On the surface this seems to be confusing and basically they mean the same thing. Most people use the words hues, tints and shades interchangeably when describing what they see.

The word Colour is defined in numerous ways but The McGraw Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical terms describes colour as a “general term that refers to the wavelength composition of reflected light, with particular reference to its visual appearance.”

Each of these words is used as a way of describing a colour family on the basic colour wheel that most people are familiar with:

These are the family of the twelve purest and brightest colours. They are the colours that we see where light is being reflected from a surface of something.

This colour wheel is made from

3 Primary Colours : RED YELLOW BLUE
3 Secondary Colours: ORANGE GREEN PURPLE
6 Tertiary Colours: There are six tertiary colours; red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.

They form a full spectrum of colours as you move around this Colour Wheel. With just these twelve colours, you can mix an infinite number of colours.

Blue Tints, Shades and Tones

Making Tints

– adding white to create a lighter colour. Tints are sometime called Pastels

Making Shades

– Simply darken by adding black.

But what about Tones?

– well you add a touch or white and black = grey! However ‘Tone’ is generally used to refers to the the blueness of the blue, or the redness of the red, i.e. you can get pure blue, or a mixture of say blue and green, the more of one colour you add to the first, the more it alters the tone ….. a bluey-green will look different to a greeny-blue!

The great dilemma?

Colour mixing to create shades is great fun! We have all done it at sometimes in our lives with paint. The colours we see are reflected off the paint pigments.

But there is another aspect of colour mixing that influences the colours of INKS that you may use in your PRINTER. And the most frequently ignored idea of colour mixing is using LIGHT itself!

Bearing in mind that the PRIMARY COLOURS are the three principal colours from which every other colour can be made – the three primary colours of LIGHT are RED, GREEN AND BLUE

This isn’t really a dilemma its simply a different approach. Here we are ADDING colours that are associated with light emitted directly from a source before an object reflects the light.

These colours are red, green and blue. Mixing these colours produces probably most familiar colours you see associated with television and computer displays.

It is called the additive colour theory and was first described by James Clark Maxwell in the mid 1800’s.

When equal amounts of Red Green and Blue light are combined, they produce white light.

It is by adding the colours together we produce white so we call these additive colours.

Red, green and blue are the “primary” colours of white light.

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