Color harmony: Essential tips on selecting colors in design

Written by:
Carolina Marquez

Jan 06, 2015



Color is often a critical factor in design.  There are virtually millions of  colors and shades to choose from.  This makes choosing a project's pallet complicated.   Here are a few tips to help you through in selecting colors that can complement each other. 

Although color preference can be very subjective, and it preferences can change over time,  there are a few basic guidelines that can help you to select and and marry colors.

Let's look at ideas for combining colors correctly.

There are several options to selecting color combinations.  It's one or the other: there's rarely a combination of several of them on one piece of design, so we can consider them mutually exclusive. A particular approach to color is associated with other connotations and design values: freshness, reliability, quality, spontaneity, youth, and delicacy...

There are different ways to approach color in a project: a monochrome treatment, or gray-tinted base, nuanced colors or muted colors, pastel tones, live colors, etc... and within each of these possibilities we can use different color combinations.

The reality is some colors will complement each other and some just don't work if they are selected randomly with no thought behind them.

The research and experience of artists throughout has allowed us to recognize the different color sets that complement each other.

One way to explore these groups is to use the color wheel or color circle. The color wheel is a sequentially ordered progression of colors that make up the light spectrum, from red to violet as shown below:


The color wheel is pretty familiar to anyone who’s ever worked with design software. From these colors and their variants (adding white or black for pastel and muted colors, to get a particular tone), we can make our selections of colors for a project. The reasons why certain colors bind to each other are complex.

There are different ways to select colors so that they form a harmonious group: colors, matched in a nice way enhance the view!

The color selection of a project usually has a few dominant tones that harmonize with each other. A lot of different colors are certainly something pleasing to the eye, buy they make reading very hard because it makes fusing really complicated.

There are different types of color harmonies often used by designers and artists. Here are some of them. The examples that we propose are based on the primary color wheel, but there are variants with different brightness applied.

Monochromatic Harmony

Fairly simple to use,  soft and elegant. It is based on one color and different shades. That is, in a color wheel, we would be at a single point and would choose variants of the same value and saturation, with varying brightness. Interestingly, with minimal manipulation, you can obtain multiple variants of ready-harmonic schemes.


Analogous Colors


Analogous colors  are on immediate positions on the color wheel. Because of its resemblance, they work well together. This is a fairly common occurrence in nature.


Complementary Colors


Complementary colors are on opposite sides of the color wheel. These colors are mutually reinforcing, so that the same color appears more vibrant and intense when it is associated with its complementary color. These contrasts are, therefore, suitable for attention and for projects where you want a high impact through use of color.


Complementary Divided


Instead of using a pair of complementary colors, you can use the colors that are  located immediately adjacent.

The contrast here is not very deep. We can use three complementary colors or just , depending on our needs.

Complementary Colors


It uses a pair of complementary color associations.


And with three color harmony you have three equidistant choosing colors on the color wheel. More sophisticated versions groups include four or five colors, also equally spaced from each other.

What do you think? Do you have any other mix and match color tips to share with the Visme community? We'll love to hear them out!

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    About the Author

    Caro is a internet marketer, blogger and a design enthusiast. She joined the team on 2014, and she's been working with the tool ever since! She likes to share tips and tricks to make design and marketing easy and reachable for anyone!

    6 responses to “Color harmony: Essential tips on selecting colors in design”

    1. Leah says:

      Hi, just a note that it should be “complement” rather than “compliment.”

    2. […] can check all the color matching theory in this article, where using the color wheel you can apply triad, compound and the analogous color […]

    3. Kevin Knight says:

      Hi Caro,
      This is a wonderful article. Simple and to the point.
      I’ll definitely keep for reference.

    4. […] psykologiaa. Color wheel | Color schemes – Adobe Kuler. Color Scheme Designer 3. Color harmonies: Essential tips for selecting colors | Visme Blog. Color is often a critical factor in […]

    5. Leah Retana says:

      Good job,Im interesting by that.Chokrane

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