Create inspiring color themes with Adobe Color CC

This post focuses on how you can create themes based on color theory rules by using Adobe Color CC, to strengthen your designs without losing years of your life in becoming an expert.

You can read Part 1: Capture your color inspirations with Adobe Color CC of this post to understand how you can easily create your own color themes from available images or on the go, share these themes on the web, and explore the community to get your inspiration.

The color wheel in Adobe Color CC is designed to help you with color palette selection in an intuitive manner by using presets that are based on color theory rules. However, you also have the option to create a ‘custom’ color palette from the wheel without any rules controlling it.

For example, in a few clicks (when using the Adobe Color CC website), you can choose your ‘base color’ from, apply a color rule, and then move your base color selector on the color wheel to get the theme you like—several combinations are possible! You will notice that when you drag the base color selector on the color wheel, other color selectors also move in unison while maintaining their strategic location on the wheel.

On the go? Get the same intuitive and smooth color wheel functionality on your iOS and Android device!

Use color rule presets to create harmonious color themes

Landscape painter and teaching artist Mitchell Albala quotes in his book, “A color strategy is like a recipe for harmony—a set of color relationships that are proven to work well and can be used as a formula for building our color composition.”

Let us understand the very basics of color rules in HSB (Hue Saturation Brightness) color space to help you choose a beautiful and harmonious palette.

Go to the color wheel on Color CC website and notice the HSB values when you apply the color rules. Hue (H) is the color pigment measured from 0 to 360 degrees on the circle (for example: 0=red, 60=yellow, 120=green, 180=cyan, 240=blue, and 300=magenta). Saturation (S) is the amount of white added in the color. Brightness (B) is the amount of black in the color. Both Saturation and Brightness are measured from 0% to 100%.

Choose your base color (HSB: 182, 100, 75) and apply the color rules. Notice the color theme you get.


Analogous themes use colors that are adjacent on the color wheel. Analogous colors usually blend well with one another and are harmonious and pleasing to the eye.

analogous color themes

















Monochromatic colors are variations in saturation and brightness of a single color. So when you use this color rule, Adobe Color CC gives you five colors sharing the same hue (H:182) but different saturation and brightness values. Monochromatic colors go well together and produce a soothing effect.

monochromatic color themes

















Triadic themes use colors that are evenly spaced around at 3 equidistant points on the color wheel. When you use this color rule, Adobe Color CC gives you two colors with the same hue but different saturation and brightness values from the first point on the color wheel (HSB: 182, 90, 45 & HSB: 182, 100, 75), two from the second point on the color wheel (HSB: 51, 90, 55 & HSB: 51, 95, 45), and one color from the third point (HSB: 321, 90, 79). Triadic colors tend to be contrasting (but not as contrasting as complementary colors!) while retaining harmony when used together.

triad color themes

















Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel are considered complementary colors. When you use this color rule, Adobe Color CC gives you two colors with the same hue as the base color (HSB: 182, 100, 45 & HSB: 182, 90, 100), the base color itself (HSB: 182, 100, 75), and two colors with the same hue from the opposite point on the color wheel (HSB: 23, 100, 45 & HSB: 23, 100, 75). Complementary colors give a very high contrast and tend to stand out when used together.

complementary color themes

















Compound color themes are a mix of complementary and analogous colors. When you use this color rule, Adobe Color CC gives you two colors with the same hue that are adjacent (analogous) to the base color (HSB: 214, 90, 95 & HSB: 214, 60, 35), the base color itself (HSB: 182, 100, 75), and two colors opposite to the base color (complementary) but adjacent to each other (HSB: 15, 75, 78 & HSB: 6, 90, 95). Compound color theme has the same strong visual contrast as the complementary color theme, but has less pressure.

compound color themes

















When you use this color rule, Adobe Color CC gives you five colors – all sharing the same hue (H: 182) and saturation (S: 100) but different brightness.

shade scolor themes
















The shades generated from Adobe Color CC share the following relationships in the HSB color space in terms of brightness (represented here by b1, b2, b3, b4, and b5):

HSB values                                                  Brightness relationship

Shade A: 182, 100, b1=25                             b1 < b2 < b3 < b4 < b5
Shade B: 182, 100, b2=50                             b2 = b1+ 25
Shade C: 182, 100, b3=65                             b3 = b2 + 15
Shade D: 182, 100, b4=75                             b4 = b3 + 10 (base color)
Shade E: 182, 100, b5=80                             b5 = b4 + 5

Okay, let us not get too technical over here but understand that a good color palette has mathematical foundations! In fact, there is a whole scientific field dedicated to the understanding of color. Color Expert and Principal Color Scientist at Adobe Lars Borg, who designed the algorithms powering the Adobe Hue CC app, tells us more about color science and the takeaways for creative artists from such a deep field in the blog post Color Science, Explained.


Now that you are getting the hang of it, try custom mode. Manually select the colors on the color wheel in your palette without any rules controlling it!

custom color theme
















Use the power of Creative Cloud Libraries for a seamless creative workflow

Your color themes are automatically saved to Creative Cloud Libraries. Powered by the Adobe CreativeSync technology, Creative Cloud library makes your favorite assets available to you anywhere. You can start a project anywhere on one device, pick it up on the go on another, and finish it on any device.


You can use these color themes for your creative projects in Creative Cloud desktop apps like Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, InDesign CC, After Effects CC, and Flash Professional CC, and Adobe Creative Cloud mobile apps for iOS and Android like Illustrator Line, Illustrator Draw, and Photoshop Sketch. This will help you keep your creative work cohesive from a color perspective.

Get started with Adobe Color CC

So you have centuries of color research at your disposal through Adobe Color CC! And the power of Creative Cloud to make everything work together for a smooth creative workflow. Irrespective of whether you design logos, posters, or graphics, spruce up interiors or architectural designs, or comp websites, capture or create harmonious colors themes with Adobe Color CC.

Download Adobe Color CC – iOS |Android.

Useful links:

Adobe Color CC FAQ
Creative Cloud Learn and Support
Capture your color inspirations with Adobe Color CC