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Best T-shirt Color Combinations


Color is just one of those things that when you get right it can make the entire composition, but when you screw it up, it can ruin it all, even if the rest of the design is flawless. Anyone that works with personalized t shirts or anything design related must deal with colors on a daily basis.

Types of color combinations

Color theory is a collection of principles that aim to explain how colors work and why we see them the way we do. The color wheel is by far the most popular. When we’re children they try to teach us that when we mix red and blue we get purple, red and yellow turn to orange – you get the point.


These are the name given to the combination that consists of shades and tints of the same hue. Shades are achieved by adding darker colors like black or grey to the primary hue and tints are the opposite – adding white to get a lighter effect. When we combine monochromatic colors, we can end up with a very elegant or peaceful combination.


Also known as opposite colors, complementary colors are hues that lay on opposite ends of the color wheel. This particular combination is very hard to pull off because the result can be very “clashing” for lack of a better word. Experimented designers can create successful compositions using them, but they’re hard to pull off.


As a variation of the complementary combination, the split-complementary combination uses the two adjacent colors of the opposite hue. If you looked at a split-complementary combination at a color wheel, it would look like a triangle with a very narrow base. It is a bit safer to use than the complimentary combination because it is not the exact opposite color therefore not as clashing.



Also known as Tetradic, because it looks like a square on the color wheel, it’s the same as the complementary combination with the only difference being that it uses two pairs of hues instead of one.


An Analogous combination is one that includes only colors that are adjacent to each other. These are created by picking one “main” color and then the rest, by default, are just the ones that are next to it on the color wheel. Some may confuse it with the monochromatic combinations, but the difference is that here we’re not altering the hue.


A triad is a combination of three or more colors evenly spaced on the color wheel. As the name suggests, the three hues shape a perfect triangle on the color wheel.


About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!

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