Calculating RGB Tints – Best Practices

Theoretically, there is no such thing as RGB tints. Color theory uses “tint” as any lighter hue of a color. Often this will be explained as what happens if you mix a color with white, though anyone who has spent any time mixing colors has noticed that adding white pigment changes colors in other ways than simply making them lighter.

In the commercial art world, tint is nearly synonymous with screen, because the traditional way of creating lighter shades of a base color is to print it with a halftone screen.

Because of this tradition, brand guidelines often augment a base set of colors with a subset of pastels referred to as tints or screens. This all makes perfect sense in a print-oriented world. However, when you move into digital display color, there are no screens any more. So how do we interpret brand guidelines for RGB-only software like Word, PowerPoint, Excel and the web?

Brand guidelines now normally include RGB numbers for the base colors of a brand, but tints rarely have an RGB equivalent. The designer just specs 20% of PMS 286 and lets you figure it out.

A Calculator for RGB Tints

You can do it with Illustrator, but it’s a little roundabout. You create an RGB color, save it as a swatch, being sure to over-ride Illustrator’s efforts to keep turning it into CMYK. Then you can spec a percentage of the swatch and finally find out the RGB value of that percentage.

Or you can just use the handy dandy RGB Tint calculator on this very web site. Simply enter an RGB or hexadecimal color value, then the tint percentage, and you get an instant readout of the new color values along with a preview of the color appearance. In addition, it makes a useful RGB-hexadecimal convertor, though there are plenty of other ways to do that operation.

This is a tool we developed for our own template creation work, but you may as well get some use of it too. Enjoy!

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