Color or Hue? Tone or Tint or Shade? What do they mean! Why does it matter?!?!?

Lately I’ve been noticing that a lot of folks have been getting their design jargon a bit mixed up. Hey, it’s easy to do because there is so much of it, I do daily! So I thought a bit of a refresher might be good for me!

What is color and hue?
Color and hue are basically interchangeable. They deal with the light properties visible in the color spectrum like red, blue, green, or yellow. So if you want to “warm up” a room, you add the “color”  or “hue” of red or yellow, and to “cool things down” you add blue or green. Below is an image of absolute (I’ll explain in a bit) red, green, and blue.

redgreeblue

 

 

So what’s a tone?
When you hear people say, “oh, I think we need to add a red tone to this room.” What they’re saying is “we need to take “absolute red” (red with no black, no white or no gray added to it) and then add some grey. Thus reducing the brightness of the red. Here’s an example of red with 50% of black (at 50% black is gray, not black) added to it. It’s now a “tone”. It takes on a more muted look. Is still warm, but just not as glaringly bright as absolute red.

redtone

 

So what’s a tint?
A tint is an absolute color that you’ve added white to (think pink!). Again, you’ve reduced the color or hue’s intensity, but you’ve gone “lighter” vs. “darker” by adding white and therefore you’re creating a cooler “tint” of red. Take a look…same absolute red, all I’ve done is add white.

redtint

 

 

Okay, now that we’re clear as mud, let’s look at “Shades”. Shades are very similar to “tones” and most designers use these words interchangeably. And you know what, it’s probably just fine. Here’s a look at our absolute red, with almost pure black added to it. Same red as in the original image, all I did was add black.

redshade

 

So why am I giving “us” this lesson in color, hue, tone, tint, and shade? ‘Cause sometimes it drives me a bit batty trying to remember which is which, and then sometimes people mean color or hue when they say tone, shade when then say tint, tint when they mean tone, tone when they mean tint and on, and on, and on. So just remember three: tint (white) and tone (grey) and color/hue and you and I will do just fine in the world of design! 😉

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