How to Choose Colors, Part IV: Going Monochrome


monochromeWhen you are trying to manage your stress, choosing colors can sometimes only add to your anxiety.

However, there are some “rules” you can use to simplify the process of choosing colors. One of the best ways is to use the Color Wheel’s classic combinations, or schemes.

Traditional Color Schemes

There are six standard methods you can use with the Color Wheel to select colors that look good together.  All of the methods are based on the positions of the colors on the Color Wheel and are:

  • Monochromatic
  • Complementary
  • Split-Complementary
  • Triadic
  • Tetradic
  • Analogous

No matter which combination you choose, you will usually get the best results by choosing one of the colors as the main color, and the rest as accents and/or background. Also, remember that once you select your color or colors with any of these methods, you can also:

  • use neutrals: white, grey, black and in some cases beige, tan and brown;
  • create blends by layering different colors; and
  • add tones, tints, and shades with specific pencils or by layering white, grey or black over certain areas you have already colored.
  • Use texture strokes such as hatching, dots, or lines.

In this post, we’ll look at the Monochromatic color scheme.

Using the Monochrome Scheme

The term “monochrome” comes from the Greek monos = “single” and chroma = “color”.

Monochromatic color schemes are made up of a single color as well as its different tones, shades and tints. These are the simplest color schemes to create, as they’re all taken from the same position on a spoke on the Color Wheel.  The opposite of a monochrome scheme is a brighter complementary scheme using colors like red and green or blue and orange, for example.monochrome

If you are looking for an elegant look in your coloring, monochrome is the way to go. You can also achieve a soothing effect, especially with greens and blues.

However, you don’t have to use a monochrome scheme on an entire design. Start out by using it in small areas of an illustration; this can create definition, and make the other colored-in areas really “pop.”

Here are three examples of monochromatic color schemes.

Easy to work with. Always looks balanced. Visually appealing. Simple and elegant.

Lacks color contrast.  Not as vibrant as other schemes. Can make it hard to highlight the most “important” elements on your coloring page.

Use textures: hatching, cross-hatching, stippling, wavy lines, etc. will add character. If your scheme isn’t as bright as you want, try the Analogous scheme; it offers more colors but is still simple and elegant.

In my next post on choosing colors we will look at the Complementary color scheme.

If you haven’t already, check out my previous posts on choosing colors:

What are your biggest challenges with choosing colors?  Let us know in the comments section below!


11 thoughts on “How to Choose Colors, Part IV: Going Monochrome”

  1. This is so interesting. I have no art talent but am learning from you. Thank you.

  2. I love this post. I always struggle with choosing colors, and you’re right, it does add anxiety to what is supposed to be a relaxing activity! I will try more monochrome color schemes next time I color!

    1. adultcoloring101 says:

      Thank you, Addie! I do find coloring monochrome to be very relaxing. -Maureen

    2. Stephanie says:

      Same here! I’m going to try this too, I really like these posts 🙂

      1. adultcoloring101 says:

        Thank you, Stephanie! More “Choosing Colors” posts are in the pipeline!

  3. I’ll try this. Nicely illustrated.

  4. I have a book of snowflakes that I have done in monochromatic quite striking.

  5. monique s says:

    These are great tips that will be helpful to color better

  6. Renee Rousseau says:

    I just got new pencils and am so excited to try some of the techniques that you shared! Thanks for the great information!

  7. These are some awesome tips! Thank you for sharing! I can’t ever color so many books because I’m only good at pictures of scenery/objects. haha.



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