Graphic Design 101: Hues, Tints and Shades

The colour wheel we discussed in our last exciting instalment dealt with pure colours; what we would call  hues. The range of available colours increases when we start adding white or black to these basic colours, creating what we would call tints (by adding white) and shades (created by adding black).

Image editing software usually comes with a control panel that lets you select colours. Whether it’s a high-end piece of software like some of the Adobe stuff, or more common applications like Word or Apple’s Pages software, there’s usually something in there that lets you select the hue or fine-tune the tint or shade you’d like to use for a background or type.

Making your own shade and tints

Here’s a typical way of choosing colours, in this case from TextEdit (Mac), but similar to what you’d find in Word and other such programs.

TextEdit colour slidersOn the top example, we’ll look at three of the ways of looking at the colours available. The left panel shows the colour in particular palettes (the one shown on the drop down menu colour sliders with tint and shade samplesis the Apple default, but the others include developer, crayon, and web safe) one can choose from. Now take a look at the lower set of dialogue boxes. If you’d rather roll you own, you can click on the colour wheel icon on the top of the dialogue box to reveal a colour wheel (centre); more on that it a bit. Finally, when we click on the sliders icon we can create colours by dragging different percentages of the primary colours to create our colour nuances.

Let’s go back to TextEdit’s colour wheel. Hues – the pure colours – are on the outer rim of the wheel. If we click anywhere on the wheel, the spot we sampled appears on the bar at the top of the dialogue box. If we drag from there down to the chip well at bottom, we can save that colour.

To create a tint, simply position the cursor inwards on the wheel (centre). If you click anywhere on the wheel, the colour appears in the bar up top. To save that tint, again, just drag from the top bar into the little squares at the bottom.

To create a shade, click on the area you’d like to work with and drag the slider on the right to darken the colour. You’ll notice that the colour in the bar at top darkens as you drag. Once you’ve got your colour nailed, likewise drag it down to the chip well to save it.

Again, I must credit Robin William’s excellent book, The Non-Designer’s Design Book, as the inspiration for these explanations. It’s available on Amazon.