Joen Wolfrom’s Playing with Color: TintsJoen Wolfrom | November 10, 2011
Now that we are familiar with the pure colors in our world, it’s time to begin thinking about the color variations that can be made with each of these pure colors. It’s important to realize that every pure color is the head of its own color family. Within each pure color’s family there are literally hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of hues—–variations derived from that one pure color. The pure colors, these color family leaders, are all part of the pure color scale. Their color variations can be divided into three clearly recognized groups: the tint scale, the shade scale, and the tone scale. This post is about the tint color scale.
Tints are those colors created when white has been added to a pure color. Therefore, tints are colors (or hues) that lie between white and a pure color. Thus a tint is any color that ranges from a blush white to a color slightly lighter than the pure color. Familiar tints include apricot, pink, coral, peach, lavender, butter yellow, soft yellow, and robin’s egg blue. Also, colors preceded with the word light are notable tints. These include light yellow, light blue, light green, light violet, and light purple. You can see that each pure color has scores of tints from almost-white to (but not including) the pure color.
Tints are considered the colors of spring. Thus, if you want to create spring imagery, use an abundance of tints in your artwork. If you want to create a soft, delicate statement with softness or freshness, use tints as your artwork’s dominant scale. Below are some examples of tints found in nature.
A hint of color in this fuchsia illustrates the sense of fragility in those hues that are the lightest of tints.
Tints vary in their values. However, tints cannot be darker than their pure color, since adding white makes a color lighter, not darker. If the tint’s pure color is a naturally light color, such as yellow, golden-yellow, orange-yellow, chartreuse, and yellow-green, then the tint range will be light. Dark pure colors, such as violet, blue-violet, red-violet, purple, and blue will have a much wider range of tints from a blush white to a dark hue, albeit not quite as dark as the pure hue.
You can see a beautiful array of pink tints in this dahlia. These gentle hues provide a stunning visual statement even though they are light and airy. This example demonstrates that it is not necessary to use pure colors to make a dramatic statement. Softness has its own visual drama. An artwork that showcases the tint scale beautifully can be elegant, sophisticated, and understated. The artwork may not be able to be seen from 100 feet away, as it can be in many pure-colored artworks, but it can be just as visually enticing—if not more so.
In the rose and dahlia images below, you can see the difference between a blush white—-a white with a hint of yellow in its makeup and a light yellow, a hue that is a bit lighter than pure yellow. One is soft and subtle while the other is happy and refreshing.
The yellow dahlia is an example of a yellow tint. It’s slightly darker than the blush white with a tinge of yellow in it (above) and much lighter than a pure yellow. There are many tints that lie between these two yellow tints.
Red’s tints are beautiful corals, although we grew up thinking that pink is the tint of red. However, if you add white to red or even orange-red, you will find the tints become beautiful variations of coral. The coral rose (below) shows a tint that is much lighter than pure red, yet it is much darker than a blush white.
The lighter the tint, the softer and more gentle the color appears. Tints tend to be visually fragile or delicate. You can see this soft fragility in the rose below.
Interestingly tints from the blue, blue-violet, and violet pure families often appear as if they have some graying quality added to them, but they have not. It’s simply the visual uniqueness of these light cool tints. You can see this in the lavender and blue tints shown below.
For those of you who work in fabric: It’s very disappointing to learn that there are few tints in fabric. To create tinted fabrics, you must begin with a bleached white fabric, so that the dye will be clear in its whitened state. If the dye is applied to grayed goods that are unbleached (slightly yellowed or grayed), then the dyed color has a grayed cast to it. Currently, the best way to purchase tinted fabrics is through dye artists who begin their dying process with bleached white fabrics AND use true pure colors.
If you are a painter and want to create tints in your artwork, you need to mix the selected pure color with white.
If you are a person who is interested in learning more about color, explore your favorite colors’ tints by doing the following tint-scale exercise with acrylic paint.
1. Purchase tubes of Liquitex acrylic paint in your three favorite pure colors. Also purchase a tube of Titanium White paint. In addition, purchase 1-2 packages of unlined index cards and a paint brush (or perhaps 2). You will also need a large sheet of paper to protect your table, a coffee stirrer, paper towels, water, paint container, toothpicks.
2. Place 1-2 tablespoons of Titanium White paint in your paint container. Add a few drops of water to the paint, so the paint is of good spreading consistency. Be cautious, as you do not want the paint to be watery. Paint an index card with the white paint. Clean the paint brush.
3. Select one of your pure color paints to work with. Then with a toothpick, add a tiny drop of one of your pure-color paints to the white paint. Blend thoroughly with a stirring utensil. Then paint an index card with this new color. Clean the paint brush.
4. Continue adding a tiny bit of pure paint to the white blended paint, painting an index card after each mixing until your blended paint is slightly lighter than the pure color. Lastly, paint an index card with the pure color.
5. Set the painted cards aside to dry. Once dried, gather in order of painting, place in a pile, and place a heavy book on top of the pile.
6. Once cards are flattened, cut a 1/2-inch strip off of the short end of each index card, working from the white and the lightest color to the darkest tint and the pure color. Then with glue-stick or some other adhesive, place the colored strips in a straight line on a large piece of construction paper or tag board, moving from white to the pure color. When placing the strips onto the paper, overlap them slightly, so there is no background paper showing between the strips. The number of tints in your selected paint’s tint scale will depend on how dark or light your selected pure color is. If your painted tints are from a light-valued pure color, you’ll have less tinted hues than if you select a dark pure hue.
6. Take a break. Then repeat the process for your other two tint scales.
7. Place the painted index cards in envelopes. Place these in a safe place to be used for another painting project sometime down the line. Keep your pure color paint tubes, as you will be using them again.
Please note: If you have not done any painting from previous blogs, you may want to visit the August 8 and 9, 2011 posts to get some general painting directions. Also, the instructions for painting the pure colors of the color wheel are in the August 5, September 1, and October 7 posts.
I hope you do take the time to make at least one tint scale. If you can do more, select ones from different parts of the color wheel. If you do paint one or more tint scales, let me know which one(s) you chose. Actually, consider emailing me a jpg image of your tint scale. It would be fun to put a few on the blog so people can see how beautiful they are.
Text and photography copyright © Joen Wolfrom
Joen is a color enthusiast who teaches and lectures on color. She has written three color books: Color Play, Visual Coloring, and The Magical Effects of Color. Her Studio Color Wheel is used to illustrate color concepts in many of these blog posts. She is also the designer of the 3-in-1 Color Tool. Her new book Adventures in Designis now available. Joen’s newest design tool, the Magic Design-Ratio Tool has just been released. All books and products are published by C & T Publishing.