To Hue or Not to Hue

Paint Tube Hue Colors When ordering paints, especially watercolor paints, customers are wary about ordering colors that include the word Hue in them. They are told that these are substandard paints and should be avoided at all cost. This is not true at all. There are Hues and then there are Hues. Let me explain. A Hue is simply the name or shade of a color. Period. Not that difficult is it? However, in the art industry the term Hue has a couple of other meanings.

  Hue often refers to a paint of lesser concentration of pigment, hence, a student or economy grade. Student grade paints in general, have less pigment compared to professional grade paints. They have fillers such as dextrin that are used to bulk out the paint without noticeably affecting the color. This makes the paint more economical and it also provides beginners with an alternative to the more expensive professional paints. You may want to upgrade to professional paints when you become more familiar with watercolor painting and can afford to. This is more economical in the end as these paints will last longer and you use less paint for the same saturation of color.

   Hue also refers to a paint that is made up of a combination of other pigments but is close in color to the original. For example, Cadmium Red and Cadmium Red Hue. The paint quality is the same, they are both professional grade. However, Cadmium Red is made with cadmium which is very toxic. Cadmium Red Hue is formulated to look like Cadmium Red but does not contain cadmium and is not as toxic. Some artists choose to use the hue of certain colors to avoid health risks posed by using cadmiums, magnesiums, cobalts, ceruleans, and other harmful pigments.

   Another reason a Hue would be available in professional paints is that the original color is no longer made or easily available. Artist paints are a by-product of the car industry. We have colors available to us because car makers use large quantities of these pigments. Sometimes the pigments are no longer available or become too expensive to produce, so the original paints are discontinued. This is the case with the pigment used to make Manganese Blue. There are no original paints that are true Manganese Blue. You have seen Manganese Blue Hue, Manganese Blue Nova, or even simply Manganese Blue, however, all of these are hues. They are pigment combinations that attempt to match the original Manganese Blue color. Other pigments, such as Gamboge, are only available as hues as well. So you have Gamboge Hue, New Gamboge, or Gamboge Nova to choose from. Some artists will choose the New Gamboge or Gamboge Nova over Gamboge Hue. The paint manufacturers sometimes rename a Hue by leaving the term out of the name completely, or replacing it with words like New, Nova or somthing similar, but there is no difference in the paint itself.

 We as artists need to understand that sometimes it is to our benefit to use a Hue opposed to the original. Or that we really don’t have a choice in the first place. Other colors will become unavailable, and new Hues will be introduced. Does that mean we should have to give up our favorite colors and avoid the Hues? No! Professional paints that are Hues are still professional quality and and are as lightfast and concentrated as the originals. Artists must be better informed and understand the difference between a Hue and the other Hue. We love our colors and nothing should stop us from getting a full spectrum to choose from! So next time you are selecting your colors give a Hue a chance. They aren’t as bad as their reputation perceives them to be! You might find a new friend! Until next time… Go Forth and Color Your World!

9 Responses

  1. Naalie
    June 24, 2014 at 5:28 pm | Reply

    thanks, this was really helpful!

  2. Theresa
    July 29, 2014 at 1:41 am | Reply

    Thanks much Cheap Joe and Mona Lisa! I just purchased some water color paints and later realized some were “Hue”s. So your article is very helpful and comforting! And I love your Go Forth and Color Your World!
    So, Hue’s to Yous!

  3. 11 August 2015 — #SketchbookSkool, #sketchaday | That's What She Sketched

    […] in a paint color means that the color is of a lesser quality, but then I just read a great article at the Cheap Joe’s website that explains that it isn’t that simple. There are apparently many reasons to use a hue, and […]

  4. Elaine
    June 21, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Reply

    I’ve been in art for decades and have enjoyed Cheap Joes for many many years for supplies. I do have to disagree with much said here. I’ve used many brands and many original cads, cobalts, etc and many hues. I began on true manganese blue(maybe why I’m a bit daft). It’s very good to stress that these are paints for the professionaI, not beginners and definitely not children. I have always preferred the trues over the hues when looking for that color. I’ve also found their longevity better over the years as well. With that said, there are many times in my classes, I push the hues. Many hues are transparent and that really helps push and object to the back when dealing with distance in a painting. And most importantly, what I said at first, if less than a professional, these are toxic pigments. They need to be kept away from kids(lock ‘em up!), not for people in the beginning and intermediate phase learning to handle brushes, paint, water, cleaning, etc. They are also costly. When beginning and learning, one doesn’t need to outlay that cash. learn the movement and pigments. There’s always time for learning the old master’s later.

  5. What I’ve been up to: Close to Home | Atlantic Canada Mixed Media Artist | of art and other things

    […] Red and Cadmium Red Hue. I’d been wondering that myself and Michelle posted a great article on it here and I found another here that lists the toxic paint colours and added it to my BuJo for reference. […]

  6. Dee
    December 30, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Reply

    Because hues are a mix of pigments they have more than one pigment or traces of other pigment colors that interfere with color mixing. If you are used to mixing paints containing one pigment and replace those colors with their hue versions you may not get the color you are used to mixing. You may end up with mud. From what I’ve read, this is the biggest problem with using hues vs. single pigment paint colors. Is this correct?

  7. What I’ve been up to: Close to Home | Atlantic Canada Mixed Media Artist | Moongirl Art

    […] Red and Cadmium Red Hue. I’d been wondering that myself and Michelle posted a great article on it here and I found another here that lists the toxic paint colours and added it to my BuJo for reference. […]

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