A Guide to Monochrome Color: Basics and Pairings

Monochromatic color schemes revolve around a single color. They ensure a cohesive color combination in home design, art, and fashion.

What Is a Monochromatic Color Scheme?

monochromatic colors

A monochromatic color scheme uses different tints and tones of a single color. An example would be decorating a room using light gray, mid-tone gray, and dark gray, all with the same undertone.

Monochromatic colors are easy to create from any hue on the color wheel. Adjusting the saturation and brightness creates some variations from a single color. 

Using the same color in different tones or tints helps create depth. Designers and digital artists also use monochrome colors as the base for other color schemes.

Monochrome color is different than an analogous color scheme, which uses three neighboring shades on the color wheel.

Why Consider Monochrome Colors?

Monochromatic colors evoke emotions and create a sense of depth.

  • They’re ideal for simple designs. Artists or designers of logos and business cards may prefer a minimalistic approach. Monochromatic colors are simple to the eye and create a calming effect.
  • Monochrome colors are harmonious. Variations of a single color create a cohesive look, making a design look more professional.
  • Versatile: Monochrome colors are adaptable and suit various designs. Monochromatic colors blend with multiple atmospheres and moods. They create a soothing, bold, or dramatic feel, depending on the base color.

Monochromatic color variations range from modern and glossy to vintage and elegant.

  • Monochromatic colors can help highlight a specific element in a design. 
  • Ease of use: Since monochromatic colors use one color, they’re easy to implement. These color schemes save time, unlike choosing different colors for a single design.
  • Mix and match: A monochromatic color scheme allows for more flexibility when choosing a design’s color. A blue color scheme can pair with metallic accents or neutral colors for a sophisticated look.

Monochrome Color Basics

To create a monochromatic color scheme, you have to first pick your inspiration color. From there, you can layer in darker and lighter hues.

Neutral Colors

The most common neutral colors are black, gray, and white. In interior design, neutrals are the foundation of a space. You can create monochromatic color schemes from neutrals and layer in pops of color with accessories.

Primary Colors

Primary hues have the most vibrancy when creating a monochrome color palette. They’re the purest form of colors and introduce a dynamic look to a design.

Tints & Shades

Adding white to a hue to brighten it creates a tint color. Shades are colors made by adding black to a hue to darken it. For instance, a light blue tint highlights a hue, while a dark blue shade adds depth. Both colors create a monochromatic look.

Monochrome Colors in Fashion and Interior Design

Monochromatic colors create flow, balance, and symmetry. In fashion, the use of similar colors but in different textures creates interest and keeps an outfit from looking boring. 

In interior design, monochromatic colors create a calming, cohesive environment in a room. An all-white room has a fresh, modern feel, while an all-black room is more dramatic. These color schemes work for various designs, from contemporary to traditional.


Tips for Choosing a Monochrome Color Scheme

Color psychology, pattern, and texture are important considerations when picking a monochrome color scheme. Here are other tips to help you choose your base color:

  • Determine the Mood of the Space: Consider the mood you want to achieve in a space. The colors determine whether you have a calming or bold and energetic atmosphere.
  • Choose Colors Within the Same Hue: Pick shades of the same color, such as yellow, green, or blue. Using colors within the same hue creates a cohesive look.
  • Stick to Tones that Complement Each Other: Choosing colors that complement each other creates a harmonious monochrome color scheme. Examples of complementary colors are light blue and navy blue. Soft green and olive green also complement each other.
  • Incorporate Accent Colors: You can add interest to the primary hue by adding accent colors. Adding a pop of yellow to a blue monochrome color scheme makes it more vibrant.