Monochromatic colors in graphic design

For creatives and aspiring graphic designers, a sense of inspiration often comes from exploring color. As with any artistic discipline, the colors you use can create a recognizable style for your design work. Monochromatic palettes are one popular option that more experienced designers turn to when looking for an eye-catching aesthetic in their designs.

But what actually makes them such an attractive choice, and what rules should be adhered to? In this article, we’re going to explore why monochromatic colors can be so effective when used in graphic design and look at some tips that will help you achieve beautiful results when creating your own unique designs.

What are monochromatic colors?

What are monochromatic colors

So, what is monochrome? To the uneducated, the name monochrome sounds like something straight out of a science fiction novel, yet the true monochromatic definition represents something far less complex. Monochromatic color schemes feature a single hue with different shades, tints, and tones.

Black and white photography is a classic example, as it’s been around since the invention of the camera. However, the absence of color surprisingly had and still has a profound effect on the way we perceive visual experiences.

Its raw, singular hue takes away a lot of the sting from our everyday reality, creating a more intriguing point of view that can often leave a lasting impression. Experience it yourself by taking a look at this inspiring collection of monochrome landscapes.

Over time, printers started using color to overlay monochrome photos with different hues, giving readers a fresh splash of color. This one-color solution solved the limitations of black and white that, for decades, had been dominating the visual landscape.

Adding tints of blue, red, and green demonstrated the power of color among readers. Imagine seeing a colorful advert in the newspaper for the first time. This mesmerizing step into color opened up another dimension of communication between business and consumer, enhancing targeted advertising, a term we are very familiar with today.

This coloring method can also be found in illustrations, and quite rightly so, since raw drawings tend to lack color in the first place. This only strengthens the relationship illustrations can have with monochrome designs, making quite the pair.

In a nutshell, monochromatic colors are simple and very effective. Their stripped away aesthetic language lets the rawness of the image do the talking yet allows for other elements in the design to speak out against less resistance. All this and the added bonus of color psychology has seen this color method spiral into popularity.

Components of monochromatic color schemes

Components of monochromatic color schemes

There is something undeniably alluring about monochrome color schemes. From the striking black-and-white photos of yesteryear to the more modern monochromatic painted canvases, this style of art has cemented its place in the cultural zeitgeist. So, what is a monochromatic color scheme?

Simply put, it involves using different shades and tones of the same color to create depth and interest. This could mean using lighter and darker hues of blue, for example, in a piece of monochromatic art.

The monochromatic color wheel is a helpful tool for artists and photographers looking to explore this style, as it allows for a better understanding of how different shades work together. Ultimately, the beauty of monochromatic photography and art lies in its ability to create a mood or emotion through the careful manipulation of color.

When picking colors to create a monochrome style, it is good practice to select dominant colors from the original image. This is particularly useful when attempting to amplify the images atmospheric effects, while tying in with its original color structure. Take a look at this video tutorial to take full advantage of this technique.

Tips for using monochromatic color schemes

Monochromatic colors can be used in many different ways and styles. Monochromatic design is an excellent choice for creating a unified look and feel across all elements of a composition.

To make the most out of monochromatic designs, it’s important to pay attention to the various shades and hues available, as well as how they interact with the other elements of the composition. Here are some tips for using monochromatic colors for your projects:

  • Pay attention to texture and contrast: Monochromatic color schemes can create a very flat look if not used correctly. To add depth, be sure to use different textures and contrasts among the various shades. This will give your design more dimension and help it stand out.
  • Incorporate a focal point: Monochromatic designs can be enhanced by adding in a focal point of brighter or darker shades of the same color. This will draw the eye and create an interesting dynamic for viewers to explore.
  • Use subtle gradients: If you want to add more visual interest, consider using subtle gradients. This can help create an interesting transition between various shades of the same color.
  • Consider using monochromatic portraits: Monochromatic portrait photography has become increasingly popular in recent years. By combining different shades and hues of one color, you can create a striking image that will draw the eye of viewers.
  • Balance other elements with monochromatic colors: Be sure to also consider how other elements of the design, such as typography and shapes, can be balanced with the use of monochromatic colors. This will help keep everything cohesive and unified.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to create beautiful and striking monochromatic designs that capture viewers’ attention. With an eye for detail and a willingness to experiment, you can create stunning visuals that will be sure to impress.

Monochromatic color examples

Check out these fantastic examples of monochrome designs and color schemes to further inspire your designs. We provide you with the hexadecimal codes for various tones and saturations in the images.

Blue monochromatic color

When applied to this floral arrangement, you can see the stark contrast between the petals has given this image a new lease of life, creating contrast that pulls you into the image.


Purple monochromatic color

The soft purple tones of this flower arrangement has done its job in consolidating the image, exaggerating its comforting feel, perhaps altering the mood of the viewer, placing them in a more relaxed state.

Red monochromatic color

On this occasion, the designer has gone for a more moody approach, overlaying deep red to their image, altering the impact of the visual entirely. Deep red hues such as these tend to evoke feelings of passion, lust, and danger!

Yellow monochromatic color


Yellow is the color of kinetic energy and charisma, a great monochrome style that lends its personality to all things that need a little kick. Use this style to elevate the look of e-commerce websites and product photography to captivate audiences.

Green monochromatic color


Flooded with the freshness of green, this image brings the outside in thanks to its earthly tones. Applying a green monochrome effect to your designs will also convey a green, eco-friendly look, showing your commitment to saving the planet!

Neon monochromatic color


Why not go neon! These high-impact color schemes are a fantastic way to add vibrancy to your design projects, and you can further enhance their effect by implementing them into a monochrome style. Check out this fascinating read exploring the benefits of neon colors for more insight.

Green monochromatic color


Last, but not least, take a look at the slender tones found in this wonderful pastel monochrome style. If you’re after a tranquil effect for your images, this is certainly the way to go. Designers find this visual style highly appealing, especially for niche product photography that prides itself on minimalist visual language. Check out this article on pastel colors for a more in-depth discussion.

The benefits of monochromatic color schemes

There are some alarming benefits when using this method of design. From saving coin, to conveying a clearer message in an advertisement campaign, they help in almost every aspect of design. Let’s take a look at some noteworthy insights into all things monochrome.

Better contrast

The absence of conflicting color combination means monochromatic visuals are perfect for increasing contrast between elements in a design. The use of a single hue in different shades and tones allows for a strong and unified design.

This contrast can intensify the message or story that the design is meant to convey. Using monochromatic color schemes makes text elements of typography stand out and easier to read since color changes are minimalistic.

Emotional impact

Monochromatic color schemes are great for evoking strong emotion or setting a certain mood. In essence, colors speak to us, and it’s important to understand the meaning of colors when creating functional design.

For example, if you want to convey a sense of calmness, using shades of blues and purples is a great way to do so. On the other hand, more vibrant colors such as oranges and yellows can be used to create a dynamic, energetic atmosphere. Be sure to experiment with color psychology, using different color combinations to find the perfect fit for your project.

Versatility and accessibility

Monochromatic color schemes can be versatile in their application, effortlessly resonating with any brand or style, given the proper hue and tone. This kind of color scheme is an excellent choice for digital and print communications since it works well in different contexts.

On top of that, it is also accessible for people with color blindness, including almost 8% of men and 0.5% of women, for whom it can be challenging to distinguish between multiple colors.

Furthermore, monochrome is cheap! Almost all newspapers still prefer printing in monochrome black and white because printing in full color is expensive, especially when printing millions of copies.


Monochromatic designs are also simple and not distracting at all. This can be crucial in messaging and branding. The simplicity of a monochromatic design allows for a more refined and well-thought-out design, making logos, icons, and brand representations much more memorable since they are easier to recall and associate with the brand.

Monochromatic color schemes have a powerful impact on graphic design. Their simplicity, versatility, emotional power, and better contrast allow designers to create stunning and meaningful designs that can resonate with viewers and enhance the brand’s identity.

It is a fantastic choice for marketers, branding professionals, and designers who want to transmit strong messages while maintaining a visually pleasing and straightforward representation of their message. Overall, if you’re looking to bring your designs to the next level, consider experimenting with monochromatic color schemes and harnessing their true potential.