Understanding Monochromatic Design & 5 Examples To Inspire You

Janine Dueck


Janine Dueck


March 26, 2021

Understanding Monochromatic Design & 5 Examples To Inspire You

Graphic design is truly one of the greatest forms of artwork in our modern time. The harmonious relationship between digital and art is one that has created compelling pieces of work that evoke emotion and capture the eye.

If you were to talk to a bunch of graphic designers, you would see that they have varying artistic processes. Some sketch out their designs on paper, some glean inspiration from other artists, and some just sit down at the computer and get to designing. 

Regardless, their methods derive from extensive knowledge of design principles and a knack for recognizing quality art.

Being a designer is not just an art form, it is a science. There are certain formulas and recipes that designers follow to create a beautiful and effective product. 

One of the most important parts of the actual design process is choosing the right color palette for the design.

There are a ton of books out there that go into depth about color theory, but we will give you the cliff notes!

Almost 400 years ago, Isaac Newton constructed the color wheel to show the relationship between colors. This wheel provided us a way to boil color down to a science and has shown us how to determine which colors look best together and appeal the most to the eye. 

Color theory offers us 5 different types of color combinations that offer color harmony when used in a design.

These 5 are color combinations are:

  1. Complementary - colors on the opposite side of the color wheel; great to create high contrast color combinations
  2. Analogous - colors that are next to each other on the color wheel; often seen in gradients and for versatile looks.
  3. Triadic - color spaced out in thirds on the color wheel that also provide a bit of contrast and vibrancy
  4. Tetriadic - colors spaced out in 4 parts on the color wheel that provide good contrast; best used with one dominant color and others as accent colors.
  5. Monochromatic - one base color with several other shades of the same color; best for a harmonious, simplistic look

When creating, the designer must decide what color combination that will be used to establish the feel they are going for with their design. Color can make or break a design so putting much thought into what palette to utilize is very important.

What we see today is an emphasis on more minimalistic, simple monochromatic design. This color combination style may seem too simple for some people, but this style truly packs a punch through its cohesiveness and overall appeal.

The huge benefit of using this style is that it is almost impossible to mess it up! 

When using other color combinations in palettes, it can be hard to determine which color to highlight, not to use too many colors, and making sure each color works together in harmony. In monochromatic design, a single color speaks for itself and enables you to bring depth and beauty without overloading the eyes with color.

Monochromatic design starts with choosing a single base color. You can dive even further into color theory to determine which color you should begin with. Each color inherently evokes certain emotions when they are viewed. Here is a brief list of colors along with the characteristics they carry and emotions they evoke:

  • Red - passionate, caution, aggression, importance
  • Orange - energetic, vibrance, youthful
  • Yellow - happy, warm, vibrance, attention-grabbing
  • Green - calm, groundedness, nature, balance
  • Blue - serenity, calm, trust, energetic
  • Purple - romantic, luxurious, mysterious
  • Pink - love, innocence, playfulness, femininity, 
  • Black - powerful, elegance, mysterious
  • Brown - calm, steadfast, humanity
  • Gray - gloomy, neutral, rich
  • White - purity, serenity

You will want to carefully choose the color used in monochromatic design based upon the feelings you are aiming to portray and the characteristics you want your design to hold.

Once a base color is chosen, you will want to determine the types of shades to utilize in the design as well. These shades are categorized as shades, tones, and tints. Shades are the base color plus black, tones are the base color plus gray, and tints are the base color plus white. You can refer to the color list above to figure out which types of shades to use. 


As you can see, there is a science to using monochromatic design! Depending on the type of shade used, you can come up with a completely different design. 

Once you have conquered the hurdle of choosing a base hue and its corresponding shade, you then get to do the nitty-gritty of design and use the monochromatic style.

There are countless ways to use this design type and the best way we can describe it to you is by showing you monochrome in action! 

Here is a collection of a few examples of incredible monochromatic designs that are eye-catching, interesting, and just plain gorgeous.

1. Blackbox - Website design

There truly is no greater example of monochromatic web design than what is found on Blackbox’s webpage. 

This design, paired with some excellent video animation and effects, immediately grabs your attention the moment you open their homepage. The combination of deep royal blue with shades of aqua and navy bring a very chill but vibrant look. 

The monochrome emphasized the intricate design details and adds a retro, 80s video game style for some extra flair. Blackbox truly knocks this monochrome look out of the park!

2. Jessica Walsh - Graphic + photography design

The designs of Jessica Walsh are a unique combination of complementary and monochromatic color combinations, realism, and modern elements mixed with older ones. 

Her general style reminds you a bit of the types of advertisements that you’d see in the 1950s, but her use of monochrome makes her style unique. Most of her work includes an emphasis on a very bold and vibrant color, a few of its hues, and sometimes a pop of another complementary color.

Walsh’s use of real life items in her monochrome design really shows the power of combining excellent photography with graphic elements. Her bold background and a similarly colored object as the centerpiece create a sense of depth often found in monochromatic design.

Her style is just plain fun and is a wonderful example of the different ways you can incorporate monochrome colors into your design.

3. Mark Rothko - Abstract painting

The use of monochromatic design is not just reserved for webpages and graphic design, but it is a style that has been perfected in times past by other artists. Mark Rothko is a wonderful example of how monochrome can be integrated into simple, abstract painting styles.

Rothko is an American abstract artists who is known for his specifically simple, yet innately colorful, paintings. Many of his pieces include very bold complementary colors, but a few of them feature simple hues paired with their monochrome relatives.

His design is simple, unique, and allows the colors to speak for themselves. Rothko was a true mastermind when it came to the use of this style.

4. Blank - Graphic & video motion design

Monochromatic design is often marked by several different shades of one base color, but oftentimes it is best used with one base color and just 1 or 2 hints, shades, or tones. 

Blank, a design collection created by Alexandra Mendes, takes monochromatic design’s simplicity to a different level.

The first thing you will notice about her designs is that are extremely sharp and clean in nature. Each element features a base color of coral, a shade or two of the same color, and a bold contract of black. 

Two monochromatic palettes of both the coral and black are merged together to create incredible contrast without introducing any complementary colors. This style is often referred to as duotone.

Mendes’ style in this collection is extremely cohesive, and her web page, in general, is very pleasing to look at it. It also features the different ways you can utilize monochromatic design through printed deliverables, portrait-style photos of people, and logo designs.

5. Morgan Harper Nichols - Typography & design

Morgan Harper Nichols is a graphic designer and artist who couples together beautiful, abstract digital artwork with handwritten typography. Her feed is chock full of color and features many beautiful monochromatic designs.

Nichols’ designs feature many soft, earthy hues that are coupled with gorgeous handwritten text. Although textual elements are often black or white or some other contrasting colors, Nichols instead incorporates the color of the text directly into the design. She actually opts to use a shade of the base color for her text, making the entire design flow seamlessly together.

Occasionally her designs feature real-life elements such as in this gorgeous self-portrait design. Overall, her designs are a shining example of the simplicity of monochrome colors with an earthy, gentle feel.

As you can see, the monochrome design is the farthest thing from boring or too plain. There are so many different ways you can utilize this style through photography, painting, real-life elements, and typography. If you are looking for a simple, yet beautifully effective design style, monochrome is the way to go!

Need help designing a powerful monochromatic graphic? Our team at Pro MediaFire is fully committed to creating high-quality, high-impact design pieces that will improve engagement and extend your reach. Talk to us today so we can help you bring fire to your designs and reach more of your audience!

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