My Cart (0)

Complementary Color Scheme: The Science Behind Color Scheme Design

Editor Recommendations:
Color Schemes

*Save 10% Off Select Products!
Use Promo Code: SAVELP

Color Index, Revised Edition | complementary color scheme, web color schemes

Proven to help designers, artists and crafters make effective color choices in their work

Order Now

Color Inspirations | split complementary color scheme, color schemes for websites, color scheme ideas

3,286 beautiful and inspiring color palette ideas

Order Now

Using Color in Logo Design | html color scheme, color scheme design, web design color schemes

Learn the best ways to utilize color to make a truly outstanding logo

Order Now

Design DNA: Logos 300+ International Logos Deconstructed | web page color schemes, color design scheme, best color schemes for websites

Gain a clear understanding of how to target your market and convey brand values

Order Now

Gain Insight into the Importance of Web Color Schemes

By Kathy Scott, Online Editor


As children, we put together colors that we like, without any sense of color scheme design or building upon an already established complementary color scheme. As we get older, we begin to realize that color sends triggers to the viewer. When designing, it’s essential to develop color scheme ideas for all platforms using, if necessary, an online color palette when developing web pages. Jim Krause, one of the design industry’s most prolific authors on color design has created several opportunities to delve into the topic of color scheme design.

There are five basic things to remember as you build out your color scheme design:

1)    Remember the Basic Color Palette Wheel

The color wheel is arranged to show the relationship between primary, secondary and tertiary colors. The complementary color scheme can be viewed opposite a chosen color as in the early diagram below.

 split complementary color scheme, color schemes for websites, color scheme ideas

The center of the circle represents white. All colors placed at opposite ends of diameters of the circle are complementary colors.


Color expert, Jim Krause, offers an easy to understand webcast entitled, Applying Color. The session touches on the basics of color theory and how it relates to building your own online color palette.

2)    Complementary Color Scheme

The idea of color harmony relates to music and how various notes when played together created a pleasing sound that comforted the spirit. When choosing a color scheme design either from a color palette online or pulling from an html color scheme, harmony is an important element to attached to it.

In Krause’s Color Index, Revised Edition, he provides more that one thousand color combinations from web color schemes and implementing a split complementary color scheme to invoke dramatic imagery. Included in this popular book are RGB values and tips on incorporating color palettes from the Adobe Swatch Exchange, alleviating the need to use an online color palette.

3)    Color Scheme Ideas and Contex

When developing color scheme ideas, and specifically color schemes for websites, it’s important to remember how the color fits with the site itself such as its context with its audience, objects and overall strategy.

Color Inspirations by Darius A. Monsef, IV provides more background on color theory and includes more than 3,000 color scheme ideas. Monsef provides CMYK and HEX color values for producing a web design color scheme. Inside is inspirational articles on developing web color schemes including information on both a complementary color scheme and a split complementary color scheme. Included with the book is a bonus CD with color schemes for websites ready to import.

4)    Color Scheme Design and Branding

A web design color scheme is affected by logo color and how it may complement or dissuade the visual user. Using Color in Logo Design is an excerpt from Krause’s book, The Logo Brainstorm Book. Whether you plan to design a logo, or simply understand the context it might evoke within an online color palette, this book provides the insight you need. Topics covered include:

  • One color plus black
  • Monochromatic
  • Complementary
  • Splitcomplementary
  • Analogous
  • Triadic
  • Semi-muted
  • Heavily muted

5)    HTML Color Scheme

Your color scheme may be directly tied to the color of your logo, so remember to not only take that into account, you’ll need to understand how the Pantone Color translates into an HTML color scheme.

In Design DNA: Logos, Matthew Healey presents more than 300 international logos, then examines the use of font, color and imagery. Within the color context is the corporate logo, the foundation of a brand. Healey’s deconstruction and understand of convey brand value through a logo is a exercise in color context.


Like What You See? Save 10% Off Select Color Scheme Products!
Use Promo Code: SAVELP

Final discounts will be displayed within the cart for qualifying items. Discount not valid on pre-orders, value packs,
subscriptions, and 3rd party products. 1 use per customer. Other exclusions apply.


<< Go back to the full list of Design Articles, Tips & Advice

Kathy Scott is Online Editor for, where she actively seeks out new, unusual and innovative design stories to share with the active design community. She regularly contributes to the HOW Design Blog and Editor’s Picks.