8 Types of Color Scheme
John Spacey, November 19, 2015 updated on March 20, 2021
A color scheme is set of colors selected as part of a design. Criteria for defining a color scheme typically includes both aesthetics and functional considerations such as visibility. The following are a few color tradeoffs to consider.
1. Analogous vs ComplementaryAnalogous colors have a similar hue and offer a unified feel. Complementary colors are pairs of colors that contrast with one another.
2. Background vs ForegroundIn many cases, a different set of background and foreground colors are included in a color scheme that are typically either light-on-dark or dark-on-light. In other words, the background and foreground are usually contrast with one another. White or black are common choices for a background.
3. Warm vs CoolPeople tend to perceive colors as having a temperature. This has implications for design both for finding colors that work together and for highlighting information. Cool colors feel comfortable, confident and easy on the eyes. Warm colors are striking, dramatic and attract the eye.
4. Matching vs ClashingCombinations of colors are often described as either matching or clashing. The process of matching colors, known as color harmony, is more of an art than a science as there are no rules for matching. For example, the perception of color harmony differs by culture because cultural symbols such as flags or uniforms can influence people's ideas about color. As an example, it's common for people to avoid red and green together as it looks like Christmas.
5. Light vs DarkEach unique color, or more accurately each hue, can be lightened or darkened by mixing with white and black. These combinations can be viewed using a monochromatic swatch that displays rows of the same color arranged from light to dark.
6. Chromatic vs AchromaticA chromatic color is a pure hue free of tinting or shading. In other words, it's a color that hasn't been mixed with white or black. These tend to be more colorful than achromatic colors that have been tinted or shaded.
7. Monochromatic vs PolychromaticMonochromatic is a term for a set of colors that all have the same hue blended with different levels of white and black. It is common for a color scheme to make use of a monochromatic set of colors. Polychromatic is a term to describe the use of multiple colors.
8. Bright vs DullSaturation is a basic measurement of a color that can be defined as the perceived intensity of a color viewed directly without a background. It's measured on a scale that ranges from bright to dull.
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