6 Types of Color Harmonies

As a designer, I know the struggles of creating a brand palette. And I know how much work is involved to find colors that work well together. You can use the color wheel to find colors that suit your brand and direct attention.

color wheel - color harmonies

The color wheel, or color circle, is a diagram of colors around a circle that shows the relationships between primary and other colors. The primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) are placed at equal distances on the wheel. Secondary colors (purple, green, and orange) are blends of the primary colors and appear halfway between the primary colors. Tertiary and other blends of colors are added between the primary and secondary colors.

In other words, the color wheel is a helpful guide to finding colors that work well with different colors, also known as color harmonies.

Monochromatic Colors

Monochromatic colors use different shades and tints of the same color as if you were mixing different amounts of black and white with a single color. Monochromatic colors are lighter or darker than each other.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel, for instance, red and green. They create a vibrant look when used at full saturation, but they can be jarring. So it’s best to only use them sparingly for an accent or pop.

Split Complementary Colors

Split complementary colors start with one color and use the two colors next to the opposite (aka complementary) color. This color scheme is similar to the complementary color scheme but has less tension. Split complementary colors are more versatile and less aggressive, making them a good choice for brands that want something energetic but subtle.

Analogous Colors

Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel. They create a comforting and balanced look that is often found in nature. Analogous colors are harmonious and pleasing to the eye.

Triadic Colors

Triadic colors are three colors evenly spaced around the color wheel, such as red, yellow, and green. They tend to be vibrant but not as jarring as complementary color schemes can be. Using tints and shades of triadic colors can bring calmness, while full brightness can be highly energetic and youthful.

Tetradic (aka Square) Colors

Tetradic colors are two sets of complementary colors that create a set of four colors. Square colors are the same but evenly spaced around the color wheel. Striking the right balance with these colors can be challenging because there are four colors involved. But these rich color schemes give plenty of variation and can be very eye-catching.

I use Adobe Color (color.adobe.com) to explore the color harmonies related to the colors in a logo. But it’s not the only color tool I use. Later on, I’ll show you the two color tools I use the most for creating brand color palettes.

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Curtis Floth