How to Use Colours Like a Designer

How to Use Colours Like a Designer

How do designers use colours in their designs? Colour plays a vital role in art and design. It can help establish and communicate your brand message, evoke emotions, and increase engagement with your brand’s marketing materials, such as business cards, brochures, and posters

A basic understanding of colour theory can make colour design easier. Here is a quick guide that will show everything you need to know about colour theory:

Colour Concepts Explained

Before you start creating your own colour schemes, you need to learn the basics concepts and terms of colour theory. 


Hues refer to any base colour in the colour wheel. They are colours in its purest form, without any black or white added.


Tints, also known as pastels, are colours created by adding only white to a pure hue. They have a softer, less intense look that people find calm and quiet. Designers often use tints to give a design a graceful, gentle, or sophisticated look.


Tones refer to colours created by adding black and white to a pure hue. Adding the black and white creates a less saturated or less intense colour that appears duller or softer. They are neutral colours that create a sophisticated or elegant look when used right.


Shades are colours created by adding black to a pure hue. The black creates a darker and more intense version of the original colour. Using shades can make any design look professional, legitimate, or mysterious.

Basic Colour Scheme Types

Most colour schemes are more straightforward than you think. These fundamental colour schemes often inspire more complex colour palettes used by graphic designers.


A monochromatic colour scheme is the easiest one to create. In essence, this colour scheme only contains different tones, shades, and tints taken from the same hue. Though it may come across as boring, at first, adding a neutral colour like black or white can add excitement or interest to the scheme.


Colours opposite each other on the colour wheel are called complementary colours. Orange and blue is one great example of a complementary colour scheme. These schemes usually only consist of two colours. However, you can expand them into different tints, tones, and shades to create a new colour palette.

The sharp contrast between the two colours creates a sharp and bright contrast that make any design pop. Overusing this colour scheme in your design, however, can get tiresome. 


An analogous colour scheme consists of three colours found side-by-side on the colour wheel. The colours yellow-orange, orange, and red-orange are a great example of this colour design. Similar to complementary colours, designers can expand them into different tints, tones, and shades to create a more exciting palette.

This type of colour design is harmonious and pleasing to the eye. However, for this type of colour scheme to work well, only one colour should be dominant. The two remaining colours will act as a support and an accent. 


A triadic colour scheme is slightly more complicated. It consists of three equally-spaced hues around the colour wheel. The colours yellow, red, and blue, is an excellent example of triadic colour design.

These colours tend to be quite bright and dynamic, generating fun and excitement in a brand’s marketing materials. They also create visual contrast and harmony simultaneously in your design. However, you can only achieve this harmony by letting one colour dominate and the other two act as a support and accent.

How to Create Your Own Colour Scheme

Creating your own custom colour palette for your designs can be intimidating and confusing, especially if you are a novice designer. Fortunately, there are tips and tricks you can do to generate your own without resorting to colour scheme websites.

1. Use the Colour Wheel

Let’s get back to basics. The colour wheel is a simple yet valuable tool you can use to generate a colour palette for your designs. Choose the right hue from the colour wheel and apply the concepts mentioned above. You can add depth and dimension to your colour schemes by creating tints, tones, and shades based on your chosen hues. 

2. Use Captured Images

Inspiration for excellent colour scheme is all around you. Take pictures of animals, objects, and scenery with colours that interest you. Nature is an especially great source for colour inspiration. Use programs like Adobe Photoshop to sample colours directly from the photo to create a stunning colour palette.

3. Create Colour Mood Boards

Save photos of artworks, historical sights, or other objects from the Internet with stunning colour palettes for use later on. You can even save your colour inspiration on mood board websites or apps like Pinterest. When the time comes, you can use these photos to create colour mood boards for future projects.

4. Use printed colour swatches

Step away from the screen and consult Pantone or paint colour books or indexes for your designs. These colour indexes can help you build a stunning colour palette by hand. These colour indexes are especially helpful when clients have specific colours in mind.

You won’t even have trouble using these colours on screen. Every Pantone colour book contains the HEX code for each colour.

Colours are the key to creating persuasive marketing materials. Now you know how colours work, you can now design colour schemes like a professional designer! We hope to have helped! Let us know in the comments below