Hue vs True: Which to Choose When it comes to Selecting Paint

By Nicole Tinkham


When was the last time you planned an art supply shopping spree? Our guess is that if you don’t go into the day with some sort of list, you can leave feeling a bit overwhelmed. This is especially true when shopping for paint colors. If for example you find the color you need (Vermilion), you might also see a Vermilion Hue. What’s the difference between the two? If you find yourself wondering the same thing, read on for an explanation of what a hue actually is.

What is a hue?

You will probably recognize the term “hue” as a pure color without tint or shade. While this is true, it’s not exactly the hue we are referring to in this blog. We will be focusing on the name of paint colors, for example Cadmium Yellow Hue vs the true color of Cadmium Yellow.

When it comes to paint colors, a hue simply indicates a color that is made up of different pigments than the original. Even being made up of different components, hues are very close to the true color. We know what you’re thinking, why even make a hue? Here are two main reasons why there are hues available:

  • To reduce toxic elements
    Some paints (like Cadmium Red) contain toxic elements such as cadmiums, cobalts, magnesiums, and ceruleans. Some hues eliminate this toxic element, making them safer.
  • Original color is no longer available
    You may notice that some paint colors have been discontinued. The reason for this lies in the availability of pigments. When these original paints are discontinued, it is replaced with a hue as close to the original as possible. This is why you will often see colors like New Gamboge, Gamboge Nova, and Gamboge Hue. They are all slightly different but similar to the original color.

Where can hues be found?

Hues can be found in just about any type of paint (acrylic, watercolor, and oil). This is because the hue involves the actual color of the paint, not the type of paint it is.

Are hues lower quality?

If you are looking at artist quality paint, both the hue and the true color will be artist grade. To learn more about paint grades, view our blog featuring the difference between student and artist grade paints.

Sometimes a hue is your only option, in which case you should not give up on your favorite color just because the original is no longer available! As mentioned above, hues come in artist grades and are very close to the original color so they will most likely suit your needs. For help deciding whether or not to go with a hue just stop in and talk with one of our art specialists. They are always more than happy to help find what you need!

Want to know which paint colors have been discontinued? Look for a future blog post featuring a list of discontinued colors and their replacements!

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