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How to Design with a Monochromatic Color Palette

From the Instagram feed to web design, why is monochromatic have a moment? Explore how to use a monochrome color palette in your work.

Posted 8 Apr 2020
Monochromatic design trend

A monochromatic color palette is a useful design tool for designers. The color trend, which refers to the use of varying tones of a single colors, has been increasingly adopted in the digital world, from the Instagram grid to web design, photography, and video.

Frequently, monochrome is used to help users to focus on the content and messaging, rather than the colors within the design. It’s harnessed in both commercial and artistic pieces, and it supports balance and unity, delivering a visually cohesive design.

In this guide, we’ll get to know the color principle, take a look at some most engaging uses of the monochromatic colors, as well as some tips and templates for designing using monochrome.

What Is Monochromatic?

At Envato, we’ve seen black (65.1% YoY growth), white (49.4% YoY growth) and grey (46.4% YoY growth) all appear in our top 10 color-related search terms over the last 12 months. A monochromatic color palette evokes a harmonious, peaceful feeling that both designers and consumers appear to gravitate towards, whether it’s the serenity of a monochrome interior space or the minimalism of a monochromatic website design.

From Nike’s simple black and white to the grays, browns, blacks, and oranges favored by Kanye West on his Yeezy runway, monochromatic is making a statement in all aspects of our lives, including fashion, technology, sport, and interior design.

Designers love this trend because it makes selecting colors easier than if they had to choose from a wide range of hues. Whether they’re designing for start-up clients or global companies, they can create brand consistency with a monochromatic color palette.

Inspired by the duotone trend, artists and designers are taking a fresh approach to the timeless monochromatic palette, by stepping away from simple black and white designs and instead concentrating on bolder colors.

Just look at today’s popular interior design styles, which allow designers to be diverse whilst still upholding equilibrium. This trend can also be spotted in our Instagram feeds, which reflect a beautiful, curated monochromatic style (like our own Instagram account).

The fashion world has led the monochromatic trend. Victoria Beckham, for example, is no stranger to monochromatic fashion design. She is well known for designing (and sporting) one-color outfits, from an all-red ensemble to a power suit in chic purple hues.

Designing With Monochrome Colors

But how do you incorporate monochrome into your design work? Here are some tips: 

1. Keep It Simple

Don’t use too many shade variations in a monochromatic design, as you want your colors to be visually discernible. One way to really strip it back is to only use as many colors as you need for each of your design elements—for example, one color for your text, one for your background, and one for your illustrations and other elements. Pantone’s Instagram page does this very well, accenting hues seamlessly throughout their feed to stand out.

2. Add Contrasting Tone

If you have two related designs, such as different product labels for the same brand, make a statement but stay on brand by using two contrasting monochromatic palettes. This will infer that the designs are linked, but still stand alone. Take a look at these Aqua Monaco bottles, which use two different monochrome colors to differentiate between the products.

3. Explore Color Overlays

Use monochromatic color overlays on your photos, to expand this trend to more than just graphics and text. Look at websites like NYC Pride to understand how an overlay can create a bold statement and work really well with both black-and-white and colored photos. The different hues peek through the single-color overlay to make it seem as if there is shade variation.

Best Monochrome Design Templates

Here are some of our favorite monochromatic design items that are available either with Envato Elements or to purchase on Envato Market.

Best for Resumes

Stand out from the crowd with this series of six resume/CV poster designs inspired by Swiss poster design. As the creator explains, “These posters rely on bold lines, tone, and layout to convey a strong message.”

Best for Marketing

Support your marketing campaign with this social media kit, which includes clean and high-quality square Instagram post templates.

Best for Logos

If you’re looking for a logo design for a stylish new brand or frequently have clients with logo needs, this collection has 60 different monochrome templates to choose from.

Best for Video

This template has been used by the likes of The Rock, NBC, and Vice News. And no wonder—it’s a great monochrome file for After Effects.

Best for Bokeh

Featuring the photo textures of bokeh in cinematic black and white, this digital art pack can be used for packaging, invitations, social media images, and much more.

Best for Headlines

This beautiful typeface is perfect for headlines, branding, and logotypes. There are plenty of examples of how it can be used, such as in promotional content and marketing graphics.

We hope this article has helped to answer your questions about monochrome and how you can incorporate the trend into your creative work. Whether you’re looking to revamp your brand or design a social media post, monochrome is a hot tip. If you need further inspiration, you can find more monochromatic design ideas over at Envato Elements.

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