Hues-Tints-Shades-Tones: What is a Difference?


Hues-tints-shades-tones, they may look like synonyms from an outset, but they are different in ways more than more.

Did you like the shade? I wanted a few tones lighter. I loved the tint.….. These are a few common usages that one hears when people talk about colours.

Despite coming across to be words having same meaning, there are subtle to sharp difference between these words.

Gharpedia shares with you the difference between these distinct terms: hue, tint, tone and shade so that you will easily be able to differentiate the terms and also be able to describe a shade or tone very easily.

Understanding the difference between Tints, Tones, Shades & Hues

Let’s begin with ‘colour’ and ‘hue’. People tend to use these words often without knowing the difference between the two.

  • Colour is the word that describes all the other four words – hue, tint, tone and shades. Technically speaking, only black, white and grey are referred to as colours.
  • Meanwhile, ‘hue’ is a predominant colour family. You can think of hue as the six primary and six secondary colours. However, black, white and grey are never categorized under hue.

Moving further, let’s study the terms hue, tint, tone and shades in detail.


Hue - Colour Wheel

According to the CIE (Published in International Lighting Vocabulary), hue is the attribute of a visual sensation according to which an area appears to be similar to one of the perceived colours-red, yellow, green and blue, or a combination of two of them. To make things simpler, think of hue as one of the 12 colours of the colour wheel. The family of 12 brightest and purest colours:

  • Three primary colours
  • Three secondary colours
  • Six tertiary colours
Hues - Primary-Secondary-Tertiary colours

A hue is a pure pigment or a colour that is not mixed with black or white. Colours like black, white or grey are not called hue and hence, it is always referred to a predominant colour family.

With just these twelve colours, you can create a mix of infinite colour scheme. Most of the time, you can modify these twelve basic hues by mixing with other colours.


Lighter tints of red

Tint is also called a pastel. Precisely, colour theory defines a true tint as a hue or a mixture of pure colour that is mixed with white. According to Swee Shi Ning Zoey & Shawn Ong (Published in Colour Properties), a tint is a mixing result of a pure hue and white, which is lighter than the original colour.

When used as a dimension of a colour space, tint can be the amount of white added to a pure hue. If more white is added, then the colour becomes a lighter tint. The figure above shows the lighter tints of red.

It simply means a result that is obtained by adding white to any colour. The tint is always the paler version of the predominant colour. For example, Pink is a tint of Red, and light blue is a tint of blue. Colour scheme of the tints is usually soft, youthful and soothing.

Tint Colour-soft &sooting-Paint samples

Very often, the tint is used in feminine environments. In the field of advertising and marketing, pale and hot pastels are used if they are targeting women.


Shades of Colour

A shade is produced when a colour is mixed with black. For example, Maroon is a shade that is formed when red is mixed with black and navy blue is a shade formed by mixing blue with black. In simple terms, shade is a combination of a hue and black.

The figure above shows the different shades of red.

Colour theory defines a true shade as any pure hue or colour that is mixed with black.

According to Swee Shi Ning Zoey & Shawn Ong (Published in Colour Properties) a shade is a mixing result of a pure hue and black, which is darker than the original colour.

When used as a dimension of a colour space, shade can be the amount of black added to a pure hue. Shade darkens the colour. The shade remains to be the same colour, but a darker version of the original colour.

One can mix black to any of the twelve pure colours. This means that one can go from an extremely dark, nearly black to a barely shaded pure hue or colour as shown in the figure.

Shades are deep, powerful and mysterious. The dark shades work well in masculine environment. They are best used as dark accents in art works and marketing graphics. Most of the artists use black sparingly because it can quickly destroy your main colour.


Tone of colour Wheel

Tone is created by adding ‘grey’ (combination of black and white) to the original hue or colour. Any colour, which is greyed down can be called a tone of a colour.

Colour theory defines true tone as any pure hue or colour that is mixed with grey. According to Swee Shi Ning Zoey & Shawn Ong (Published in Colour Properties), tone is created when either black and white or grey is added to a hue. Toned colours are pleasing to the eye and are sophisticated.

Tones of Colour-by adding grey to hue

In art, tone refers to the degree of darkness or lightness of an area – such that from deepest shadows to the brightness of light source. We perceive the tone of an object depending upon the darkness or lightness of an area, texture or colour and background lighting. Tone is a quality of colour, which can be warm or cold, dull or bright, dim or pure.

In our day to day life, almost every colour we see has been either toned little or lot; which makes more colour combinations and are the best choices for most of the interiors. Artists usually add little grey to their mixture to adjust the value and intensity of the colour.  

Take Away

Hue, tint, shade and tone

On a final note, colour, hue, tint, shade and tone have subtle difference in meanings. However, they vary greatly from each other.

Here is the final conclusive image showing the difference between them.

We hope you enjoyed reading the difference between hues-tints-shades-tones.

Understand Warm and Cool Colours | To Transform your Home Interior!
Colour Psychology: How Colours Make You Feel
Colour Terminologies Used in Home Design

Image Courtesy: Image 3, Image 5, Image 6, Image 7, Image 8

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