What is Monochromatic Colors and Why Should You Use One?

Monochromatic Colors What is Monochromatic Colors and Why Should You Use One?

What is Monochromatic colors?

Monochromatic color schemes are color schemes based on only one color or tint. The definition of monochromatic is ‘containing or using only one color’, so it’s a pretty easy concept to follow.

Essentially, one base color is selected, and all of the other colors chosen for the scheme are variations of the base. Once the base color is chosen, the saturation and brightness of the base color are chosen in order to make lighter and darker variants.

These single-colored palettes are easier for interior designers to use, as they no longer have to worry about complementary colors, color clashes, or the effect of color blindness on their design elements.

So, let’s take a deep-dive into why interior designers use monochromatic color schemes, how they create one, and how you can implement this in your own home.

What are the components of a monochromatic color scheme?

Like all concepts, there are labels and rules for the elements within. Essentially, there are four main components that make up a monochromatic color scheme: Hues, tints, tones, and shades.

Hue

Firstly, there is the hue. This is the particular color that will be chosen as the ‘base color’. This basic color will form the basis of the color scheme.

For example, if you wanted your monochromatic color scheme to consist of the color red, red would be your hue.

This is the most important choice to make when selecting a monochromatic color scheme, as the base color will guide the entire design of the room. Although a monochromatic scheme can be created from any color, you should always carefully consider the mood you are setting with the hue that you choose.

Selecting a more neutral hue will create a more natural palette, whereas selecting a bright color as your hue will create a more bold palette.

Shade

When it comes to color schemes, you will always need contrast. This is where shades come in. A shade is a darker version of the color that you chose to be your base color. Essentially, shade is your hue with some black added to it.

Going back to our previous example: if you had chosen red as your hue, you would add some black to it to darken it. This would provide the shade of your color scheme.
Increasing the amount of black you add will result in darker shades of the hue you chose, giving you a lot of variation in the colors you choose for your monochromatic scheme.

Tone

Similarly to shades, tones are darker versions of your hue. However, instead of adding black to your base color, you will instead be adding grey. This gives your base color a more ‘muted’ look, while still providing darker shades.

Tint

Additionally, your monochromatic color scheme requires a lighter shade as well. This is called a tint. A tint is basically your basic color with white added. Basically, you’re lightening your chosen hue with white.

For example, if red was our chosen hue and we added white, we would get a type of pink. This would be our tint.

Increasing the amount of white you add to the hue will result in lighter tints. This allows you to lighten the color to the level that you need to work with your room.
Creating a color scheme consisting of each of these 4 components will create a diverse spectrum of color that will complement any space.

Why do interior designers use monochromatic color schemes?

Source: shannon-brinkley.com

Monochromatic color schemes are extremely popular with interior designers, but why? Well, there are very many reasons why an interior designer might use monochromatic colors, but here are the top five.

They’re easier to create

There are many benefits of monochromatic color schemes, but perhaps the biggest of all is the ease of creating one.

As we mentioned above, monochromatic schemes can be created by simply choosing a color as your hue which will dominate the design of the room. Then, all you need to do is lighten it, and darken it to create the color scheme.

Typically, when creating a color scheme with hues, shades, tones, and tints from different color families designers have to consult color wheels to make sure none of their color options clash.

This can be difficult, as there are many different factors to consider when mixing color families, such as color temperatures, analogous colors, and one color palettes.
To avoid having to consider these factors, designers use a monochromatic color scheme. This not only streamlines the design process, but it also creates a room that’s comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.

They’re easier for us to process

Without going into too much detail, our retinas process light in a complex way. It is easier for our brains to interpret a single wavelength of color (monochromatic) than it is to process a range of wavelengths (multiple color families).

The human brain relies so much on pattern recognition to provide context, so repeated colors make the room much easier to process. To our brains, monochromatic rooms make sense. The easier we can make sense of the room, the more likely we are to find it comfortable and pleasing.

They create a cohesive look

One of the easiest ways to create a sense of harmony in a room is to use a monochromatic color scheme. Because we are easily able to process a single color, it automatically creates a sense of simplicity and unity.

Instead of worrying about design elements in your room ‘going together’, you only need to stick to the color scheme to ensure that they do.

This cohesion between colors allows the room to become a canvas on which contrasting items can be displayed. This means that you can use a monochromatic scheme to highlight any special items you want to display, such as an antique, a painting, or a sculptural piece of furniture.

They make a room look larger

Using the same color in varying shades and tints can make a room look larger, so it’s a great idea for smaller spaces. Some areas of your home, such as a powder room, guest bedroom, or hallway, can feel cramped if there are too many colors or elements included.

Using a monochromatic color scheme helps, as it reduces the feeling of clutter by providing a simple, easy to process design. If you’ve ever been in a small room with multiple different ‘features’, you’ll understand what I mean.

They’re more enjoyable for people with color blindness

People who are color blind are unable to distinguish between certain colors, or see any colors at all. Therefore, colors might appear to be contrasting to you, but to someone with this condition they might look identical.

Using a monochromatic color palette will avoid problematic color contrasts for people with this condition. For example, many people with color blindness can’t distinguish between red and green, two colors that are labeled as contrasting colors on the color wheel.

Using a monochrome color palette will be easier for them to interpret. This is because they will only have to distinguish between light, medium, and dark instead of entirely different hues such as red and green.

Using a monochrome color scheme: tips for beginners

You don’t need to be a professional to create your own monochromatic color scheme. It’s quite simple to choose a hue you like, create a lighter version, and create a darker version.
Although it’s a simple process, there are a few things you should take into consideration before re-doing your entire house. So, here are some tips that will help beginners pull off an amazing monochromatic color scheme in their own homes.

Use Textures to create interest

Although simplicity is great, if done incorrectly it can look boring, or even clinical. If the elements you use in your room are too similar, it can result in a room that lacks depth, dimension, and character.

People will not want to spend time in this room, which isn’t a great design. The addition of different patterns, textures, and accents will create a room that has depth, emotion, and visual interest.

You can easily mix and match a variety of natural textures within a room. These can include natural materials like wood or stone in furniture such as dining tables or in artworks. Natural textures also include wool rugs, cable knit throws, flannel blankets, and even linen sheets.
All of these items, when used within the monochromatic color scheme, create a sense of visual intrigue and depth that will make the area feel more liveable.

Start in a smaller area

As monochromatic colors make rooms look larger, starting in a smaller area is a great idea. Not only will your room look larger when you’re finished it will also be easier for you to create.
If you’re scared of taking the plunge, a small area of your home can be a great place to test the waters. Simply choose a hue you enjoy, create a monochromatic color scheme from it, and go wild!

If you make any mistakes, or you don’t enjoy the final product, it will be easier for you to fix it, as the area is small. It is also far less overwhelming to start with an area that is more hidden, such as a rarely used guest room, a powder room, or a laundry room.

Experimenting with monochromatic colors is one of the easiest ways to add some personality to the room, while still keeping it elegant.

Keep it subtle

If you’re not sure about using a bold hue like orange or blue as the base color of your room, you can always choose a more subtle approach.
Using a neutral color as a base hue is always a great place to start your journey into monochrome, as it will give you a more familiar result while still letting you explore your design capabilities.

Adding textures can help ensure that your room appears comfortable, homey, and elegant, rather than bland and boring.

Go Bold

If you’re the opposite, and you’re worried about a monochrome design being too bland, think again. You don’t need to choose a neutral color as your base color, although it is a safer option for beginners.

If you have your heart set on using your favorite color as the base color of your home that is entirely up to you! With any color palette, it is always recommended that you practice your design in a smaller area first, just to see if you like the way it looks.

There’s nothing worse than painting a bunch of walls only to realize you don’t like the end results.

Add contrasting elements

There’s no strict rule book when it comes to design, so feel free to add some contrast in the room. Despite monochromatic design being characterized by the use of one color, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from doing whatever you want with it.

Many people tend to decorate the major elements of their room using monochromatic colors, and then use contrasting accents to create a pop of color.

For example, you might decorate your home in various shades, tones, and tints of brown. You might have a natural-colored wool rug, a tan leather couch, and white walls with brown undertones. Then, you might decide to add in a colorful afghan throw, or the bright yellow cushions you got from Spain.

Your design choices should reflect who you are, so don’t be afraid to break the trends a little bit. Follow your own design choices, and you will feel better for it.

Conclusion

Monochromatic color schemes are harmonious and beautiful, creating a sense of unity that is unparalleled. By understanding how to create monochromatic color schemes, and by following the tips we’ve outlined here, you will be able to implement your own gorgeous designs into your space.

The benefits of monochromatic colors in the home far outweigh any potential hesitations, such as fear or unfamiliarity, so give it a go!

Deborah Torres
Deborah Torres
I fell in love with home decor and interior design in the summer of 2015, when I joined an interior design company as intern. Little did I know then that a few years later, I would still be as passionate about interior design so I created this blog. Writing many posts to help others to achieve the design they like.

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