When ordering paints, especially watercolor paints, customers are often wary about ordering pigments whose names include the word “Hue”. Chances are they have been told that these are sub-standard or student grade paints and should be avoided at all cost. This is not true at all. There are color hue names in most every medium and quality; oil, acrylic, watercolor and others, including student and professional grade products.
You see, there are “hues” and then, there are “hues”. Let me explain. In painting color theory, a hue refers to a pure color—one without tint or shade. Then, basically, a hue is simply the name or shade of a color, period. Not that difficult is it? However, in the art materials 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 may 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 will, eventually, want to upgrade to professional paints as you become more familiar with watercolor techniques and can afford to. This is more economical in the end, as professional grade paints will last longer because you will use less for the same saturation of color.
However, hue, also refers to a paint color that is made up of a combination of more than one pigment, but is close in color and properties, to the original single pigment it is substituted for. 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 considered hazardous. Cadmium Red Hue is formulated to look like Cadmium Red, but does not contain cadmium and is not as hazardous. Some artists choose to use a hue of certain colors to avoid potential health risks posed by using cadmium, manganese, cobalt, cerulean, and other questionable pigments.
Other reasons a hue may be available in professional grade paints, could be the original pigment is no longer available, it maybe very expensive, or is not easily accessible to a paint manufacturer. Many pigments are made available to the art industry by way of the auto industry. In a sense, some colors are made available to us because car makers use these pigments for paint and can spend the money to mine large quantities of them, like Quinacridone Gold. It can happen, though, that the colors become unpopular, or the pigment is no longer available or it becomes too expensive to produce. If this happens, the original paints, like Quinacridone Gold, are subsequently discontinue. Therefore, the pigment has to be reborn, this time as a Quinacridone Gold hue. Another is Manganese Blue. There are no original paints, remaining in the art industry, that are the true Manganese Blue pigment. You may have seen Manganese Blue Hue, Manganese Blue Nova, or even simply Manganese Blue, however, all of these are hues. They are pigment combinations that closely 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 among others. Some artists will choose the New Gamboge or Gamboge Nova over Gamboge Hue. Aware of the reputation of the word hue, sometimes, the paint manufacturers will rename it by leaving the term out completely, or replace it with words like New, Nova or something similar. That’s just good marketing. However, unbeknownst to the consumer, initially, the paint color is still a hue. But again, this does not make it sub standard quality, at all, just different.
We, as artists, need to understand that sometimes it is to our benefit to use a hue opposed to the original. Or, to understand that we really don’t have a choice in the first place. In the future, other colors are bound to become unavailable, and new hues will be introduced. Does that mean we should have to give up our favorite colors and avoid the hues? Not at all. Professional paints that are called hues are still professional quality, light fast and concentrated to give you the closest substitute for the original. Artists must be better informed to understand the difference between a “hue” and the other “hues”. We love our colors and nothing should stop us from getting a full spectrum to choose from!
So, the next time you are selecting your professional grade colors, give a hue a chance. They aren’t as bad as their reputation perceives them to be! You just might find a new color you can’t live without and hopefully won’t ever have to!
Until next time… Go Forth and Hue The World!