Color scheme

Color scheme
Celebration with fireworks over Miami, Florida, USA on American Independence Day. Bank of America Tower is also lit with the red, white and blue color scheme.

In color theory, a color scheme is the choice of colors used in design for a range of media. For example, the use of a white background with black text is an example of a basic and commonly default color scheme in web design.

Color schemes are used to create style and appeal. Colors that create an aesthetic feeling when used together will commonly accompany each other in color schemes. A basic color scheme will use two colors that look appealing together. More advanced color schemes involve several colors in combination, usually based around a single color; for example, text with such colors as red, yellow, orange and light blue arranged together on a black background in a magazine article.

Color schemes can also contain different shades of a single color; for example, a color scheme that mixes different shades of green, ranging from very light (almost white) to very dark.

Use of the phrase color scheme may also and commonly does refer to choice and use of colors used outside typical aesthetic media and context, although may still be used for purely aesthetic effect as well as for purely practical reasons. This most typically refers to color patterns and designs as seen on vehicles, particularly those used in the military when concerning color patterns and designs used for identification of friend or foe, identification of specific military units, or as camouflage.

A color scheme in marketing is referred to as a trade dress and can be sometimes be copyrighted, as is the pink color of Owens-Corning fiberglass.[1]


On the color wheel

Color schemes are often described in terms of logical combinations of colors on a color wheel. Different types of schemes are used.[2][3][4]

Monochromatic color scheme

A monochromatic color scheme consists of different values (tints and shades) of one single color. These color schemes are easy to get right and can be very effective, soothing and authoritative.[5] They do, however, lack the diversity of hues found in other color schemes and are less vibrant.

Analogous color scheme

Analogous color scheme

Analogous colors are colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. Some examples are green, yellow green, and yellow or red, red violet and violet. Analogous color schemes are often found in nature and are pleasing to the eye. The combination of these colors give a bright effect in the area, and are able to accommodate many changing moods. When using the analogous color scheme, one should make sure there is one hue as the main color.

Complementary color scheme

Complementary colors are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, such as blue and orange, red and green, purple and yellow. Complementary color schemes have a more energetic feel

The high contrast between the colors creates a vibrant look, especially when used at full saturation. Complementary colors can be tricky to use in large doses.

Split-analogous color scheme

A color scheme that includes a main color and the two colors one space away from it on each side of the color wheel. An example is red, blue, and violet.

Split-complementary color scheme

A color scheme that includes a main color and the two colors on each side of its complementary (opposite) color on the color wheel. These are the colors that are one hue and two equally spaced from its complement. To avoid fatigue and maintain high contrast, this color scheme should be used when giving powerpoint presentations, or when using a computer for an extended period of time. Additionally, certain colors should not be mixed, like red and green. Colors that should be used are red/violet and yellow/green.

Triad color scheme

A color scheme in which 3 colors of equidistant distribution on the color wheel are used, e.g., red, blue, and yellow.

Tetrads color scheme

Tetrads (or quadrads[4]) are any four colors with a logical relationship on the color wheel, such as double complements.

Neutral color scheme

A color scheme that includes only colors not found on the color wheel, called neutrals, such as beige, brown, gray, black and white.

Accented neutral color scheme

A color scheme that includes neutral colors, like white, beige, brown, grey, light brown or black, and one or more small doses of other colors. eg.brown and beige with blue, gray and black with red

Warm and cool color schemes

Warm color schemes do not include blue at all, and likewise, cool color schemes do not include red at all. For example, a color scheme that includes "warmer" colors may have orange, yellow, and red-orange in it. "Cooler" colors are green, violet, light blue, etc.

Examples of media where color schemes are used

  • Graphic design
  • Product packaging
  • Logo design
  • Advertising
  • Graphical user interfaces
    • Window managers such as GNOME, KDE and Blackbox.
    • Irix 4dwm's GUI uses more color schemes, whose information is stored in files named BaseColorPalette.
  • The World Wide Web
    • Cascading Style Sheets allow easily-editable color schemes to be applied to HTML webpages.
  • Publishing
    • Modern magazines use a range of colors in text and imagery which tend not to conform to a specific set of colors throughout the magazine.
  • Interior design
  • Video Games
  • Art

See also


  1. ^ Gordon V. Smith and Russell L. Parr (2005). Intellectual Property: Valuation, Exploitation, and Infringement Damages. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 0471724335. 
  2. ^ Stephen Quiller (2002). Color Choices. Watson–Guptill. ISBN 0823006972. 
  3. ^ Jackie Shaw (1994). The Big Book of Decorative Painting: How to paint if you don't know how – and how to improve if you do. Watson–Guptill. ISBN 0823002659.,M1. 
  4. ^ a b Edith Anderson Feisner (2006). Colour: How to Use Colour in Art and Design. Laurence King Publishing. ISBN 1856694410.,M1. 
  5. ^ Christopher Simmons (2006). Color Harmony: Logos: More Than 1,000 Color Ways for Logos that Work. Rockport Publishers. ISBN 1592532446. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • color scheme — color ,scheme noun count the combination of colors that someone uses together, for example to decorate a room …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • color scheme — noun a planned combination of colors (Freq. 1) the color scheme for this room was determined by an interior decorator • Syn: ↑colour scheme • Hypernyms: ↑combination * * * (US) (or Brit colour scheme …   Useful english dictionary

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  • color scheme — {n.} A plan for colors used together as decoration. * /The color scheme for the dance was blue and silver./ * /Mary decided on a pink and white color scheme for her room./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • color\ scheme — noun A plan for colors used together as decoration. The color scheme for the dance was blue and silver. Mary decided on a pink and white color scheme for her room …   Словарь американских идиом

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  • color scheme — combination of colors used in decorating the interior of a house or building …   English contemporary dictionary

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