Tints, tones and shades are different terms for a range of colors obtained from a single color. Most of us use all of them to describe a color but do not realise that each term has a specific meaning.

So what do they mean?


The simple definition is that a tint is a mixture of a color with white, which increases lightness of the color.


The definition of a shade is the opposite. So, a shade is a mixture of the color with black, which increases darkness.

Creating either a tint or a shade will change the relative saturation of the resulting.


A tone is mixing a color with grey or in fact by tinting and shading at the same time! I know, that sounds wrong at first but if you think about it, grey is a mixture of black and white, so adding black and white to the color (i.e. grey), you are tinting and shading. I still look at it and wonder.

The image of the paint colors is a great example of how this is used in real life.

So what does that mean to me, I hear you ask.

Well, first, if you choose any tint, tone or shade of a color, it will never clash with the original color. This is useful if you have a very dominant color in an image, to get a match color, go for a tint, tone or shade of that color.

Second, if you are a colorist and you want to give your image depth, by adding light and dark areas, you can do this by using the tints, tones and shades of the same color. No worrying if you are using the right color, you just are.

Third, if you use a gray scale image, then you can use the tints, tones and shades to match up with the different grays in the image.

If you want to see if making gray scale images is for you, click on the image below to have a look.