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What are the pros and cons of triadic color scheme?

Colors play a vital role in design. They can be used to evoke certain emotions, create visual harmony, and direct the viewer’s eye. When selecting a color scheme for a design project, one of the most dynamic options is the triadic color scheme.

The triadic color scheme uses three colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. This creates a vibrant look that grabs people’s attention. However, like all color schemes, the triadic approach also has some potential downsides.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of using the triadic color scheme in design.

What is a Triadic Color Scheme?

A triadic color scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced around the 12-part color wheel. Specifically, triadic colors are located 120 degrees apart on the wheel.

This placement creates color harmony while also providing strong contrast. When you combine all three colors, they form a vibrant and eye-catching look.

Some examples of triadic color schemes include:

  • Red, yellow, blue
  • Orange, green, violet
  • Teal, red-violet, yellow-orange

The vivid contrast created by triadic colors makes this scheme ideal when you want elements to stand out on the page. The heightened energy also evokes fun, playfulness, and youth.

Pros of the Triadic Color Scheme

Let’s look at some of the biggest advantages of using the triadic color palette in design:

Creates a Dynamic, Energetic Look

The triadic scheme is one of the most vibrant options. By combining colors from three different segments of the color wheel, it generates energy and excitement.

This makes a triadic palette perfect for:

  • Youth brands
  • Sports designs
  • Promotional materials

It captures people’s attention and conveys Fun, enthusiasm, and vibrancy.

Allows Colors to Complement Each Other

Although triadic colors have strong contrast, they also complement one another. The even spacing on the color wheel creates visual harmony.

For example, red and blue are complementary colors. When you add the third color yellow, it balances the other two. This gives the overall palette a unified, harmonic look.

Offers Versatile Color Combinations

The triadic scheme provides many options for unique color combinations. With 12 primary colors on the wheel, there are many different triadic trios to explore.

Some triadic schemes use primary colors like red, blue, and yellow. But you can also use secondary colors like orange, green, and violet. Tertiary triadic palettes are also an option.

This versatility allows designers to customize triadic schemes to fit a brand.

Makes Elements Stand Out on the Page

When you place a color against its two triadic counterparts, it creates strong visual contrast. This makes any element that uses that color immediately grab the viewer’s eye.

For example, if you used a red-orange, yellow-green, and blue-violet scheme, a bright red-orange call-to-action button would immediately draw people’s focus.

The contrast of triadic colors is useful for directing attention and establishing visual hierarchy.

Cons of the Triadic Color Scheme

However, there are also some potential downsides of using the triadic color palette:

Can Look Jarring if Not Balanced Properly

With bold, contrasting hues, the triadic scheme can appear jarring if you use the wrong color balance. One color usually needs to dominate, while the other two play supporting roles.

Make sure to use one color for 60% of the design. The other two colors should make up the remaining 40%. This creates enough contrast without becoming overwhelming.

Difficult to Incorporate Neutrals or Tints

The vibrant nature of the triadic palette makes it difficult to incorporate neutrals or tints. Off whites, blacks, and grays usually clash with the colorful scheme.

You also need to be careful when lightening triadic colors. Adding too much white will throw off the color relationships in the palette.

Can Overwhelm the Design

With bold, saturated colors, a triadic scheme can sometimes overwhelm the design. There’s not much subtlety or nuance.

Make sure to balance the vibrant colors with plenty of white space. Also be strategic about how you apply the colors to prevent the palette from becoming exhausting.

Conveying Seriousness or Sophistication Can Be Difficult

The playful, youthful look of the triadic palette makes it difficult to use for elegant or formal design. It’s not ideal for luxury brands or conservative companies.

Stick to the triadic color scheme when you want to convey high energy rather than seriousness or sophistication.

Tips for Using the Triadic Color Scheme

Here are some tips to use the triadic color scheme effectively:

Select One Dominant Color

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to have one triadic color that plays the leading role in your design. Use this color for large backgrounds and key page elements.

The other two colors will serve as accents. Use them for details like buttons, headlines, or icons.

Find the Right Color Balance

Aim for a 60-40 split between your dominant color and the other two accent colors. Going beyond a 60-40 balance risks overwhelming the design.

Use Plenty of White Space

White space is essential when using a vibrant palette. Blank space gives viewers’ eyes a break and prevents the design from feeling cluttered.

Try framing colorful elements against a white background. This provides contrast and helps the colors pop off the page.

Incorporate Texture

Different textures add visual interest to a triadic palette. Use techniques like overlays, patterns, and letterpress to provide depth.

For example, placing a color-block pattern over a vibrant photo creates a layered look. The textures enhance the energy of the colors.

Be Strategic With Typography

Carefully choose font colors to complement your triadic scheme. Light fonts tend to work best on dark backgrounds. Vice versa for dark fonts.

Also, consider using a font that matches one of your triadic colors. This ties the typography to the color palette.

Examples of Triadic Color Schemes in Design

Here are some real examples of the triadic color scheme used effectively in various industries:

Food Branding

Food companies often use the playful, vibrant triadic palette. For example, the yogurt brand YoLo uses a triadic scheme with bright colors like pink, orange, and blue.

Brand Dominant Color Accent Colors
YoLo Bright Pink Orange, Blue

The energetic colors mirror the fun, youthful vibe of the brand. The pink creates a unifying base, while orange and blue add excitement.

Education Design

Many schools leverage triadic colors in their designs. UCLA combines blue, gold, and red on their website:

Brand Dominant Color Accent Colors
UCLA Blue Gold, Red

The blue establishes UCLA’s brand identity, while the bold red and gold make important page elements stand out.

Healthcare Branding

In the healthcare industry, the triadic scheme creates an upbeat, friendly aesthetic. Consider the colors used by MedExpress:

Brand Dominant Color Accent Colors
MedExpress Green Orange, Blue

The green evokes feelings of health and renewal. Orange and blue provide friendly pops of color on their website.


The triadic color scheme is a bold, vibrant choice that immediately grabs viewers’ attention. By leveraging colors equally spaced around the color wheel, triadic palettes have strong visual contrast.

When used intentionally, this scheme can create striking, memorable designs. The lively energy suits brands that want to be perceived as fun and youthful.

However, restraint is necessary to prevent the colors from becoming overwhelming. Make sure to use plenty of white space and establish a single dominant color.

With the right balance, the triadic approach can make designs leap off the page and connect with audiences. Just remember that sometimes subtlety is key, and triadic colors may not suit every brand or message.