Monochrome color palettes are popping up more and more in design. While they’re easy to create and very versatile, they’re often hard to work with. In this post, we’ll talk about how to create a monochrome palette which fits your needs and how to actually use it right.
What does monochrome mean?
“Mono” means nothing else than single or one. A monochrome color palette is therefore based on one color. Since these palettes are becoming more and more popular in design we can see its advantages for branding and design in general. Monochrome is often brought in relation with black and white palettes or grayscale. But it can also mean using different shades, tints or tones of one color.
How to create a monochrome color palette?
Since we’re working with one color, these palettes are easy to create actually. You start out with your base color. This color can be drawn from a mood board you created upfront. But you can also use simple color psychology and look up color meanings to choose what aligns with your brand.
Related post: How to create a mood board for your brand
Once you have the base color, you have to decide on the tone/ mood of your palette. Palettes can be very subtle including pastel tones or bold with lots of contrast. This will influence which color variations you’ll add to your base color. People often think monochrome palettes are rather inflexible, but you actually have a wide range of tones to choose from. Going from light and soft variations to dark and saturated ones.
After setting the tone it’s time to pick your variations. As already mentioned you can pick from shades, tints, and tones of your color.
Shades | your color + black
Tints | your color + white
Tones | your color + gray, in other words, your color either more or less saturated
There are tools like Adobe Color CC which can help you with your decision. They will generate different variations for you. A monochrome palette doesn’t have to include many variations. You can get along with 3 colors (primary, secondary, and accent color). Think about the way you want to use your colors in your design before you pick.
Related post: How many colors do I need for my brand
Why you should use monochrome color palettes?
- To build brand recognition. Palettes based on one color are easy to remember.
- Subtility. Monochrome palettes rarely dominate a design. They create space for your content and imagery to stand out and shine.
- Ease. These palettes can be flexible and you avoid the difficulty of matching two or more colors.
- Cohesiveness. Sticking to one color makes various elements look like they belong together. They’ll build a cohesive, harmonious overall image.
- Minimal. Monochrome palettes are clean and simple. They always work well for minimal design.
How to use monochrome color palettes?
While it’s not complicated to create a monochrome palette it can be challenging to work with one. Monochrome design can quickly look either boring and flat or completely confusing and too much. You’re always in between these two sides and you have to find the right balance to make it work. But don’t think that working with one color will be limiting your creativity because it’s rather the opposite. There are several things you need to pay attention to when you’re working with a single color.
Contrast is one of the main attributes in design. To have enough contrast with one color as a base is hard. Think about this before you pick your colors. And rather choose variations which aren’t too similar by putting together light and dark, saturated and desaturated.
If you’re in a jam, no need to panic. There’s always black and white. Using white backgrounds will always help you to create contrast. With text, you need to pay attention to readability. Black text is usually put on lighter backgrounds and you use white text if you have a dark background.
Remember you can only create contrast if you use it sparingly. I recommend picking a bold accent color for the elements which need to stand out like headlines or buttons. This will ensure people can navigate through your design with ease. The similarity of the different tones you use shouldn’t overwhelm.
Photography is a hard topic when it comes to monochrome design. It’s often difficult to integrate photos into your design because the colors don’t match. That’s why it’s better to stick with simple, minimal images which use your color as an accent color. If a photo doesn’t work at all, try adding a colored overlay.
Rules need to be broken
It’s great if you decide to work with monochrome color palettes and you’ll find many benefits, However, rules need to be broken from time to time. Sometimes it’s worth to stray away from the common and try something different. So don’t hesitate to add a second color to your palette to set accents. And only accents because otherwise, you lose the effect of monochrome design.
Black and white is always fashionable
One last tip before I let you off. If you ask me, and sure I might be biased because B&W are my favorite colors, but this combination is the easiest way to achieve a cohesive look in your designs. Black and white, or gray color palettes are the most flexible you can create. They easily work with all kinds of imagery and styles. They’re not overly intrusive or distracting from your message. And you can add another color to set accents without any problem because they match with everything.