The ultimate colour combination cheat sheet for graphic designers

Last week we blogged about ways to choose a colour theme for effective graphic design, and since then, we have been getting a lot of queries. So we decided to take it a step ahead, and provide you with a colour combination cheat sheet. Of course, there is nothing right or wrong, and most of this depends on your creativity & aesthetics. But there are some colours that complement each other, and it is always useful to know the rules before you break them. Keep this colour combination cheat sheet handy & hit the bull’s-eye every time with impressive graphic designs.

#1 Complementary colour

Complementary colours are those that are right next to each other in the Itten colour circle. But don’t be confused by the term complementary. These colours can either be supplementary or contrasting. But the combination of these colours will give a vivid and energizing effect.

Colour combination cheat sheet

#2 Trinity

Officially known as the triad, this is a combination of three colours. Usually these colours are equidistant from each other on the colour circle. These colours together can produce high contrast effects, and can look looks vibrant even when with pale and unsaturated colours.

Colour combination cheat sheet

#3 Analogue

We mentioned the last time that it is ideal to use only two to three colours together. An analogue combination is perfect for this purpose. Usually a combination of two to five colours that are adjacent to each other on the colour circle, this combination creates a calm effect. Some of the most common combinations include yellow-orange, yellow-green & blue-green.

Colour combination cheat sheet

#4 Split complementary

A variation on the complementary colour combination, this utilises one primary colour and two complementary colours. The effect is just as vibrant but a little less intense.

Colour combination cheat sheet

#5 Tetrad

Remember we said that use additional colours only when you want to highlight something? This is the ideal combination for that situation. This scheme includes one primary and two complementary colours, plus an additional colour that highlights.

Colour combination cheat sheet

#6 The square

This is a combination of four colours that are equidistant from each other on the colour circle. In this scheme, the colours differ from each other in tone, but are complementary. This creates a dynamic & playful effect.

Colour combination cheat sheet

Here is a quick list of individual colours and their best combinations:

  • Black: a universal colour that looks good in any combination. Especially great with orange, pink, green, white, red, mauve & yellow
  • White: combines with everything, especially blue, red & black
  • Beige: combines with blue, brown, emerald, black, red & white
  • Grey: combines with fuchsia, red, violet, pink & blue
  • Pink: combines with brown, white, mint green, olive, grey, turquoise & light blue
  • Red: combines with yellow, white, green, blue & black
  • Brown: combines with cyan, cream, pink, fawn, green & beige
  • Orange: combines with cyan, blue, lilac, violet, white & black
  • Yellow: combines with blue, lilac, cyan, violet, grey & black
  • Green: combines with orange, yellow, brown, grey, cream & black
  • Electric colours: combine with golden-yellow, brown, light brown, grey & silver

Armed with this colour combination cheat sheet, there is no graphic design that you can’t excel.


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