Mobile App Design: Confused About Color Scheme?

Our appetite for mobile apps is insatiable. Developers are currently submitting more than 1,000 apps to Apple’s App Store per day, and the figure is expected to grow exponentially over the next few years because it’s an evolving technology. Users keep downloading more and more in the hope of discovering cool, new features and functionalities.

In a busy marketplace with many lookalikes sharing shelf space, developers are vying with each other to enhance their mobile apps with exceptional attributes in the hope that their product will go viral. And one of the most decisive factors that is distinguishing the best from the rest is color scheme.

After functionality and ease of use, color is probably the third most impactful attribute in a mobile app. Besides providing visual cues to the brain, creating a feeling of interaction or alienation, color is a graphical UI element that also assists users in interpreting an app’s status in the similar products hierarchy. When browsing through hundreds of similar apps in the app store, it is often the color scheme that compels a user to pause and study its content more carefully than others.

No wonder then, that developers are trying all kinds of permutations and combinations in color to seduce the user into pressing the download button.

For instance, they’re using non-primary, experimental hues — like tangerine, sangria, coral, chartreuse etc. — that we never imagined could actually create a crisp, elegant layout. A palette of subtle pastels is providing nice separation and balance on digital screens. Nobody’s scared of using gradient hues in apps anymore, and even shadows are no longer an anonymous grey but pink, blue, yellow, green…

With no color being off limits this year in the mobile app world — except perhaps Opaque Couche, the certified, “ugliest color in the world” — it’s extremely confusing to decide on a color palette without a solid background in the visual science of color combinations.

To make matters easy, we’re explaining the 3 basic color-matching rules that efficiently apply themselves to digital design. If you abide by these 3 principles, you can opt for any color of your choice and then support that with visually appropriate secondary colors without causing interference in the user experience.


A monochromatic palette consists of derivatives (tints, tones and shades) of the same hue. Tints are achieved by adding white to the hue, while tones are created by adding a darker color, or grey or black.

A very strong sense of visual cohesion can be communicated by using a monochromatic palette. The relative absence of hue contrast removes subconscious distractions, and gives your content plenty room to shine. Monochrome schemes also provide some accessibility benefits for users with color blindness.


Analogous color palettes are created with a selection of 3 colors that do not stand out from each other. In fact, they live right next to each other in the color wheel. So the most dominate shade in the selection sets the mood, while its `cousins’ reiterate the visual impact by enriching it.

With analogous colors, you can achieve a richer look than with monochromatic ones. Human brains are wired to respond positively to analogous colors because they are often found in nature and is therefore interpreted as harmonious and pleasing. Be careful to match temperatures though. Do not combine `cool’ colors with `warm ones’.


Complementary colors are 2 shades that live directly opposite each other in the color wheel. The relationship, therefore, is of high contrast, which may be exactly what you want to grab your app users’ attention.

Don’t go for overkill with this combination by using 2 complementary colors in equal weight. Choose one to be your dominant, and then use the other as accent. Execute this color scheme with a clear idea of why you want it because, it can be sometimes be too jarring and intrusive (especially in high saturation).

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