Every time a designer needs to develop design for an app, they face the task of picking a color scheme for it. Of course, such a choice is made beforehand by customers sometimes, based on their brand guidelines or personal preferences. However, they don’t always help to fully understand what the app should look like in the end: should it be bright or dim, subdued or in screaming colors? The existing guidelines and initial comments make the choice of a palette a lot easier, allowing a designer to use them as a basis when creating app design. 

What to do when the customer doesn’t provide any guidelines and doesn’t have any preferences, making only suppositions or leaving the choice to the designer of the project at all? Let’s have a closer look at this situation. 

The Psychology of Color Perception

Color and color shade perception is often connected with individual characteristics of a person’s perception, and there is a reason for it. Different palettes trigger certain associations when people see them in their everyday life, on websites or in apps.

For example, green is often used to communicate freshness or cordiality, dark blue is a color of reliability and safety, pink represents womanhood, dark violet stands for wealth and prosperity, white - for peace and tranquility. Having studied color psychology and the effects of colors on a person, a designer can choose the best option that will fit target users of an app.

Target Audience

Every person perceives colors differently at a subconscious level. In the West, red is associated with passion, whereas in China it stands for wealth and prosperity. Chinese also widely use this color for holiday celebrations, in everyday life and in mobile applications. Therefore, a designer should take into consideration cultural preferences, placement and location of users when choosing a palette for app design. 

A designer should always try to learn who the audience of the application are, what their age range and gender ratio are, and so on. it is necessary to understand app users and their cultural preferences to define how they can respond to a chosen set of colors.

Pallet Restrictions

The number of colors and other elements of design is better when used to a limited extent. A designer should stick to a scheme consisting of several  primary and secondary colors when creating app design. They can be of one tone or of several midtones.

Tones and Midtones in App Design
Tones and Midtones in App Design

In some situations, the use of more than three colors is acceptable. Sometimes there is even a need for it, for example, when it is necessary to make app design stand out among other competitors. However, a designer should be careful with such experiments and understand that while some people can find the color palette nice and user-friendly, others can reject it completely. 

Use Tones and Shades

One of the effective approaches to choosing a palette lies in using one primary color and several additional colors, created on the basis of a primary one.

Primary and Additional Colors
Primary and Additional Colors

If a designer needs to use additional colors, different from those given in the palette, they can apply shades and midtones. This is done by adding black or white to the primary color. In such a way it is possible to reach a more smooth transition of the design of interface elements, which will be inviting to the eye of the user.

Be Daring and Original

Sometimes designers go against the rules and reach success, making the product stand out among the others due to its originality and special app design.

Some of the most popular brands used less reserved sets of colors in the beginning, but eventually came to more restrained pallets. For example, Instagram had a lot of blue in its design, but ended up with a complete redesign, leaving the obtrusive and unnecessary color accents of the interface elements behind. This way they concentrated the attention of their users on the main content of the app - pictures and videos. 

Color Palette from Design Source Materials

A tool named Color, created by Adobe, allows its user to upload an image for an automatic analysis and generate a color scheme on its basis. If it is difficult for a designer to take a decision about a palette, they can use the source materials which they receive from a client. It can be a logo, a website mockup, photos or some other visual content.


Color Palette from Design Source Materials
Color Palette from Design Source Materials

A logo and brand materials can make it a lot easier to choose a future color scheme for application design. But it doesn’t mean that there will be a bright green logo on a bright green app background, for example. A designer should take numerous factors into account. Correlated and additional appropriate colors can be used for design facilitation.

Sometimes it is impossible to define a color range based on source materials. In this case, a designer have to turn to their thinking and imagination. Keeping the target audience in mind, they should develop a few options of a palette, discuss their ideas with a client and finalize the color scheme of the application. 

The Adobe Color Tool

Adobe Color
Adobe Color


When choosing a color scheme for an app, a designer should start from the psychological properties of colors and their effect on users. It is vital to know a lot about the target audience of the app and their possible preferences. The limitation of the number of primary and secondary colors is important too. It is advisable to use tones, midtones and shades of colors. A designer should be moderately daring and original in the choice of a palette relying on their knowledge and experience.

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