I am passionate and emotional about colours, which is why I have a colour-rich style, and a wardrobe with a large assortment of palettes and possibilities. Our home decor is colour-rich too. I follow my feelings when combining colours in outfits. Simply put, if I visually like the colour combination and feel confident in it, I wear it! I don’t know if I’m breaking so-called colour theory rules, or abiding by them. Either way it’s a completely intuitive process, and until now, winging it my way has worked well enough.

Because colours feature strongly in most aspects of my life, and since I am very particular about what is exactly the right colour for me and our home, I would like to take greater care in using the terms that describe the variations of a colour more correctly. Art was my best and favourite subject at school, so the terminology rings a bell. But it’s time to brush up.

Here are the definitions as they apply to mixing paint colours, and I think this is a useful way to think about the colours in your wardrobe. You can find more in depth explanations here and here.


A hue is the most original pure pigment of a colour as it is shown on a colour wheel. It does not contain black, grey or white, so it’s a colour without tint, shade or tone. A hue is also the starting point of a colour as we see it. Examples of hues are red, blue, yellow (primary colours), green, orange and purple (secondary colours) in their most vivid form.


A tint is a hue, or mixture of pure colours, with the addition of white. The more white you add, the lighter the tint. A tint lightens a colour but does not brighten it. When a significant amount of white is added, the tint becomes a pastel. 


A shade is a hue or mixture of pure colours with the addition of black. The term comes directly from the darkness introduced to a perceived colour when it is shaded from sunlight. A shade is darker than the original colour, transforming it from slightly darker to almost black. The more black you add, the darker the shade.


A tone is any hue or mixture of pure colours with the addition of grey (and grey is a neutral mixture of black and white). A tone can be lighter or darker than the original hue. The addition of grey will tone down the intensity of any colour, making it look less vibrant and more dull. The majority of colours in our everyday world are tones.

I tend to use tones and shades interchangeably and forget about tints and hues. I’ll do a better job from now on. After this refresh, it makes theoretical sense that lighter tints look great with white, and darker shades look fab with black, when combined in an outfit. I enjoy the former more than the latter. I also like to wear varying tones of a colour in one outfit. Come to think of it, I like to combine tints and shades of the same colour too. And I’m fine combining clashing hues. I happily have a high affinity for colour-mixing.