A Basic Introduction to Color Palettes | Part Two

Chad Faith
Chad Faith

Director of Content

A Basic Introduction to Color Palettes | Part Two

So now you know a bit about how different colors work, it’s time to start thinking about what colors you want to use in your own design. This means picking a particular color palette and there are various different kinds you can use.

Types of Color Palettes

One example is a monochromatic color palette , which means picking a single color and simply changing different hues of that color. For instance you might have an entirely purple website using a range of light and dark colors. This creates a very minimal look and feel but it can also feel a little bland and it’s difficult to get things to jump out at you. See more examples of monochromatic websites here.


Next you have complementary color palettes. These are color palettes that use two colors: your primary color of choice (in various shades) and then a few shades of the complementary color (ideally using shades that are precisely opposite one another on the color wheel too). That might mean using purple and yellow then. Using complementary color palettes allows you to achieve maximum contrast and thus really grab attention by using colors that are the opposites of one another.


Triad color palettes are color palettes that use three different colors. This time though you take one color, then find its compliment and split the difference choosing a color on either side. So instead of purple and yellow, we now have purple with green and orange – which are on either side of yellow. This works because the colors have a relationship to the complementing of purple which is the ‘average’ of those two colors.


Finally, analogic color palettes use colors that are just one or two steps from the primary color. Now we have purple, violet and blue. You can also combine these color palettes in order to make your own.

analogic color palette website

Bear in mind that these don’t always work – you still need to use your discretion. A website in red, orange and pink would technically be an analogic color palette, but it would be awful. A red and green website meanwhile would be a complementary color palette, but again it’s not right for a website because the colors are too bright.

Choosing Your Color Palettes

There are many ways you can create your own color palettes. Two great tools are Colorschemedesigner.com and Colourlovers.com which both aim to help you pick color schemes that work (the first is a tool for creating them, the second is a place to get inspiration).

Looking around at other websites can be a good way to find color schemes and combinations that you like, as can looking at other types of designs from comic books, to magazines to room interiors. If you want to keep up with the trend, you could also try looking for the Pantone ‘color of the year’ (which is radiant orchid this year).

In his video guide to color theory, Shawn Barry recommends choosing a theme by finding a subject or image that you like and then working with the colors from there (perhaps using the color picker tool). Nature is a great source of inspiration for this kind of design.