Tough attended Clydebank High School, where he was head boy in his final year.
Tough started his career in Scottish newspapers and at 19 edited his first title, The Govan Press, where he commissioned Captain Clyde, one of the first comic strips by now-renowned comic book writer Grant Morrison. He moved to London and the magazine industry in 1983. In the early 1990s, he edited the short-lived UK edition of TV Guide, joined TVTimes as deputy editor and was launch editor of TV & Satellite Week.
Tough launched IPC Media's digital initiative in 1994 and, as new media editor-in-chief and publishing director, was involved in all of IPC’s early digital projects, including the Milia d’Or award-winning CD-Rom magazine, UnZip, and the UK's first digital EPG.
In 2002 he edited IPC’s market-leading Web User, before taking over as editor of Britain’s best-selling magazine, What’s On TV. Three years later he launched the UK’s first compact TV magazine, TV easy. In 2016 he was appointed editor-in-chief of all Time Inc TV titles.
Shortlisted 15 times for the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) awards, Tough won the BSME Entertainment & Celebrity Editor of the Year award in 2018. He also won the IPC Media Editor of the Year award in 2001, 2007 and 2012.
Tough is married with a son. His brother is Ian Tough of the comedy act The Krankies.
- Grant Morrison (7 July 2011). Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero. Random House. pp. 178–. ISBN 978-1-4090-4026-2.
- "New Head For IPC New Media", Mediatel, 5 May 1998
- Sophia Chauchard-Stuart, "Jump in, have a quick read, jump out", The Independent, 27 November 1995
- Mediatel staff. "IPC to launch interactive TV listings", Mediatel, London, 10 November 1995. Retrieved on 18 December 2016.
- "Colin Tough to edit Web User", Time Inc press release, January 2002
- Martin McNamara, "TV listings title gets Tough", The Guardian, May 27, 2002
- John Plunkett, "IPC's £10m title stirs up TV listings", The Guardian, April 19, 2005