The web is a colorful place. It’s easy to choose any color you can imagine, and put it into your design. No mixing paints, and no worrying about color-printing costs.

It’s easy to have a colorful web page, and very tempting to do so. But what is the alternative?

Monochromatic Design

Monochromatic design is design with one color. You select a single base color, and then add white and black to it to produce different shades of that color.

Your design consists solely of your monochromatic palette, and various shades of gray.

Example of a monochromatic palette, with the base color at the right and left ends of the top and bottom rows respectively:

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There are a number of color tools available to help you make your palette, if you prefer to use them.

Advantages of a Monochromatic Design

  • A monochromatic palette is very easy to make.Simply choose your color, then add white and black to it.
  • The colors can never clash, as there only is a single color. If choosing colors frightens you, a monochromatic design is a relatively safe option to choose.
  • The design feels more minimal. The simplicity of the color scheme extends itself into the design. There is no contrasting and competing between different colors, and that peacefulness builds towards a more pleasant, minimal design.
  • Allows you to emphasize important elements easily. Although the bulk of the design must be done using your monochromatic palette, you can use a contrasting color for the one or two things you want to stand out most. For example, your RSS icon.

Disadvantages of Monochromatic Design

  • Less variation in your design. The lack of variety and contrast lessens the visual interest of the design. Whilst aiming for a minimalist design, you may just end up with a boring one. You have to ensure the details in your design still look great.
  • Difficult to read the text. Often there is too little contrast between the color of the text and the color of the background it is being read from. Take care to ensure your page is still easy to read.
  • Frustration. The limited palette can be very frustrating when you first work with it. It is tempting to break the rule and add more colors in. Sometimes that is the right option, but sometimes it isn’t. It takes some getting used to.

Examples of Great Monochromatic Design

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Achromatic Design

Achromatic design is taking monochromatic design one step further. There is no color in an achromatic design, simply shades of gray.

The advantages and disadvantages of using an achromatic design are the same as those for a monochromatic design, but more extreme.

For instance, whilst a monochromatic design will feel minimal, an achromatic one will feel even more so. And similarly, whilst a monochromatic design may be less distinct than a highly colorful one, an achromatic design could be even more so.

It is hard to find an entirely achromatic design online. Most will break the rule slightly and add small doses of another color, to give emphasis to certain elements, and to break up the monotony!

Here are two of my favorites, to spice your interest.

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Conclusion

More color does not necessarily equal a better design. There is no need to jazz things up with buckets of color if the site does not warrant it.

If your blog is more relaxed and laid back, or your writing is simple and straight to the point, then a monochromatic or achromatic design might be for you.

There is often good reason to make the web a less colorful place.

What do you think of monochromatic designs? Minimalist and content-focused, or simply not as interesting as a colorful one?

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