Colour Harmony

When it comes to creating colour schemes there are a number of basic concepts that can be used, which are based on the colour wheel.


Complementary colour schemes take two colours from opposite sides of the colour wheel, which creates the most contrasting colour scheme of all the concepts described here. Care must be taken with this type of scheme so that it isn't jarring. Another word of caution is that they do not work well with text, however, they are very good at making things stand out.

Split ComplementarySplit Complementary

Split complementary produces a three-colour scheme, based on the above, except that it takes two colours that are either side of the complementary colour. This provides high contrast without the tension of a complementary scheme. The resulting scheme is also more sophisticated in appearance.

Double ComplementaryDouble Complementary

Double complementary schemes, also known as tetradic or rectangle colour schemes, use two pairs of complementary colours. Since complements appear to increase the intensity of each other, not all sets of colours will be pleasing on the eye. It is also a good idea to have one dominant colour, rather than use all four in equal volumes, to make the scheme less jarring, as well as being aware of the balance between warm and cold colours.


Square colour schemes are a variation on double complementary, where all four colours are separated equally around the colour wheel. As with double complementary, this type of scheme works best if one colour is used as the dominant colour and attention must again be paid to the balance between warm and cold colours.


Triadic schemes use three colours that are equally spaced around the colour wheel in a triangular formation. A triad that is made up of the primary colours, red, yellow and blue, is not very easy on the eye, however, those made up of secondary and tertiary colours are much softer, whilst still providing the contrast between the colours.


A monochromatic colour scheme is one that uses a single colour from the colour wheel, often with a number of different shades and tints of that colour. This type of scheme is easy on the eye, however, it can be difficult to highlight items due to the lack of contrast.


Analogous schemes use two or more colours that are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel. Usually one of the colours is used as a dominant colour, with the others being used to make items more prominent.