How to use tints and shades in your designs

With so many colors at our disposal it can be easy to get carried away with all the choices, but sometimes the subtle options are the ones that make the biggest impact. This is where Tints and Shades come in handy.

How to use tints and shades

In this post, we'll look at the ways in which tints and shades can be used and demonstrate the different effects you can achieve by incorporating them into your designs.

1 What are Tints and Shades?

Tint and shade chart

A tint is created when white is added to a color, and a shade is created when black is added to a color. Tints and shades can have many uses within a color scheme, but are primarily used to accomplish a 3D look within your elements.

2 Light Source

3D shapes

Tints and shades can transform a group of shapes into a fully formed 3D object if applied correctly. In the above shapes a tint is applied to the direction closest to an imaginary light source, the shade is applied to the area furthest away from the source, and the original color is applied to the area in between.

3 Gradients

Gradient examples

When two or more tints or shades are placed next to each other, a gradient occurs. A gradient is a progression of color that emulates how an object would react to light in the real world. In the example above, different sized circles of various tints and shades have created the illusion of a sphere.

As you can see, this can be achieved by adding tints on top of the original color, adding shades beneath the original color, or adding both shades and tints either side of the original color. The more tints and shades you add, the smoother the gradient becomes.

4 Blurring and Glow


By applying the same principle of gradients in the reverse direction (progressing outward instead of inward) you can achieve some interesting results. By layering your shapes getting progressively bigger and more tinted a blurred glowing effect is created. By keeping the shapes the same size but moving the tinted shapes in a direction, a smudge-like effect or sense of movement is created. These effects are easily achievable with the use of transparency. By making your shape any level of transparent, a tint or shade of the original color is instantly created based on what color your background is.

5 Single Color Schemes

If you’re stuck on what colors to use within your design, why not set yourself a challenge and try to create the whole design using a single color and only tints and shades as the variants? This creates a great sense of unity and opens up to possibilities you may not have considered before.

Tint art

If you’ve ever worried that your design is lacking a certain oomph, don’t write it off and change it completely. Remember that with the subtle addition of a tint or shade you can achieve an extra level of depth that may have been in front of your face the whole time!

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