What Are Analogous Colors?

No matter how much design technologies develop, color will always be a designer’s strongest tool. When used effectively, colors have the power to set a mood and give personality to a design project. And one of the most guaranteed and effective ways to give your design a character is using analogous colors. These are sets of colors that are forever guaranteed to have a harmonious look. So what are analogous colors? How can you create an analogous color scheme? And how do analogous colors differ from monochromatic and complementary color schemes?

Definition of Analogous Color Scheme

Analogous colors are groups of colors that are next to one another on the color wheel. In order to create such a palette, the only thing you need to do is to pick three colors next to each other on the color wheel. Usually, a designer first picks a dominant color and selects at least two more colors from either side of the dominant one. Hence the name: The term analogous refers to the relationship, namely the analogy between these neighboring colors. This analogy is also why analogous colors are destined to look harmonious forever - being neighbours on the color wheel, they provide somewhat a transitional and thus harmonious look for the eye.

Another feature of analogous colors is that they are common in nature. The changing colors of leaves during the autumn, sunset and sunrise are only some of the analogous color schemes found in nature. 

Meanwhile, one of the most famous examples of an artwork using an analogous color palette would be Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. In the painting, Van Gogh applies an analogous color scheme with yellow, yellow-green, green and blue-green to create harmony. Notice how all these colors are neighbours on the color wheel.

What is High-Key Analogous?

Another term one should know about analogous palettes is high-key analogous. A high-key analogous color scheme consists of analogous colors with lighter values. Such a scheme will have a more united, pastel-like look. The colors in a high-key analogous color scheme will be pure and not affected by other hues but will have white added to them to achieve the pastel-like look. In art history, high-key analogous color schemes were very commonly used by Impressionist artists such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas and Pierre Bonnard. 

Examples of Analogous Colors

The 6 analogous colors are as follows:

Red, Red-Orange & Red-Violet.

Yellow, Yellow-Orange & Orange

Blue-Green, Green, Yellow-Green

Blue, Blue-Violet, Violet

Red, Red-Orange, Orange

Green, Yellow-Green, Yellow

Blue, Green-Blue, Green

How to Create an Analogous Color Scheme

As explained above, creating an analogous color scheme is very easy. A designer only has to pick one starting color and add its neighbours to the palette. However, in order to create a good analogous color scheme and get the most out of this choice of palette, one has to pay attention to a few rules and tricks.

How to Create Contrast with Analogous Colors

One of the most common traps of designing with an analogous color scheme is to lack contrast. If you focus too evenly on colors directly adjacent to each other, you might get a muddled look where your colors will blend and cancel one another out. 

To avoid this, your set of analogous colors should have enough contrast in between them - so that the eye can identify each of them separately. Therefore, one of your colors should be more dominant than the others. Secondly, depending on the nature of your design, you can use patterns or different materials to create distinction and contrast.

For example, if you are designing a website using analogous colors, you will probably want to use the dominant color in the headlines, the lightest color in the backgrounds and the accent color(s) elsewhere to obtain enough contrast.

How to Create Balance with Analogous Colors

Another aspect of designing with analogous colors is to keep balance. One of the reasons that analogous colors create a sense of natural harmony is balance. To obtain a balanced look, a designer should make sure that the middle color is an even mix of the other two colors. If the mix is not even, the middle color might throw off the transitional harmony within the palette.

Why Should I Design with Analogous Colors?

Designing with analogous colors has many benefits. Here are a few advantages of analogous colors:

Harmony: Because they are adjacent to each other on the color wheel, analogous colors naturally create a harmony look.

Comfortable to the Eye: The harmony of analogous colors will guarantee that your design will not be tiring to look at. This choice of colors will make sure that your design project will have a calming effect.

Variety of Choices: Analogous colors provide the designer with a lot of options that are sure to be harmonious. Do you want an energetic feel but without contrasting colors? Then you might go for the red, red-orange and orange combination. Or do you need a design that should be very calm but not feel monotonous? Then, you might prefer a high-key analogous color scheme.

Important Consideration: Color Blindness

An important note for those applying an analogous color scheme would be not to forget issues of accessibility. Remember that certain analogous color schemes may not appeal to those people with color blindness or color vision deficiency (CVD).


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