Colour Theory – Tints, Shades and Tones



Before moving on to a series of exercises covering the theory of the recent articles we will have a look at another aspect of colour theory; the tints, shades and tones. This is nothing more than mixing your base colour with white, black and grey respectively.  Recently we discussed how we can create shadow and “mute” our colours by mixing them with their complementary ones (COLOUR THEORY–COMPLEMENTARY COLOURS). In this article we will see how this can be achieved by using only your base colour, black and white.

Previous Article: COLOUR THEORY – SHAPES


  • Tints – Colour + White When mixing your base colour (for example a blue) with white, you create a tint of blue. This is paler than the original colour and can be used for various purposes. It could be applied to a well lit surface of an object or maybe applied it to a mountain which sits quite far from you in the landscape you are painting. When you want to make a less vibrant colour then just mix it with some white; it instantly becomes paler.
  • Shades – Colour + Black In the contrary when mixing a base colour (say a red) with black it instantly becomes darker. Depending on the amount of black you add your original colour could disappear completely. Therefore be careful to keep a balance between your initial colour and the very dominant black. These colours could possibly used for darker sides of an object. Of course uses are not limited to light and shadow. Sky is the limit for use of tints and shades.
  • Tones – Colour + Grey In reality this is just a combination of the above. If you Add some white to your original colour (tint) and then you drop a little black in the mixture then…obviously you have created a tone! Again here there is no limit to different mixtures; one must play around with the amounts of black, white and base colour to achieve the desired outcome.


As always we are trying to keep this as short and simple as possible. Our focus is to learn the theory rather than spending time preparing loads of materials etc. For now you will need the below. Allow for 1.0hour.

  • Acrylic paints: Blue, Yellow, Red (or any other you fancy!) + White, Black
  • Canvas
  • Brushes
  • Water and Cloth to clean your brush (avoid mixing everything together and ending up with a messy canvas)
  • Pencil, Rubber and Ruler (if you are very organised) for your grid


Lets quickly put all this onto a canvas sheet to witness the difference between tints, tones and shades and realise how dominant black can be. Quickly sketch with a pencil a 4×7 Grid. 20180608_222111

Fill the first line with white, grey and black and the first column with various colours you would like to explore. For ease, I have just used the primary and secondary colours (COLOUR THEORY – BASICS). Now the fun part begins; we need to start mixing and making combinations. It is pretty straightforward but as I mentioned above…be careful with the use of black! It is dominant colour and you could end up having a muddy black table in the end!

  • Summary
  • Colour + White = Tint — use it for highlights
  • Colour + Black = Shade — use it for shadows
  • Colour + Grey = Tone — use it as midtone (bridge light and dark)
  • Black is dominant colour; be careful with the amounts you use

The Artist says:

28407451_1162363890564038_455176961_o“I have been passionate about painting since I remember myself. I started by just eexperimenting with colours, colour mixing and colour application. However , it’s not always easy to achieve what you want unless you know exactly what you are doing. Techniques are different for different media; colour theory though is the basis of painting and is the same for everything! I decided to teach myself the basics; and here I am sharing that with you!



Art is more fun when you meet the artists themselves! Visit THE ARTIST…


Love Sketching & Painting




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