The color scheme is an integral aspect of any design. When establishing a color scheme, keep in mind the comprehensive goal of the design. Different color schemes will result in different emotional responses from the end user. There are several dependable strategies to use when choosing colors to develop your scheme.

Reference the color wheel

The color wheel is a handy device and an appropriate starting point when developing your color scheme. It illustrates the relationship between colors in two dimensional space. It consists of primary colors (red, yellow, blue), secondary colors (green, orange and purple), and tertiary colors (yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green). When you know the physical relationship between colors, you can now start to arrange them for different results.

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Monochromatic color schemes

Monochromatic schemes are made when a color from one area of the color wheel is modified according to saturation or value. Saturation is a measurement of a color’s purity and is changed with the addition of the complement color, neutral tones or black. Value is a measurement of a color’s lightness or darkness. You can use different degrees of contrast in a monochromatic color scheme to achieve your intended results. In general, a monochromatic scheme will appear steady and reliable.

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Analogous color schemes

Analogous schemes consist of colors from neighboring areas of the color wheel. These color combinations are often found in the natural environment and integrate nicely together. These schemes are usually pleasing and refreshing. Be cognizant of contrast when using analogous color schemes, because of how close the colors are to each other on the color wheel.

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Triadic color schemes

Triadic schemes are created with colors from three evenly spaced areas on the color wheel. Usually the results are interesting and exciting. The contrast between the three colors add visual energy to a design.

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Complementary color schemes

A color’s complement is its true opposite on the color wheel. Complementary color schemes have the most contrast and can be dynamic and powerful. Be mindful when using this scheme because the results can also be harsh and unruly.

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These are a few reliable strategies used to create color schemes. The goal of any color scheme is to be in harmony with the overall intent of the design. A color scheme that is too tame will not grab attention. At the same time, a color scheme that is too turbulent will discourage engagement. You should make thoughtful, informed decisions when you are creating your color schemes.

Aaron Castiglione

Originally from Lewiston, New York, Aaron moved to Arizona to pursue a degree in industrial design from Arizona State University. Upon graduating, he worked in the industrial design field for a few years before switching to graphic design. After two years as a graphic designer at Davidson Belluso, Aaron was promoted to art director, leading the creative process on city entities such as Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Tempe Tourism Office, the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, and large corporations such as Blood Systems Inc., Petsmart and CVS/Caremark. A member of AIGA and an avid sports fan, Aaron volunteers as a basketball coach for people with disabilities. He’s also a drummer in a garage band and enjoys spending time with his golden retriever, Bauer.