How to Choose Striking Colour Themes

Are you stuck in a colourful rut? Don’t know your chartreuse from your cerulean? Just what is puce, anyway? (Hint: these are all colours.)

Don’t despair. Choosing colours is easy if you follow a few simple rules – and you can even apply these to your everyday wardrobe choices.

School or club colours

First things first: if you’re making a yearbook for your school or club, don’t forget your school/club colours! If you have school houses, you could also include your individual house colours on your form pages.

Now for the fun part:

The Colour Wheel

Colour themes
Behold its majesty. Image courtesy of

Don’t be intimidated by the wheel! Using it is way easier than it may at first appear. There’s a few ways to approach the wheel to help you choose colour schemes:

Complementary colours

This means choosing colours that are direct opposites to each other on the wheel, such as blue and orange.

Sometimes complementary colours will go well together, but more often they just clash – just like that time Timmy wore a bright orange shirt with deep blue jeans to the SPC Yearbooks office. Gross. He looked like a sad traffic cone. Don’t be like Timmy.

However, if, for example, Timmy had chosen to wear blue trainers with orange laces, that could have been cool. If you’re going to go with complementary colours, you need to be tasteful about it; use complementary colours sparingly, or you may distract readers from the text and pictures.

Split complementary colours

If you don’t like the clash, try choosing one of the colours next to the complementary instead; in our example, this would mean pairing orange with violet or teal.

Split complementary colours are a bit more chilled out and sophisticated – something that Timmy would never understand.

Analogous colours

If you want to go for a more calming approach, choose colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel. For example, if you want to use orange, you could pair it with vermilion or amber. You could even use all three.

I once sat opposite Timmy while he ate an unpeeled orange. He cried afterwards.

The triad of colours

Choose one colour on the wheel, and then draw an equilateral triangle to find two others (that’s a triangle with equal sides). In our example, that would be blue, magenta, and amber.

Use the brightest colour – in our case, amber – sparingly to highlight small details or areas of interest, and fill out the page with the other two colours.

I bought Timmy a one-way ticket to visit the Bermuda triangle for his birthday. It didn’t work. He came back.

Go mono (or mostly mono)

If you don’t want to faff around with the colour wheel, single-colour designs following your school or club colour can look classy and elegant, if you’re into that kind of thing. Just make sure to leave plenty of blank, white space. Just like the empty space in Timmy’s head.

Go nuts!

Sometimes, chucking everything and the kitchen sink at something can drive a sense of excitement. What would Smarties be if they just came in one colour? (Okay, I’ll be honest – the orange ones are best anyway.)

Just remember that if you’re going to try to do this, use your colours cleverly, not randomly. Use bold colours to create interest, but don’t distract readers with overly flashy colours. Try using solid block pastel shades, and stick to a maximum of five different colours.


Whatever you choose, consistency is key. Keep your use of colour consistent throughout your yearbook, and be careful not to overuse colour and make your text difficult to read. In general, writing looks best as black on a white background – there’s no need to reinvent this.

Have fun

Rules are made to be broken. If your colour choices look great and they don’t follow the rules above, that’s brilliant – go with it!

Final important points

  1. Using Yearbook Hub, the ultimate online yearbook builder, you can play around with your use of colour until you get it just right. Sign up for a free trial account and get clicking!
  2. Nobody likes Timmy.