A monochromatic color palette is a simple yet sophisticated way to create your next design. Here’s what you need to know.

Cover image by Jenpol Sumatchaya.

Unless you have client preferences or an established palette to guide you, you may have no idea where to start when choosing colors for your next graphic design project. Picking from seemingly endless color combinations can seem daunting, but color theory can always help you narrow down the choices. Color theory has several rules and principles that will guide your color selection, including the concept of monochromatic color schemes. Monochromatic palettes use the same base color in different shades, tints, and hues to create a cohesive color scheme.

Here’s how you can use variations of your base color to create depth and interest in a monochrome design layout.

Tints, Tones, and Shades

How Monochromatic Color Palettes Help You Create Elegant Designs – Tints, Tones and Shades

Image by HM Design.

Lightening a base color with white creates different tints of that hue. Shades of a color, on the other hand, are made by darkening it with black. Desaturating or dulling a base color with gray makes different tones of that color. Adding white, black, or grey to the base hue produces a versatile range of color derivatives for your design layout.

Begin your monochromatic color palette by selecting a single hue that suits your design. Once you’ve picked it, you’ll develop your palette by choosing tints, shades, and tones based on this hue.

Building a Monochromatic Color Palette

How Monochromatic Color Palettes Help You Create Elegant Designs – Building a Monochromatic Color Palette

Image by Iris_Images.

If you’re planning on using a monochromatic color scheme for your design project, your first consideration should be creating contrast. Choosing derivatives that only subtly vary from your base color may cause all the elements of your design to blend together. Use both lighter and darker variations that contrast sharply to make your message and visuals stand out.

Use restraint when selecting your base color variations, just as you would if you were using a multi-color scheme. Even though you’re using tints, shades, and tones of the same color, you can still muddle your design if you use too many colors. Keep your colors at a manageable number by only using as many as you need to separate the elements of your design. Palettes usually consist of three to four colors. For example, choose a background color, a text color, and a color to use for your graphics and other elements.

Why Do Monochromatic Color Schemes Work?

How Monochromatic Color Palettes Help You Create Elegant Designs – Monochromatic Color Scheme

Image by Mary1507.

Depending on what type of document you’re designing, you may have a limited space in which to fit a lot of elements – whether it’s text or visuals. Using many different colors confuses your message, while the simplicity of a single-color palette allows you to maintain a clean, organized look. Monochromatic color schemes also create consistency in your design, which ensures your content shines through to make an impact on viewers.

Create Your Own Monochromatic Design

Whether you’re designing a Facebook ad, a flyer, or some other type of visual communication, working with color can be a fun way to create an appealing document. Use Shutterstock Editor to find beautiful imagery from our collection of over 150 million images, then work with filters, shapes, text, and your own image uploads to create a design in the palette of your choice. It’s a simple app that puts the power of great design at your own fingertips.

How Monochromatic Color Palettes Help You Create Elegant Designs – Monochromatic Ad Template

With just a few simple clicks you can choose and customize stunning monochromatic visuals to promote your business. In this template advertisement (above), a monochromatic green color palette ties the text and background together while seamlessly incorporating the minimalist imagery. This ad took only a few clicks to create – you can try out this template for yourself, or pick from hundreds of other templates in various sizes and for different industries on Shutterstock Editor.