Types of Color Schemes in Design

Published: December 30, 2014

by Erin Nolan

Put on your little yellow hard hat with the light on it and delve deeper in the world of complimentary colors and the different methods of combining color schemes.

Have you ever had an idea of how you would like your environment decorated, but didn’t have a clue how to make that idea a finished product? I’ll tell you a secret: it’s a strong art composition. Remember back in grade school when your art teacher tried to teach you the elements of art? Each of those elements play off one another and are intrinsically connected to make something “good.”

In addition to proportion of color (suggested 60-30-10), there are also palettes based on the color wheel which offer further color suggestions.

Triadic Complementary

Monochromatic color schemes are all of a single tint, shade, and hue. Because they lack definition or focal areas, they tend to be relaxing. They are really easy to manage, as there are no more decisions to be made concerning color. However, depending on which hue is chosen, it could be stimulating as well. Imagine a room entirely of coral! Yikes! This is the easiest color guide. Just choose one color and go!

Analogous Palette
This palette uses harmonizing colors, either in the warm or cool spectrum. For instance, red-orange-yellow combinations or green-blue-violet are more appealing than violet-green-orange. Again there are exceptions. Try not to use too many analogous colors because it will ruin the flow of the area.

Ok. Choose two colors. Now create shades, tints, and tones of those same colors. Congratulations! You just created your own complementary color palette. Using shades creates depth and character to your room. In this palette, the tints are used for focal points.  This can create everything from a bright, cheerful style to a soothing, formal look.

Split Complementary
On the color wheel, these are exact opposites. Red’s opposite is green. Violet’s nemesis is yellow, and the anti-blue is orange. Here is where it gets difficult, so I’ll break it down. 1. Choose a color (I’ll choose blue). 2. Find its complimentary (orange). 3.  Now choose colors on either side of orange on the color wheel (yellow-orange and red-orange). This allows for nuances of color, yet still maintains strong focal areas.

Triadic Complementary
Have you ever played cat’s cradle with a piece of string?  Working with a triad complementary color scheme is kind of like that. It looks easy if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, you just end up with a mess. The fundamental idea is that you take three colors which are evenly spaced around the color wheel. When everything is working, the palette provides a rich, balanced, and harmonious style that the others do not have. Because of its nature, it is used by many artists.

Tetradic (Double Complementary)
Don’t. Just don’t…unless you like the sound of “triadic double split complementary.” Yeah. I thought so. Google it if you really want to know.

Now go and create a color scheme yourself using one of these palette generators: