How to Create a Color Scheme

A color scheme is a set of colors in a design or artwork that sets a specific mood or aesthetic. The color combination works harmoniously to create a design’s balance, contrast, and visual hierarchy.

Creating a color scheme entails choosing complementary colors that make a design look cohesive. Different color schemes include monochromatic, analogous, complementary, triadic, tetradic, and more. 

Color Scheme: How to Achieve Balance and Contrast


Types of Color Schemes

Color Scheme: How to Achieve Balance and Contrast


A monochromatic color scheme centers around one color. Designers use variations of this color using tints, tones, and shades. Color tint involves mixing the original hue with white to create a lighter color. Combining the original hue with black creates a darker shade. For instance, maroon is a darker shade of red. An example of a monochromatic color scheme is dark gray, medium gray, and light gray.


An analogous color scheme combines colors next to each other on the color wheel. Designers use three primary colors to create a harmonious design. For example, using shades of red, yellow, and orange in a design creates an analogous color scheme. Analogous color schemes create harmony and balance in art, design, and fashion.


A complementary color scheme pairs two colors opposite each other on the color wheel. It results in a high-contrast color combination. Examples of complementary colors include red and green, blue and orange, and cyan and red. One is the base or dominant color, while the other is an accent.

Split Complementary

A split complementary color scheme uses one base color and two accent colors. For this color scheme, a warm color dominates, and two cold colors complement, or vice versa. Using three colors creates a softer contrast and more balance than the complementary color scheme.


A triadic color scheme has three colors with equal distances between them on the color wheel. The colors create contrast and have equal dominance.

Triadic color schemes include:

  • Violet, orange, and green
  • Yellow-orange, blue-green and red-violet
  • Red, yellow, and blue
  • Cyan, magenta, and yellow


A tetradic color scheme comprises four evenly distributed colors in the color wheel. Since it contains two pairs of complementary colors, a tetradic color scheme is also called a double-complementary color scheme.

Examples of tetradic color schemes include:

  • Red, green, purple, and yellow
  • Orange, purple, blue, and yellow

Techniques for Choosing a Color Scheme

Whether you’re designing a room, website, or piece of art, here are some techniques to help you choose a color scheme.

Color Wheels and Palettes

When choosing a color scheme, the color wheel determines the relationship between colors. UI designers use a color palette to form the visual foundation of a brand. These palettes help maintain the color constancy of a user interface.

Color Theory Principles

Color theory is a set of rules that designers use to learn how colors interact. It helps understand how various vibrant color schemes appear on a visual interface. The color theory principles show the effects of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

Online Color Scheme Generators

Online color scheme generators help create persuasive advertising materials. They identify a color scheme for a brand image that appeals to customers. Designers use online color scheme generators to experiment with the basics of color theory.

A/B Testing and User Feedback

Testing various color palettes helps determine the response from users. Website designers use A/B testing to know whether a color scheme conveys a brand’s values. Before choosing a color scheme, it’s worth testing end users’ conversion rate and color perception.

Reasons to Consider a Color Scheme for Your Design

  • Target Audience: Color draws attention to a design. Choose a color scheme based on your audience demographic. While some hues can trigger excitement and alarm, others can make people feel relaxed or nostalgic.
  • Communicating Information: A color scheme can deliver context in a design. For instance, a color scheme may indicate a website’s sections and how to navigate the site.
  • Creating Contrast and Hierarchy: A color scheme distinguishes a design from others in the same space. Complementary colors create contrast, making a design stand out. Using an item with color in a grayscale background gives it attention. It also draws focus to the design elements and makes them memorable.
  • Brand Identity: Consistent use of color in a brand’s products, name, logo, and packaging creates identity. For instance, Coca-Cola is famous for its white-scripted text on a distinct red background.
  • Creating a Mood: Color combination creates a particular mood or atmosphere in a design. A color scheme helps generate a specific emotional response from the viewer. It’s essential for a website, a logo, or a graphic design project.
  • Enhancing Visual Appeal: A well-chosen color scheme makes a design more visually appealing and engaging. Vibrant colors are more attractive than black and white. Color is an essential aspect of branding and advertisement.