Creative & Design

What Is Color Coordination: A Practical Guide for Success

Nov 13, 2022

Learn how to use color schemes to improve graphic designs.

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Jason Bond - Guest Contributor
What Is Color Coordination: A Practical Guide for Success

A few things in life are just better when they're coordinated: outfits, accessories, and colors.

When it comes to graphic design, colors need to be used together in the right way so they can create an effect that is both pleasing to the eye and aesthetically harmonious. This is called color coordination, or color harmony.

There are several ways to achieve color coordination. We will look at the most effective methods so you can start improving your graphic designs today.

What is color coordination?

Color coordination is the use of color to create a visually appealing design. For a designer, it is the wisdom of knowing which colors work well together and which don't.

A brilliant design will have the proper balance and contrast of color. A poor design will clash, contrast, and distract from the overall purpose.

What is a color scheme?

A color scheme is a group of colors used to create a visually appealing design. By using a color wheel and a few simple patterns, you will be able to maintain color coordination throughout your design.

If you would like to make your designs more appealing, effective, and successful, then color schemes may be the answer for you. Let's take a look at the seven most common color schemes and how you can use them in your next project.

What are the 7 types of color schemes?

Monochromatic

Monochromatic color schemes use colors that are all the same hue. The different hue shades, tints, and tones give the design visual interest and depth while still providing a cohesive look.

First, choose a dominant color to use in a monochromatic scheme. This hue will be the key to the whole design, so take a few moments to ensure you pick the correct base color. From there, you can use different shades, tints, and tones of that base color throughout your design. Simple, elegant, and effective.

Monochromatic color scheme 1
Monochromatic color scheme 2

Monochromatic color scheme [1]

Complementary

Complementary color schemes use colors opposite each other on the color wheel. This creates a look that is both dynamic and eye-catching. Creating visual interest is the primary purpose of a complementary color.

To use a complementary color scheme, you'll need to choose two colors opposite each other on the color wheel and use them throughout your design. The complementary color provides a significant amount of contrast. For example, If you wanted to make an eye-catching sign you could use the primary color for the background and the complementary color for the lettering.

Complementary color scheme 1
Complementary color scheme 2

Complementary color scheme [1]

Split complementary

Split complementary color schemes use one primary color and two secondary or complementary colors. This creates a look that is both eye-catching and harmonious.

Choose three colors to use a split complementary color scheme. The first color will be your primary color, and the other colors will be complementary. This is similar to a traditional complementary scheme, but the complement is split into two colors. This creates a more subtle palette than the complementary color scheme, but still provides the desired contrast.

Split complementary color scheme 1
Split complementary color scheme 2

Split complementary color scheme [1]

Analogous

Analogous color schemes use colors next to each other on the color wheel. Analogous provides a softer, balanced design with less contrast than other schemes.

To use an analogous color scheme, choose your primary color, then choose at least two other colors to complete this palette. The trick to this is matching distances. If you start by choosing a color to the right of the primary color, then you will choose a color the same distance from the primary color but to the left. This is a similar approach to the complementary color scheme, but instead of working with shades and tones, you are working with distance from the primary color. The balance of distance from the primary color provides a balance to the design.

Analogous color scheme 1
Analogous color scheme 2

Analogous color scheme [1]

Triadic

Triadic color schemes use colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. This creates a vibrant, eye-catching look. This method allows you to find shades of the same tone, which can help create a high-contrast design but also feel balanced or natural.

To use a triadic color scheme, choose three colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel and use them throughout your design.

Triadic color scheme 1
Triadic color scheme 2

Triadic color scheme [1]

Square

A square color scheme uses four colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel in the shape of a square. Since this scheme uses four colors, it is beneficial to pick one of them as your primary and use the remaining three to provide contrast.

To use a square color scheme, choose four uniformly spaced colors on the color wheel and use them throughout your design.

Square color scheme 1
Square color scheme 2

Square color scheme [1]

Rectangle

The rectangle color scheme, also known as tetradic, uses four colors evenly spaced around the color wheel in the shape of a rectangle. This is similar to the square scheme but offers a distinct contrast by bringing two of the colors in closer to the center. The colors that are closer to the outside edge of the color wheel will appear or feel bolder. The colors that are closer to the center will feel more muted or subtle. The mix of bold and subtle maintains the overall feel of the square scheme but provides a more subdued result.

Rectangle or tetradic color scheme 1
Rectangle or tetradic color scheme 2

Rectangle or tetradic color scheme [1]

It's your turn  

Now that you know about the fundamental color schemes, it's time to experiment! You use an online color wheel [1] to try out different combinations and see what looks best to you. Keep in mind each type of scheme's effects on your design. Use them to your advantage. With a bit of practice, you'll be able to create beautiful designs that look great and are easy on the eyes.

Sources

1. Screenshots of color wheels, Adobe Color.

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About the author

Jason Bond - Guest Contributor

Jason Bond is a freelancer specializing in copywriting, marketing, SEO, advertising, and web development. He believes that "A business that can clearly communicate value to its target audience will succeed."
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