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­When designing a logo, dozens of questions come to mind. Should I use a symbol, a wordmark, or both? If using a wordmark, what’s the best font choice?

Then there’s color. Color carries mood, conveys the tone of your business, and can become fundamentally ingrained with your brand. Dark colors can portray reliability, whereas bright ones can indicate fun or cheerfulness.

It gets even more complicated when you’re selecting more than one color. Two or three colors are common for logos, but how to pick a palette that coordinates in the manner you’d like?

That’s where color scheme formulas and the color wheel can help.

This is a basic color wheel, displaying the visible color spectrum arranged in a circular manner, starting with red and moving through the rainbow.

Color schemes can be chosen by selecting colors based on their relative positions in the circle. Today, we’ll go over five of the most common schemes that involve no more than three colors. Starting with the simplest, which is:

1. Monochromatic

The most straightforward of the color schemes, this one can still be very effective. This scheme collects colors of the same hue on the wheel, like varying brightnesses of the same purple as seen in the example here. It’s fairly foolproof, as the colors will naturally blend well together, and can be particularly impactful if you really want to focus on one major brand color.

2. Analogous

If you want a little more variety than a monochromatic scheme, an analogous scheme might work well for you. This pulls hues that are directly next to one another on the color wheel, generating a more unified look. Analogous schemes can be effective at evoking specific moods. Oranges and reds are reminiscent of fire, strong emotion, or warmth. Greens and yellows bring to mind spring flowers and new growth, or bright citrus. Blues could represent water or tranquility.

3. Complementary

If you’re looking for a bright impact, this could be the scheme for you. Complementary colors are found opposite one another on the color wheel. They can be of varying saturation or brightness levels, but if the hues are direct opposites, it’s a complementary scheme.

This scheme generally provides the greatest contrast and can produce vibrant, eye-catching results. But be cautious, as these schemes can also sometimes look garish.

4. Split Complementary

If you’d like to add a little complexity to the complementary scheme, try this. Here, a complementary scheme is modified by splitting one of the colors into the two neighboring hues. In the example above, the red has been replaced with pink and orange.

Like the complementary scheme, this one does need to be used thoughtfully, particularly if a bold statement isn’t your end goal.

5. Triad

This scheme takes three colors that are all equally distant on the chart, in a triangular pattern. It can also result in some brash palettes, but it can make a bold statement if used well.


These five schemes just scratch the surface of those available. If you’d like to explore colors further on your own, you can check out these color schemes in action on the Adobe Color website, a tool that allows you to generate custom color palettes for design projects by using these schemes and more.

If you’d like professional guidance on your logo creation or other design project, call or email us today to get started working with our pre-press team!

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