Skip to Content

Is the balance or the hue of color?

Color is a critical element of visual design. The choice of colors in a composition can dramatically affect the overall look, feel, and meaning. When selecting colors, designers must consider both hue and balance. Hue refers to the specific shades used, while balance refers to the distribution and interaction of colors. In this article, we’ll examine the importance of both hue and balance for achieving effective and appealing color palettes.

The Significance of Hue

Hue is arguably the most recognizable characteristic of color. It defines the dominant wavelength and thus whether a color appears red, blue, green, etc. Hue has a powerful impact on the aesthetics and symbolism of a design. Different hues evoke different emotions and associations for viewers. For example:

  • Warm hues like red, orange, and yellow are energetic and inviting
  • Cool hues like blue, green, and purple are calming and professional
  • Bright, saturated hues are exciting and youthful
  • Muted, earthy hues are soothing and natural

Selecting hues that align with the desired tone and message of the design is key. Brands choose hues that reflect their personality – think of Tiffany’s signature robin egg blue or Coca-Cola’s deep red. Changing the hue can dramatically transform the look and feel of a design.

Achieving Color Balance

Balance refers to how colors are distributed and interact within a composition. Proper color balance creates visual harmony and draws the viewer’s eye through the design in a logical way. Poor color balance can look chaotic and make a design visually jarring. Some key principles of color balance include:

  • Complementary colors: Opposite hues on the color wheel, like red and green or blue and orange. Using complements together creates vibrancy.
  • Analogous colors: Colors next to each other on the wheel, like blue, blue-violet, and violet. Analogous colors are harmonious and soothing.
  • Triadic colors: Colors evenly spaced around the wheel, like red, yellow, and blue. Triads are bold but balanced.
  • Dominance: Establishing a dominant hue, with other hues playing supporting roles. For example, navy blue with pale yellow accents.

Balancing warm and cool hues also adds dynamism. Let’s compare two sample color palettes to see these principles at work:

Color Palette Examples

Palette A

Blue Yellow
Red Green

Palette A utilizes complementary red/green and blue/yellow pairings. However, all four hues are heavily saturated and distributed evenly. This creates an unbalanced, vibrant clash. The eye doesn’t know where to focus.

Palette B

Navy blue
Light blue Yellow

Palette B establishes navy blue as the dominant hue, with lighter blue and yellow acting as accents. The blues are analogous for harmony; the navy and yellow complement each other for contrast and visibility. The result is a professional, balanced palette.

Hue vs. Balance in Action

Let’s see how hue and balance come together in real-world designs. We’ll look at two websites:

Website 1: Vibrant Hues

This fun, youthful website uses highly saturated complementary hues like orange, green, and bright blue. The vibrant hues align with the energetic vibe. But color balance is lacking – many sections feature colorful clashes. As a result, the vibrancy begins to look chaotic.

Website 2: Subtle Hues

This luxury boutique site opts for a more muted palette focusing on cream, grey, and robin egg blue. The analogous cool hues evoke a refined, elegant aesthetic. Soft greys balance the lighter colors and prevent a washed-out look. The hue and balance align with the upscale brand identity.

Best Practices

Based on the principles explored, here are some best practices for selecting hues and achieving color balance in your designs:

  • Choose hues that align with your visual goals and brand personality.
  • Establish a dominant hue and use others for accents.
  • Use complementary colors in moderation to add contrast.
  • Try analogous or triadic schemes for harmony.
  • Aim for a mix of warm and cool hues.
  • Ensure sufficient contrast between text and background colors.
  • Use muted accent colors to avoid overwhelming vibrancy.

Following these guidelines will help you develop color palettes that check the boxes for both hue and balance.

The Art of Color

Mastering color is a lifelong journey for any designer. Thoughtfully choosing hues and creating harmony between them is part art, part science. Start by considering the impression you want to make, as well as functional needs like visibility and accessibility. From there, experiment with hue combinations and balance principles to find a palette that looks beautiful and communicates effectively. Ongoing observation of the color palettes around you, in both good and bad examples, will build your skills over time. With practice, you’ll be able to look at any design and immediately recognize how hue and balance succeed or fail in the color scheme.


Hue and balance are equally critical considerations when selecting colors for design work. Hue creates association and meaning through the specific shades used, while balance brings harmony to the overall color palette. Finding hues that align with your message and brand personality is crucial. But a balanced distribution and interaction of colors ultimately determines if the palette feels cohesive. Both factors working in unison result in color choices that look great, communicate effectively, and create the desired aesthetic impression. Master digital artists think through both hue and balance to develop the perfect color scheme.