Techniques for creating harmonious color combinations
Color harmonies are your navigation device for the vast space of color.
It takes you from an overwhelming variety of colors to meaningful selections.
The RYB (red, yellow, and blue) color model forms the basis of traditional color theory. These primary colors, when mixed, create secondary colors (green, orange, and purple) and tertiary colors, which are mapped on a color wheel. This wheel is used for understanding color relationships, harmony, and contrast.
Analogous Colors: Seamless Gradients and Transitions
Colors next to each other on the wheel, like blue and violet, are great for creating soothing designs. They provide a visually cohesive experience, ideal for gradient backgrounds, subtle UI elements, and gentle transitions.
Complementary Colors: Ideal for Grabbing Attention
Use opposite colors like blue and orange for elements that need to stand out, such as call-to-action buttons or key graphics in infographics. The high contrast grabs attention but should be used sparingly to avoid overwhelming the viewer.
Split-Complementary: Versatile for Web and Graphic Design
This scheme offers both harmony and contrast, ideal for web layouts and graphic design projects. It provides a visually appealing balance, suitable for designing web pages or marketing materials where you want to blend impact with visual comfort.
Triadic Colors: Best for Dynamic and Balanced Designs
A triadic scheme, involving three evenly spaced colors, works well for achieving vibrant designs. Use this for interactive UI elements or in branding materials where a lively yet harmonious feel is needed. Ensure one color is dominant for visual clarity.
Tetradic: Great for Rich and Diverse Visual Narratives
The use of two complementary pairs offers a diverse palette, suitable for complex branding projects or packaging designs where a rich and varied visual narrative is needed. Prioritize one color to maintain coherence in the overall design.
Monochromatic: Sleek, Minimal and Alluring
Using varying shades of a single color creates a unified and clean look, perfect for minimalist designs and user interfaces. Designing with a monochromatic scheme ensures consistency between shades and creates strong visual hierarchy.
On this website, you can see that there are many shades of grey used for the text, layout and UI elements. Rather than trying to match each color, we generate a spectrum based on the same hue and saturation, and then plot where needed.
Remember to Break the Rules
These rules are a great place to start, but you should also give yourself freedom to explore. In many cases, such as digital product, you will need to use more than 3-4 colors, and likely in varying shades, to achieve a good outcome. In other cases, you might need to manually tune your color selection to get a balanced appearance.
In the next lesson, we will look into the short comings of this model, and what modern alternatives have come around since.