How to Create a Monochromatic Color Scheme

monochromatic decor in a bedroom

The Spruce / Jessica Lombardi 

One of the simplest ways to create a harmonious look at home is with a monochromatic color scheme. This is also a commonly misunderstood term in decorating. Once you know the basics of using monochromatic color and the secrets to using it right, you can create gorgeous rooms easily. 

What Is a Monochromatic Color Scheme?

Based on a single color, monochromatic color schemes use various shades and tones to add a sense of differentiation within a space. There are no additional hues in a monochromatic color scheme.

What a Monochromatic Scheme is Not

In the world of interior decorating, monochromatic does not mean one color in one value used throughout a room. While the word monochromatic literally means one color, in decorating, it actually means that the color will be refined in a few ways to create a livable space. Neutral color schemes can also be monochromatic, with variations of a neutral color. 

Basic Color Terms You Should Know

  • Color (or Hue): Color is the quality of an object or substance with respect to light reflected by the object. Colors are what we refer to when we say “blue” or “orange.”
  • Value: The value of a color is simply the lightness or darkness of a color.
  • Tint: A tint is a color after white has been added. The value of the color has been lightened with the addition of white.
  • Shade: A shade is a color after black has been added. The value of the color has been darkened with the addition of black.
  • Tone: A tone is a color after gray has been added. The value of the color has been muted with the addition of gray.

Monochromatic Color Scheme Make Decorating Simple

If a monochromatic scheme relies on one color, how do you keep it from overwhelming the room? By choosing one color and using tones, shades, and tints, of that same color. Using variations of the same color can make a room look larger, so it's great for decorating small spaces.

When you vary your colors using tone, shades, and tints, you keep your new color scheme from becoming monotonous. Did you know that the term ‘monotonous’ is quite literally derived from two Greek words meaning “one tone?” You can see how a monochromatic color scheme can become monotonous without the variation of tone, shade, and tint. 

Textures and Patterns - Your Secret to the Perfect Monochromatic Color Scheme

The most attractive and enjoyable way to complete your color scheme is with texture and print. Texture adds interest to the room through the uneven surface that varies how light hits the surface. A texture can appear light and dark, even when created with the same color. Throw pillows, rugs, and window treatments, are beautiful ways to create texture. 

Using monochromatic prints can add visual interest without sacrificing your monochromatic look. Since a neutral color or two can be added as accents to a non-neutral scheme, fabric patterns containing white or black with your main color can liven up a room even more. Patterns are a great way to add depth to your monochromatic color palette but should be used sparingly if your goal is a simple and harmonious style. 

How to Create a Neutral Monochromatic Color Scheme

Most rooms can't handle blue or red wall-to-wall flooring material, or wall trim, or fireplace mantel. so neutrals make the best monochromatic schemes.

When planning your color palette, consider the neutrals that are already in place and will not be changed. If you will be adding neutral colors in your palette,  build on the ones that already exist in the space. By unifying your neutrals, and using the same monochromatic principles on them, the result will be more cohesive. 

If you’re designing a monochromatic color scheme based on neutrals only, then the same guidelines about value and textures, apply. You will want to be careful with the neutral colors that exist in the room already, and tailor your neutral scheme to harmonize with them. Being able to identify warm versus cool colors is important when working with any neutral color scheme. If your space is predominantly filled with warm neutral surfaces, your main neutral color for your monochromatic scheme should also be warm. 

Why Monochromatic Color Schemes Work

Using light and dark variations of one color is creates harmony and a relaxing room. As a background for artwork and collectibles, monochromatic color is the perfect partner, allowing the artwork to shine.