Mention monochrome and most people immediately think of black and white or grayscale colour schemes. Yet monochrome simply means ‘of one colour’ and the choice of colour is entirely up to you. The colours of a monochrome palette all share a single hue, but vary in brightness and saturation – they’re known as tints, tones and shades. Whilst that sounds a little restrictive, you may be surprised how many different colours can be created.

In fact, monochromatic colour schemes provide wonderful opportunities in art and design. Because they use a greater range of contrasting tones, they attract attention and create focus and can provide a strong sense of visual cohesion. The relative absence of hue contrast can be offset by variations in tone and the addition of texture.

Monochrome decorating schemes

In the paint world, shades, tints and tones are created by adding varying amounts of white (tints), black (shades) or grey (tones), as seen in many colour cards.

The hugely popular Scandinavian style of decorating is a great proponent of monochrome schemes. In this image from Farrow & Ball, greys are layered to create an understated ‘Gustavian’ look that’s calm and relaxed.

Farrow & Ball

Bolder colours can be balanced by the use of white, grey or other neutrals, as seen in this Dulux scheme.



Monochrome photography can produce some truly eye-opening effects. Playing with saturation and brightness can create an amazing array of different colours, as this blog post by Web Urbanist so wonderfully demonstrates.

Image credits: Manganite, Mavis_hk and Wards


Monochromatic painting and sculpture have been an important component of avant-garde visual art since the early 20th century. Painters have explored a single colour, changing the values across a surface, through texture and nuance.


In the world of fashion, monochrome is a perennial favourite and has been particularly hot in recent seasons. The four outfits shown in this Into Mind blog post demonstrate that monochromes are far from dull. Supplementing with grey, black and white can add variety or balance out bolder colours.



Quilting in monochromes

With fabrics, however, putting together the right combination to make up a palette isn’t quite as easy. The colours may not be available from a single supplier and if they’re patterned, this adds a whole new layer of complexity!

Yet the paint approach can help. Here, Stephanie Boon of Dawn Chorus Studio explains with wonderful clarity how colour cards can guide you through the process.

Dawn Chorus Studio


Another option is to look for brands that offer pre-selected fabric picks. Here at Oakshott, for example, we've put together an assortment of Monochrome Picks in Fat 8ths, Fat Quarters and Half Metre Blocks, each containing five or six pre-cuts in 100% shot cotton.

Oakshott Monochromes

As these examples show, choosing to design with one colour rather than utilizing the entire spectrum can produce much more powerful results. Monochromatic colours sit well together, producing a soothing effect which is easy on the eye.