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Art how to paint - make tints, shades, tones and colors.

Updated on January 16, 2016

Painting - Tints, shades, tones and colors

© frangipanni 2013. All rights reserved.

Have you decided to release your inner Monet but have no idea what the difference between tints, shades, tones and color are? Read on for a simple guide to get you understanding and underway with your painting.


Tints, shades and tones

  • Tinting – leads to white (add water in watercolour)
  • Shading – leads to black
  • Toning (desaturating) – leads to grey.
    Converting an image to greyscale on your computer is ‘toning’ it. The original colours are not darker or lighter, they have been removed and replaced with tones from light to dark grey.

Working with Colour

When we look at a painting we read the shapes, lines and tones – not necessarily the colors

e.g. a purple tree will read just as well as a green tree.

To tone down a color you can-

  1. add black. Occasionally you have no other choice.
  2. darken it with a color closer to blue or purple. However then you are adding another color so it will change your original color. Eg, If I darken yellow with dark blue I will get dark green instead of dark yellow. Black will also turn yellow into green.
  3. buy a tube of ready mixed darker color (eg Cadmium yellow + Yellow Ochre/Raw Sienna, Umber, Sepia etc)

To tint a color -

  1. add white
  2. add medium or water
  3. add yellow (might also change the color)
  4. buy a lighter color ( eg Cadmium red – Cadmium Orange)


Yellow is the most vibrant color.
Purple is the least vibrant color.

To SUBDUE a color (for shadows or if it is too bright) move DOWN towards the bottom of your color wheel.
Use anything that is closer to blue or purple. Eg:

  • To Cadmium Red (warm red) add Alizarin Crimson (cool red with blue in it).
  • To Alizarin Crimson add any purple (has more blue in it).

To blues and purples you can really only add dark earth colors (ie burnt umber, Vandyke Brown, Sepia) or add black or buy blues/purples with black already added (Prussian Blue, Indigo, Paynes Grey etc)

To ENLIVEN a colour (so it look like sunshine striking it) add white/water, yellow or move UP the color wheel towards yellow.

.To yellows you can only add water, white or buy lighter and darker yellows.

REMEMBER: Yellow + Blue + Red = Brown/grey
If the color you are adding crosses one of the lines on your wheel, the mixture will become muddier as well as darker/lighter.

Try it with your own colors.

The rules above actually apply to all paints and colors so it won't matter if you're attempting watercolors, acrylics or oils ( with exception of adding water to oil paints - of course this won't work) the outcomes should be the same.

Mix, experiment and play. Happy painting!

Some great online art supply directories are: (I am in no way affiliated with or receive any type of payment from these companies)

Check out my other hubs on painting and art.

Paint with watercolor, budding artist tips. Art answers to a few random questions.

How to paint and draw - perspective.

Paint in watercolor - REGAINING and RETAINING WHITES. How to paint edges with watercolor - Art beginners tips and techniques.

Art -Presentation, Framing and Finishing to a gallery accepted standard.


How to paint and draw using a Two-point perspective.

Paint watercolor tips. Art how to

Art How to paint En Plein Air (painting outdoors)

Watercolour paper and tips on painting moving water.

Art how to on Watercolor painting - Technique - washes.

Paint How to mix colors

Painting and drawing General mistakes, problems and how to fix them.

D I Y Framing - an easy how to on framing to save you $$$.

Art how to paint - make tints, shades, tones and colors.

Some other great hubs to read on watercolor are

Baby Steps to Beginning Watercolor Painting

Frank Clarke Watercolor Brushes


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    • Frangipanni profile image

      Frangipanni 4 years ago

      Great. I'm glad it is simple and easy to understand for you. Enjoy your painting. Thankyou

    • Frangipanni profile image

      Frangipanni 4 years ago

      I hope some of the tips help you out a little. Thanks for the nice feedback. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      A really helpful article and it is so clearly set out. I've 'liked' it and pinned it so I can keep it as a reminder.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is very interesting. I love painting on canvas---normally with oil paint. You have suggested some very useful tips here. Thanks.