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What is a Color Scheme?

Esquema de Color es diferente de paleta de colores.

A color scheme is a set of colors that are harmoniously combined and used together in a design, art, decoration, website, or any other visual project. Choosing a good color scheme is essential to ensure that the design is aesthetically pleasing and functional in terms of readability and perception.

Color schemes can be based on color theories, which consider the relationship between colors in the color wheel and how they are perceived when combined. Some common schemes are:

  • Monochromatic: Based on a single color, but can vary in hue, saturation and lightness.
  • Analogous: Uses colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.
  • Complementary: Uses opposite colors on the color wheel.
  • Triadic: Uses three equidistant colors on the color wheel.
  • Compound or Semi-Complementary: Uses one color and the two colors adjacent to its complementary.
  • Tetradic or Double Complementary: Uses two pairs of complementary colors.

Choosing the right color scheme can affect audience perception, mood and reaction. For example, warm colors such as reds, oranges and yellows can evoke emotions such as warmth, passion or energy, while cool colors such as blues and greens can be perceived as calming and relaxing.

With digital tools and specialized applications, it is easier than ever to experiment with color schemes and find combinations that suit the specific needs and objectives of our project.

Define the Purpose and Audience

Before choosing colors, it is critical to understand the purpose of the design and who the audience will be. For example, a website for a hospital might benefit from soft, soothing colors, while a site for a toy company might require brighter, more energetic colors.

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Get inspiration

Check out other designs in your field, look at nature, art, culture and other media for inspiration. Tools like Pinterest or Dribbble can be helpful in finding color inspiration.

Understand the Psychology of Color

Colors evoke emotions and reactions. For example, red can represent passion or urgency, while blue can evoke calmness and confidence. Make sure the colors you select reflect the message and emotion you want to convey.

Use Color Selection Tools

Tools like Adobe Color, Coolors, or Paletton allow you to experiment with color schemes and see how they look together. This can inspire you to create your own color scheme from the ones you can find in these tools.

Start with a Base Color

Select a primary color that represents your brand or the main message of the design. Then use that color to derive secondary and complementary colors.

Consider Legibility and Accessibility

It is crucial that the colors chosen do not hinder the legibility of the text. For example, black text on a dark background will be difficult to read. Also consider accessibility for the visually impaired. Tools like Color Contrast Checker can help you make sure your design is accessible.

Limit the Number of Colors

The more colors you use, the more complicated it can be to achieve a cohesive design. A good starting point might be one primary color, one or two secondary colors and one or two accent colors.

Test and Adjust

After choosing a color scheme, test it on various designs and adjust as needed. Ask for feedback and don’t be afraid to make changes if you feel something isn’t working as it should.


Once you’ve chosen a color scheme, use it consistently throughout your project or brand to establish a cohesive visual identity.

Save your scheme

Create a document or guide that details specific colors (with their HEX, RGB, etc. codes) to ensure they are applied consistently throughout.

Remember that, while theories and tools can be helpful, color choice also has a subjective component. Trust your instinct and use feedback to refine your choice.

Although the terms “color palette” and“color scheme” are often used interchangeably, there are some subtle differences between them:

  • Color Scheme: Refers to the harmonious choice and combination of colors based on color principles and theories. It can be a strategic choice of complementary, analogous, triadic and other colors. Essentially, a color scheme is an approach or method for choosing and combining colors.
  • Color Palette: A color palette, on the other hand, is the specific set of colors selected to be used in a particular design, regardless of the underlying theory or scheme. It is a collection of chosen colors, whether they follow a specific scheme or not. You can imagine a color palette as the specific color selections an artist has on his or her paint palette as he or she works.

So, although they are closely related and often used together, they are not exactly the same thing. A color scheme is more of a strategy or approach to selecting colors, while a color palette is the specific set of colors selected for a project.


With a degree in Psychology and a passion for flamenco guitar and board games, my professional journey has deeply explored the intricate link between human behavior and marketing. Over the years, I've honed my ability to analyze and interpret market trends and consumer responses. At The Color Blog, I blend my psychological insights with my love for writing, providing unique perspectives on marketing, history, and the human interactions that shape our digital age.View Author posts

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