What is the Difference Between Tint & Shade in Color?

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  • 0:04 Color, Hues, & Values
  • 0:52 Tints
  • 1:42 Shades
  • 2:05 Tones
  • 2:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Artists use a wide range of colors, but how do they relate to each other? In this lesson, we'll explore the basics of color theory and see how tints and shades relate to the hues of color.

Colors, Hues, and Values

We've all learned that the basic colors are those of the rainbow (ROYGBIV): red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Those are the colors of light that we can perceive. But when's the last time you saw paintings at an art gallery that only used those exact colors? No light blue, no dark green, just good old ROYGBIV?

In color theory, a hue is the basic color. While the hues themselves don't change, we can alter their appearance by altering the value, or colorfulness and brightness, of the hue. For example, imagine that your basic hue is red. However, red can be expressed in a variety of values, from really light red to really dark red. The hue itself doesn't change. It's still red, but it's a red that looks a little different. Turns out, art really does have value - if you know how to use it.


There are two basic ways to change the appearance of a color. First, you can add a different hue, like adding blue and yellow to make green. Secondly, you can change the appearance of a color by altering its value. To alter the value of a color, we start with the basic hue. From there, we add a neutral color, either white or black. Adding one of these colors to the hue reduces the brightness of the original hue, creating a new appearance.

To make a hue appear lighter, we add white. Tinting refers to adding white to a color in order to make it lighter. So, a tint would be any color that is lighter than the original hue. White reduces the intensity of the original hue, so tints tend to be softer and less defined. It's worth noting that not every hue will tint in the same way. Some colors are naturally more intense and, therefore, will require more tinting in order to become visibly lighter.


Tinting makes a hue lighter, but what if you want to make it darker? For that, we go to the opposite value: black. Shades involve adding black to a hue to make it darker. Shades of a hue tend to be more intense and dramatic. They stand out but are darker and less colorful than the original hue. Creating the perfect shade can be very tricky, since black is a dominant color. A little bit goes a long way.

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