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Paint Color Basics:
What is a Paint Hue, Tint, Shade or Tone?

When selecting a color, it isn't critical whether you know the difference between a hue or a shade, but you might want to know. So here are some of the basics about paint color terminology.

Primary and Secondary Colors

First of all, there are three primary colors. In school we learned those primary colors to be Red, Yellow and Blue, although a more precise palette is Cyan, Yellow and Magenta. These are the pure colors that cannot be created by mixing together other colors.

Secondary colors are the three colors made by mixing together each combination of the primary colors, Red + Yellow = Orange, Yellow + Blue = Green, and Blue + Red = Violet.

What is a Hue?

When you describe a color, or color family, such as red or orange or green, that is a hue. The basic underlying color is the hue.

What is a Tint?

Take any hue or color and add white to it, you are creating a tint of that hue. So, adding white to red is tinting red to make it lighter, such as pink.

What is a Shade?

Take any hue or color and add black to it and you are creating a shade of that hue. So, adding black to red is shading red to make it darker, such as garnet.

What is a Tone?

Take any hue or color and add gray to it and you are creating a tone of that hue, making the color less intense. Adding gray to red changes the tone of the red.

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