A little bit MORE on colour theory

A little bit MORE on colour theory


In doing the research for this post, I am again struck by how confusing colour theory is, so once again I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible for my own sake and yours.

So let’s start with the term hue. Basically this is a fancy word for what you and I would call a colour. Hues are the pure bright colours that we see on a colour wheel.

A shade is one of these pure colours with black added to it. So the words to the song ‘A whiter shade of pale’ are a bit misleading and should be ‘a darker shade of pale’.

A tint is any colour with white added and a tone is any colour with both black and white added (in other words grey!). So when people ask you to tone down your behaviour, they mean just that.


I think the main reason is so that you can sound a bit wise and you can participate in conversations about colour. One of the things that makes a beginning designer feel like a beginner is not having a good grasp of the terminology, so I think its a good idea to get used to using the correct terms for things. But mostly, learning the terminology is just the first step to exploring the wonderful world of colour and understanding how to select and use colour palettes in your design work.

When you see something that ‘just works’ this will usually be because the concept is clear, the language is easy to understand and the images support the concept, rather from detracting from it or confusing the issue. They are a lot of elements in making something beautiful and clear and one of these is colour.

Check out this website for some good info about colour http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/02/02/color-theory-for-designers-part-2-understanding-concepts-and-terminology/