Using the Color Wheel to Select a Color Palette

Using the Color Wheel to Select a Color Palette

One of the first steps in designing custom marketing signage for your business is to define a color palette that that signage will adhere to. And while selecting a color palette may seem intimidating at first, the truth is that it can really be more of a science than you think—thanks to a tool that designers use called the color wheel. A 12-spoke arrangement of hues around a circle, the color wheel can take a lot of the guesswork out of working with color theory and instead put you on the path to working with hard and fast design principles. Here is a quick look at 6 color schemes that you can define using the color wheel—all of which translating to perfect color palette options for your next marketing signage project.


Monochromatic color schemes are the most simple and are great for when you have a particular color in mind for creating a certain tone in your signage. To create a monochromatic color scheme, simply select one hue from the color wheel and pair it with various tones, shades, and tints of that hue.


Analogous color schemes follow in simplicity, as they involve selecting neighboring hues on the color wheel. A designer, for example, might select blue as the focal color and then add blue-green and green to the mix, which both immediately follow blue as you continue along the color wheel. Then, a designer might alter the palette by involving hues and shades of the accent colors, which will give the palette more variety and make it easier for use in the final design. Analogous palettes are especially great for creating cooler or warmer moods in your designs.


Complementary color schemes are simple to create: simply select two hues that are opposite one another in the color wheel, such as purple and yellow, or red and green. These color schemes can make a design especially attention grabbing. As with analogous, the key to a color palette that works is to include a variety of tints and shades to give the palette variety that you can work with, with some lighter hues for, say, a background, and some darker hues for, say, text.

Split Complementary

Split complementary color schemes are much like traditional complementary schemes, the major difference being that instead of selecting the hue directly opposite of a hue, you will opt for the two neighboring hues of that opposite hue (a lot like drawing the middle part of a “peace sign” in your color wheel, giving you three colors to work with in your color scheme.) For example, instead of pairing yellow with purple, you could pair yellow with red-purple and blue-purple.


Triadic color schemes involve selecting three hues that are equidistant along the color wheel. One of the most popular triadic color schemes, for example, is red, yellow, and blue. As always, it’s good practice to involve tints and shades of the hues you select so that you end up with a palette that is easy on the eyes.


Tetradic color schemes are perhaps the most difficult to pull off and involve mapping out a rectangle on your color wheel to build a color scheme. You’ll actually end up with two complementary pairs when you do this. For example, one rectangle would give you red, orange, green, and blue, which uses the complementary pairs red and green and orange and blue. The best way to pull this color scheme off is to select one hue as your primary color and to make the others highly shaded or tinted accents.

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