Creating A Colour Palette

A while ago I wrote a post about colour harmony and the traditional colour schemes in media. Now I have the expertise to share how you can create your own custom palette by building on the basic colour harmony knowledge!

Colour definition

Within the realm of colour there are different ways of explaining in detail what you mean. Knowing the difference between a tone, tint and shade may not be on your agenda of making a pretty palette, however it is imperative for me to explain the balance of a palette as well as differentiating between particular “colours”.

Chroma – how pure a colour is
Hue – the colour something is
Saturation – the strength/weakness of a colour
Shade – Created by adding black to a pure hue
Tint – Created by adding white to a pure hue
Tone – Created by adding “grey” to a pure hue
Value – How light or dark a colour is

Now thats out of the way… let us recap the traditional colour schemes I am sure you are familiar with.

Colour Palettes can be used in so many industries

Traditional Colour Schemes

From easiest to hardest…


Monochromatic colour schemes are composed of different tones, shades and tints within a specific hue. This makes it the easiest and quickest scheme to create, however, this doesn’t mean that ugly monochromatic schemes can be avoided!


Analogue colour schemes are composed by using three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Usually, these schemes contain colours of the same chroma value, but in using different hues and tints, the schemes can become more dynamic or interesting, depending on what the palette is being used for.

For example, the two schemes below have different suitability, the left being more vibrant and varied in hues and tints, being more suitable for a print graphic, and the right being more suited to a website.


Triadic schemes are made up of hues that are evenly spaced around the colour wheel. The easiest way to create a triad colour palette is to start off with the three primary colours and adjust the colours from there.


If you know colour theory, complementary should be pretty straightforward. The complementary colours are usually the secondary colour opposite a primary colour in the colour wheel (or vice versa). These can be very jarring to look at when not done well, so take your time to perfect these ones.

Split Complementary

The more complicated version of complementary, split complementary takes the colours either side of the complementary colour on the colour wheel. This allows some crazy colour combinations!

Note: It’s important to have a difference in chroma and value within the palette colours, to give the best results. The examples base colour is the central colour


Custom colour schemes have no rules like all the previously mentioned schemes. These are the hardest to create as you have to be able to create a balance between all the values of colour, the chroma, saturation, tint, hue, shade, etc.

So how do we go about creating one?

Colour swatches are a good way to familiarise various tones and hues.

Creating a Custom Scheme

There are many online resources to help create colour schemes, but today we are looking at creating a custom scheme in your program of choice. For this, having the knowledge of traditional schemes is handy to know how colours interact with one another as well as having the basic theory of colour harmony.

Design nowadays does not strictly rely on the traditional colour schemes so being able to think outside those restraints and come up with new and interesting colour palettes puts your work above the rest.

Start simple with a monochromatic theme. From here you can add accent colours and vary the grey tones to be warmer or cooler.

I use Adobe Color to help create these schemes!


Now I have a custom palette that is almost a triadic scheme thanks to the cooler tones of the grey.

And another example, this time starting with a blue monochromatic palette:

Now I have a palette that is almost split complementary.

Now What?

You have your palette, congratulations! Now you have to use it. Traditionally palettes are read from left to right, the 1st colour being the title, next to the second title and the third being a tertiary level colour. The last two colours are accents to by brought out in graphics, lines or links.

If it doesn’t quite work first time, then you can always tweak the tint, hue, shade and tone to get the fabulous palette you set out for.

Useful colour scheme tool:

Let me know how your creations go by commenting below!



Published by Briony-Molly

Reader, artist and Politics lover.

One thought on “Creating A Colour Palette

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