What Are Monochromatic Colors?

Posted on September 27, 2018 | Updated on November 7, 2022

Monochromatic colors are the same color in a range of shades in a single hue. Traditional color theory states each hue must come from the color wheel and be a primary, secondary or tertiary color. However, that isn’t always the case. As with most guidelines, there are times you can break the rule and come up with something truly unique.

Monochromatic colors might not be the obvious choice for design. However, using a single color makes a bold statement. If you have linked your branding strongly with a specific color, a monochromatic design enhances that overall brand image.

Types of Monochromatic Color Schemes

When it comes to using monochromatic colors in your web design, you need to understand there are different types of color schemes. You can also add black or white, in moderation, without changing the overall impact of the design.

Some designs also incorporate shades of gray as accents to help define different elements that are within the same color family, but deserve separate emphasis.

There are also variations of monochromatic design. For example, you might add in some gray tones to help create contrast within the design. Design purists will say you can only use black, white and the color, but many designers aren’t afraid to add a pop of another color to create contrast. For example, they might add a single pop of green with a call-to-action button.

Uses for Single-Color Designs

There are several uses for single-color designs. If you want a simple look that puts the focus on the sales funnel or on an action you’d like the user to take, a monochromatic design cuts through the clutter and puts the focus where it needs to be.

Monochromatic colors are also quite elegant, especially if you stick with classic colors, such as blue, red or black and white. Using a single color allows you to create some harmony in your look.

If you need to add a lot of information to a page, a single-color theme allows you to put the focus on that information and cut some of the clutter of other designs.

Where to Find Examples

Wondering what designs with monochromatic colors look like? You can find hundreds of examples just by searching for monochromatic web designs.

If you’re looking for a collection of the best monochrome sites, try Onextrapixel’s list of 40 monochrome sites or Site Inspire’s list of monochrome sites. Note how some of the designs are quite subtle, while others incorporate bright pops of color or a cheerful base color.

Paletton offers an array of palettes you can grab and use in your designs. The palettes vary from medium contrast and bright colors to high contrast with darker hues. You’ll even find examples of lighter colors with low contrast. No matter what look you’re trying to achieve, you’ll find a palette that will work for your needs, and you can always adjust the base color with a simple spin of the color wheel.

Challenges With Monochromatic Designs

There are a few challenges when designing with monochrome colors. Figuring out the right amount of contrast is difficult. You must ensure your text is legible and that elements blend and pop at the same time, which is a challenge when everything is in the same hue.

However, if you use a color palette wizard, such as the one listed above, the task becomes much easier, as you’ll have suggestions for darker and light colors. Choose shades on either end of the range for strong contrast.

Choosing your base color is one of the trickiest parts of monochromatic design. The shade of the base color needs to allow for enough contrast. Don’t be afraid to make tiny adjustments until you find exactly the right hue. Of course, if you’re working within a company’s brand standards, this limits you a bit. However, you can pull up a full palette of shades using that color and choose something that’s still in the same family, as your base. The logo color then becomes an accent shade.

Incorporating Into Your Designs

When it comes to adding a single color to your designs, don’t just limit yourself to designing a full web page with a single color. You can also incorporate this design technique into infographics, logos and portions of a website, rather than the entire site.

Try using single-color design in various places and see where it looks best. Do some split testing to see how consumers respond to the design and adjust as necessary.

Benefits of Designing in Monochrome

There are some real benefits to using a monochromatic color scheme. Instead of working to make sure every color on the page matches and doesn’t clash, you’ll eliminate this issue. You have one color to work with, so there are no worries about colors clashing.

Designing is also much faster. You don’t have to spend hours trying out different color combinations or checking competitor sites to make sure your color scheme is unique. Once you’ve picked the base color, choose different shades based around that hue.

Monochrome also allows you to put the focus on the most essential elements on the page. Whether you want to direct the reader to specific content, an image or a call to action, monochrome sets the base that allows these elements to pop.

Using different shades of a single color also allows those with vision impairments such as color blindness to view your site easily. Because the color is the same, there are no worries about say red and blue blending together. Instead, the color-blind person will view the page in its contrasts, which are naturally built in when using a single hue.

Monochromatic Colors

The best place to start with monochrome design is by learning the basics and sticking to them. As you begin to feel more comfortable with single-color design, branch out and add a pop of color, some gray shading and other elements you might not use just starting off in this type of design. With a little practice, your designs will be functional and beautiful.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.


  1. Shane on November 8, 2018 at 4:14 am

    Hi Eleanor, I really like your blog, I can get some new knowledge. Is there okay for you I can copy or linked your article on my linked page or our website etc.?

    • Eleanor on November 8, 2018 at 8:59 am

      Hi Shane,

      Thanks for reading my blog! And yes, if you syndicate any of my articles, you must give me/my site credit and link to the original post.

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