What are Monochromatic Colors?

Color schemes are very important for designers. If you are starting a design project or decorating a house, one of the first things you need to decide on should be your color palette. Your palette will reflect the mood and the personality of your project. Do you need a balanced, more cohesive and simple design? Or a very striking one? This is where monochromatic and analogous color schemes come into the picture. So what does monochromatic colors mean? What are monochromatic color schemes? And how do you use monochromatic colors?

What Does Monochromatic Mean in the Color World?

As mono means one and chroma means color, the definition of monochromatic is consisting of one single color. Monochromatic colors can be defined as all the colors -meaning tones, tints and shades- of a single hue. Meanwhile, monochromatic in terms of light (as opposed to polychromatic) means “consisting of radiation of a single wavelength or of a very small range of wavelengths.”

What Does Monochromatic Color Scheme Mean?

Therefore, monochromatic color schemes are obtained from a single base hue and consist of all the shades, tones and tints of that specific base. For instance, in a monochromatic color palette derived from yellow, you would see a scheme that starts from a very light derivative of that hue going gradually to a very darker one. One of the most famous examples of an artwork using a monochromatic color palette would be Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

How Can I Create a Monochromatic Palette?

Monochromatic color palettes have become very popular in website designs, interior decoration and package design. In such designs, you will start with picking one color and applying variants of it. Therefore, a designer who has decided to use such a palette should become familiar with the terms base, shade, tint and tone. As these are the tools that you will use during the mix and match process, here are the definitions:

How Can I Achieve Contrast in a Monochromatic Color Scheme?

Since every color in a monochromatic palette has the same base, one would be inclined to wonder if monochromatic color schemes are boring. Will nothing stand out in my design? Will everything fade into each other? These questions might naturally come to your mind. However, an informed designer will know that this is not the case at all. 

When applying a monochromatic color scheme in any design, one of the most important things to pay attention to is contrast. Due to the lack of hue contrast, you should achieve sharp contrasts with your shades, tints and tones. 

Why Should I Use a Monochromatic Color Scheme?

As you might have noticed, monochromatic color schemes are everywhere nowadays. While many brands prefer monochromatic palettes in advertising, the popularity of calmer interiors have forced decorators to use such palettes as well. Using a monochromatic palette in web design also has tremendous advantages.

So what are the benefits of monochromatic color schemes? Why should you try a monochromatic color scheme ?

  • Harmony: As your base color will be the same, going monochromatic guarantees a harmonious and cohesive design that looks simple and direct.
  • Creates Focus: A monochromatic background will provide you with the opportunity to attract attention to your content.
  • Memorability: One of the reasons that brands prefer monochromatic colors is that such a palette helps customers associate that brand with a specific, memorable color.
  • Make an Impression: If you use a strong and striking base color in a monochromatic scheme, your design will be sure to make an impression.
  • Easy on the Designer: In a monochromatic color scheme, a designer will not be worried about matching colors. As your choices will all be derivatives of a single base, your job will be easier.

Tips, Techniques and Tricks for Designing with Monochromatic Color

While designing with monochromatic colors could be seen relatively easy, there are several techniques for making your design look more sophisticated, functional and striking. You might raise your design to a superior level by applying the following:

Avoid Boredom in Monochromatic Design

When designing with monochromatic colors, one should be careful not to fall into the boredom trap and be aware of the fact that a monochromatic palette provides you with the opportunity to strike easily. What follows is that depending on the design, you might need to give up on being a monochromatic purist and to break rules by adding a totally different color. This would be called an ‘accent color’ and it will stand out in complete contrast with your base. An example would be using a red on a monochromatic green background. This way, you will attract attention to the red.

Simplify Complicated Flows on Information

In print design, monochromatic palettes help the designer achieve a cleaner look. When you need to fill in lots of information in a limited space, a monochromatic color scheme will aid you in simplifying the look and organizing the information in a clearer design. 

Create a Progression Within Your Design

Make use of the progression of colors within your palette and turn those variations into a useful function! In web and print design, brands may use monochromatic colors to indicate price increments. For example, you might use a lighter blue to indicate a lower price and the prices would get higher as your monochromatic variations get darker. This technique can be applied to any design that needs to convey a relationship and interaction within its features.

Don’t Exaggerate 

While you will find hundreds of tints, shades and tones of your base color, you would not want to go over the top. It is usually suggested you start with your base, select one shade and tint (sharply contrasting with each other) and keep things simple from there on. Don’t forget that when you try to fit in too many shades, tints and tones, the human eye won’t be able to distinguish all of them after some point.


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