Color 101: Color Palettes

Get the right color combinations.

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There are many times when there’s no photo provided by the customer that can be used to “pull” a color palette from. When in doubt and you need a quick place to start, try this theory. Choose two similar colors; for example, the hues red and orange. Add one color that contrasts against at least one of the already-chosen two colors.

A final color for the triad palette might be a shade of green to contrast your original pair of red and orange. Try an eggplant purple with a shade of burgundy and use marigold yellow for the contrasting splash of a third color. Try it on a few projects and you’ll be taking control over your color palettes in no time.

There is also the option of using a color gradient. A gradient that consists of two opposite ends will contain a gray neutral mush of some kind in the middle. It’s not that you are doing anything wrong necessarily. The colors in the center of a gradient of two colors that are on opposing sides of the color wheel tend to have a neutral hue.

This is why you may find, in the midst of some gradients, the perfect hue or a neutral mess of a color. A gradient from green to blue will have some lovely tones in between the two colors, while in the middle of a gradient consisting of yellow and purple, you are likely to find a hue that doesn’t do much for your color palette.

Jennifer Foy, Unisub

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Jennifer Foy

Jennifer Foy has over 12 years of experience using Adobe Photoshop. She has received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications from the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. Her years of teaching experience include numerous software and design classes in Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, QuarkXPress, Freehand and InDesign for Colleges in Atlanta, Georgia; and Louisville, Kentucky. Jennifer is currently working as the Creative Director and Universal Woods with the Unisub and Chromaluxe brands. Jennifer can be reached by email at

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