Painting Lesson - Tinting, Shading and
Toning Colors

When it comes to mixing color it is basically a trial and error process that can be very frustrating. I recommend that you continue to create paintings and enjoy the creative process, however you should also mix in these exercises that will provide you with basic skills that will improve your mixing and handling of colors in your paintings.

When you hear the term "tinting a color" basically it means adding white to the color and creating a lighter value of the color. This can be achieved by adding white paint or by diluting the paint to thin it to such an amount that the substrate (white canvas, paper, etc.) can lighten the color creating the desired tint. See example (a).

Shading on the other hand is darkening the color; adding black or a complimentary color can create the shaded color as shown in examples (b) and (c).

Tones are created by adding both black and white to the color to create a toned version of the color as shown in sample (d).

In creating the following exercises you can use a piece of canvas from your canvas pad. Draw with an HB graphite pencil four rectangles 6' x 1.5" and divided into twelve 3/4" sections. Paint twelve gradated steps for each example of tinting, shading and toning colors. These exercises take time, however it will be time well spent, as you will begin to have a hands-on understanding of mixing paint. This subtle increment of creating the exercises below will add a valuable skill set and lessen your frustration with mixing color while you are trying to create a painting.


Tinting (Lighten): Adding Titanium White to Phthalo Blue

Tinting (Lighten): Adding Titanium White to Phthalo Blue to tint the color.


Shading (Darken): Add Ivory Black to Phthalo Green

Shading (Darken): Add Ivory Black to Phthalo Green to shade the color as shown.



Shading (Darken): You can also use a complement to shade a color. Here Cobalt Blue is added to Cadmium Orange little by little creating rich shades from orange, brownish oranges to black.


Toning Colors by adding white and black

Tones (Graying): Adding a little black and white to any color will tone them down and make them softer looking than in their pure form straight out of the tube.

Below are examples of master painters with a command of these color mixing principles.

The Lovers, 1928 René Magritte

The Lovers, 1928 Rene Magritte

Edward A. Butler

White Sheet. Blue Sheet by Edward A. Butler