  • Pink is a tint – red lightened with white added.
  • Maroon is a shade – red darkened with black added.

Understanding these color relationships allows artists to systematically mix a wide variety of customized colors by altering one base hue. Mastering color tinting and shading unlocks new possibilities for enhancing artistic visions.

Using Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are located directly across from each other on the color wheel. Red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple are examples of complementary color pairs. Using tints and shades of complements creates vibrant, eye-catching contrasts.

For example:

Complementary Color Pair Tint Shade
Orange and Blue Peach and Sky Blue Burnt Orange and Navy Blue

The high contrast of complements draws attention and livens up artwork. But color scheme balance is important – use one color as the dominant hue and its complement for accents. Dramatic complements work best when paired with neutral shades of black, white or gray.

Color Temperature

The color “temperature” refers to how warm or cool a color appears. Warm colors like red, orange and yellow evoke fire, sunsets, and deserts. Cool colors like blue, green and purple are reminiscent of ice, sky, and water. Warm hues seem to advance visually, while cool colors recede. Using warmer and cooler shades and tints together can create dynamic color harmony.

For instance:

Warm Color Cool Color
Burnt Sienna Phthalo Blue

Balancing intense warm and cool hues prevents colors from clashing. Allow one temperature to dominate and use the opposite for accents. Warm and cool colors express very different moods and combining them provides visual interest.

Using Grayscale

Before working with shades and tints of vivid hues, beginners should practice mixing black, white and gray to make a grayscale palette. Painting in grayscale simplifies color theory and values by eliminating hue and focusing only on lightness and darkness. Understanding proper shading gives a stronger foundation for working with color.

Use grayscale to check for proper value contrast. Squinting at a grayscale painting allows the artist to easily spot problem areas that need darker accents or lighter highlights. Starting an artwork by painting a grayscale underpainting can establish effective lighting before layering color on top.


Hue, shade and tint may seem like simple concepts, but mastering color use takes practice. Learning to mix customized shades and tints by adding black, white or complementary colors gives artists versatility with color palettes. Analyzing how the color masters use hue, value and temperature in their paintings provides helpful insight for beginners. With time and experience, the nuances of color theory become second nature.