Web design colour scheme generator

The Colour Wheel — a quick guide to colour schemes

The most often used schemes are:

complementary colours on the colour wheel
complementary colours — the opposite side of the wheel from your selected colour. Hard effect, high contrast, ideal for accent colours. We could even have a complimentary colour scheme, which would say nice things about your colours :-)

Analogous colours shown on the colour wheel
Analogous colours — the neighbours on either side of your selected colour, softer effect, lower contrast.

Split complementary colours shown on the colour wheel
Triangle or Split Complement — the colours either side of the complementary colour, forming a triangle with the selected colour.

Use shading/saturation variants from any wheel in the scheme to go with your chosen colour segment/segments.

Having never been particularly happy with the tools out there on the web for choosing colour schemes, we decided to develop our own.

Our favourite colour system is to use groups of colours from a base image throughout a website, but this isn't always possible (or desirable). The choice you're often faced with is basing a scheme around one particular colour, and most of the tools out there give far too garish variants, and don't really allow you to visualise colour relationships, or offer easy selection of tonal variations.

Download a zipped copy of the Colour Wheel tool for Photoshop 7 or CS — 167 KB.This Adobe Photoshop 7/CS file allows you to pick a base colour, and view variations based on colour wheels. With a couple of clicks, you can easily choose harmonious colours, and shading and saturation variants for hyperlink colours, background boxes, etc.


Download and unzip the file, and launch in Photoshop. Choose a base colour for your scheme (this will always be shown in the centre of each wheel).

In the layers palette, double click on the 'Colour Sample' layer, and change its colour to the base colour of your choice.

The colour wheels will now display a variety of colour schemes based on this colour. The uppermost section segment of each wheel shows variations in saturation and lightness/darkness for your chosen colour. The other segments show similar variations for related colours on the colour wheel.

There are two groups of schemes — saturated and desaturated. Pick either one, depending on your starting colour. Some starting colours work better with one scheme or the other, depending on the initial colour's brightness and saturation. Each scheme shows darker variants on the right, and lighter variants on the left, with three groups of saturation modifications:

  • Top — no modification, just darker shades on the right column, and lighter shades on the left.

  • Middle — the saturation or desaturation (depending on scheme folder selected) increases outwards from the centre of the circle.

  • Bottom — the saturation or desaturation effect increases towards the centre of the circle.

Further modifications can be made to the overall saturation or lightness by using the top 'Vary saturation' layer modifier to lighten or decrease/increase saturation. Do not change the hue from this control.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions for improvement, we'd always be interested in hearing from you.

Check out our other Photoshop Tutorial:

Photoshop Displacement Map Filter — how to use it for integrating text and graphics into a background or surface...