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Color: Creating a Palette

Creating harmonious and effective combinations of color is a matter of instinct (honed through practice and observations), awareness of trends, and understanding of color theory basics.

On this page we will focus on five simple and practical methods of combing colors that can be sued as the foundation fro building eye-friendly palettes.

A good way to begin your search fro a color scheme is to select a single hue that seems appropriate for the audience and message being addressed. Afterward, strategies such as these can be used to fill out the rest of the palette.


Monochromatic color schemes are created from a singe base hue, and any number of lighter or darker tints (value adjustments) of that hue. Print jobs that use only color of ink are, naturally, limited to this type of palette. Monochromatic schemes can also be created by using more and less saturated version of a base color.

Variation: Heavily mute two of the hues.





Triads are created from any three hues equally spaced around the color wheel. Varied degrees of saturation can be used with each of the three colors to achieve a more sophisticated color scheme. Be sure to experiment with the amount that each color is featured within a design or illustrations--regardless of what type of palette is being used.

Variation: Must one of the hues. For example. you can mute the orange and lightened it to the point that it becomes a neutral brownish tone. The resulting contrast between intense and muted hues will lend the image a more progressive feel.




Analogous palettes are created when any three adjacent hues are used together. A variation of this type of three-member palette is built by using every other color as you move around the wheel from a chosen starting hue.

Variation: Heavily mute all of the hues, except for a location where it will remain it original color. A single intense hue within a palette of muted tones attracts notice, even if it is used sparingly.




Complementary color schemes are created when any color is paired with its complement. Here, two complementary hues can be used along with a black. Experiment with introducing black or grayed tones into a complementary scheme. Changing the saturation and/or value of one of the complementary hues might be necessary in order to avoid a vibrating effect between the colors.

Variation: Use a gray tone as a dividing color rather than a solid black..this will quiet the image.





Split-Complements are naturally infused with the energy that arises when warm and cool hues are combined. To create a split-complement palette, begin with one hue, and combine it with the tow colors on either side of its complement. In this sample, the orange hue has been lightened to avoid a vibrating effect between it and the blue-green.

Variation: Keep two of the colors in their original hue, then use the third one (blue) in several different monochromatic forms.




The best thing that you can do for yourself is to experiment. Use the tools above to set-up your initial theme, and then play with it. For links, you may just want to take a monochromatic approach, while using colors that are consistent within your theme.

A great resource is Jim Krause.


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