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Ultimate Designer’s Color Guide for 2016

Updated November 20, 2015
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Ultimate Designer's Color Guide 2016

Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

This Ultimate Designer’s Color Guide for 2016 has been lovingly created for your enjoyment, perusal, backlash and inevitable bookmarking. Link to it in your round up, tweet about it if your bored, but don’t forget to check out the tools resource towards the end, and of course my top picks for colors to use in 2016. I emphasize top fashion designers because fashion lines have proven to be great indicators to where color trends are moving, but I talk about other color authorities and web design authorities like Awwwards.com as well, the Web Design Awards site as digital designers are also the tastemakers of 2016. So without further ado, here’s the table of contents so you can skip to any part of the resource.

Ultimate Designer's Color Guide 2016


Why pay attention to high fashion for color schemes?

While creating beautiful web design in Minneapolis for clients, I want to come up with the most compelling designs that utilize current shades of color, that draw in the eye with their vividness but also with the way they strike the viewer as high-value or high-end. I often say “I make shit look expensive,” and following high fashion and what the top designers and most expensive fashion lines are doing I can continue to wield that keen eye.

A clip from “A Devil Wears Prada” describes with exquisite condescension why color should matter to designers. Maybe you can relate to this kind of attention to color, or perhaps this scene makes you hate the fashion industry, but either way if you use color in your job, taking color more seriously will make an impact on your effectiveness at work and increase your ability to retain and expand your livelihood.



Who are the designers featured in this resource and why?

The designers featured are the best of the 14 most expensive luxury brands, many of which are household names.

  • Marc Jacobs
  • Fendi
  • Hermes
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Versace
  • Burberry
  • Armani
  • Dolce & Gabbana
  • Gucci
  • Dior
  • Chanel
  • Prada
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Oscar De La Renta

From there, I will also talk through what other credible sources are forecasting for color trends in 2016. Each of the outfits and color schemes represented here are from the fashion designers 2016 lines. I lay out the colors below the outfits as well so that designers can use their eyedropper tool to grab the color scheme, and for quick reference if you’re looking for inspiration. So without further ado, the first color schemes on the chopping block:

Color Schemes 2016, From High Fashion - Color Forecast, Forecasting


Color, and the taste for color is so arbitrary. Taste-makers and designers can argue all day, and as another designer I work with likes to say, color is something that inspires very strong opinions from everyone. But let me tell you, if there’s any people that have proven time and time again that they can affect the direction of western culture’s taste for color, it would be the designers I am talking about here. Of course there are many different fashion lines, but I will attempt to follow the thread of the trends in high fashion and identify brilliant color schemes and discuss patterns I can identify amongst the many.

The first Gucci color scheme above pairs a deep purple with a bright to mustard yellow, and don’t forget the black and white represented in the outfit. To me half of the game of color is in the quantity, not just the colors involved, the deep purple being secondary of course to the big swath of yellow in this instance.

The Fendi color scheme above is one of the most brilliant and complex color schemes I came across with it’s deep blue with a hint of green, the goldenrod to mustard yellow and surprisingly a dark blue with a hint of purple and a dark olive green bordering on brown. It’s earthy, but progressive with it’s intense blue and purple, dramatically complementing the quick but smooth angles of the clothing.

The Armani color scheme above is representative of much of the clothing I reviewed on the way to this article, with it’s nudes and blacks almost striving to match the color of the woman’s skin. To me this is a little harder to imagine using in web or graphic design, unless of course you were creating a website design specifically for a fashion designer. To me white and black are the color of web design and UI for fashion though, used often so that the colors of the photographs themselves pop and the structure of the interface doesn’t intrude on the photos.

The second Gucci color scheme above shows the deep navy blue and raspberry splashed red that I saw quite a few times while sifting through high fashion lines for 2016. With the hint of darkened brilliant yellow with a touch of green the color scheme gets a just enough sophistication for the runway. Without the pop of yellow in the shoes, the outfit would be bold but as basic as a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

The last Gucci color scheme above is one of the most risky I saw that was successful, and the strength and complexity of these three Gucci color schemes were why I couldn’t help think Gucci is head and shoulders above the other fashion designers from my perspective. Who would’ve guessed you could get shades of red, yellow, pink, and green to play so well together. One color scheme I also found popping up quite a bit was this pairing of the dark red and variations on a darker green/blue. I’ve also seen this scheme done very well in web design, like a fellow designer’s hard work on this website that utilizes the blue green and red tastefully without crossing into dreaded accidental christmas territory.

Green Blue and Red Color scheme for web design, Dark colors - Camping Website inspiration

Picking out some trends and patterns from 2016 high fashion lines colors

Light Blue and Canary Yellow or Dark Blue and Mustard

Color Schemes for high fashion. Blue and Yellow from Dolce and Gabbana, Oscar De La Renta and GucciNot to say that any of the fashion designs here are pushing the limit, but this classic combination is taking many different shapes in 2016. Use blue and yellow with an earthtone like the tiger in the Gucci dress, or some kind of earth toned photography for graphic or web design and you have a magnetic duo.

My tastes have always been attuned to a bit of blue and yellow together, particularly when green is used as well and as you can see, two of these designs use a bit of dark blue green to accent the combination of yellow and blue.

Rather than tons of bright colors (with the exception of Versace’s crazy green, purple’s and oranges and yellows) for this next year, I saw quite a few deep and bold colors offset with some kind of earth-tone anchor to add sophistication or an element of maturity perhaps.


Green and Red - Color Forecast for design -fashion colors 2016

Diving Deeper into Blue-green and Red

Green and red are not always seen together for one fairly significant reason; Christmas. But the variation of deep blue green seen more often amongst these designs doesn’t really smack of Christmas.

Red and Blue green can be used savely together, and very tastefully too. I’m excited for this pairing more, especially with a color scheme like the Gucci one on the right here, where there’s a blue-kissed, silvery white and black that can be paired with these two heros.

The other two color schemes have some kind of warm earth tone to draw back the brightness of the colors, once again this pattern seems to be common for many high fashion color schemes going into 2016.




What about other color experts? – Pantone goes brighter than most

Ultimate Color Guide for Designers 2016To write an ultimate designer’s color guide for 2016 it would be quite incomplete without at least touching on what Pantone is predicting.

Not quite sure when variations of these green chartreuse will be making their way out of the top colors of the year, I for one am a little exhausted of seeing it. I definitely saw evidence of the pale pink and the peach in the designers work  as well as smatterings of the rest for sure, so the same types of things are cropping up. The only difference is in the proportions as the brighter colors in this palette seemed to show up more as accents in the high fashion lines, and the deeper more rich colors similar to Pantone’s Snorkel Blue or Fiesta took a precedent, or were represented in more quantity overall.

To me the lesson here is definitely that it’s not only the colors chosen for a color palette in design but how much those colors take up space that will make or break a color scheme.

Sherwin Williams predicts an ‘earthy industrial’ color palette

Rooted in the “recovery from the recession,” Sherwin Williams color predictions are said to be inspired “small batch” and artisanal companies finding their own version of industrial revolution. Pale nudes, pinks and metallic blue and bronze show up in full force, echoing the other industry designs and predictions.

Ultimate Color Guide for Designers 2016 - Sherwin Williams, Pantone, and High Fashion

Sherwin Williams color mix PDF speaks of this in more depth on this. The combination of earth tones and rusted metals make me think of a future where we all go back to a kind of stone age, but are happier there. Standing around a well with rusted factories mostly gone, but a couple bright deeply tinted flowers in bloom. Thank you for allowing me a brief poetic rabbit hole, back to color.

Pura Vida - Ultimate Color Guide 2016, designers and web designers 2016Mas Amor Por Favor, Sherwin Williams Color Predictions, Color Guide 2016



The Nouveau Narrative and the Trajectory sections of the Sherwin Williams color predictions drive awareness to deep dark colors again, paired with earth tones. This along with an occasional little bright accent color seems to be a common thread of the whole “Ultimate Designer’s Color Guide for 2016.” So if you’ve learned nothing else, apply this to your web design, graphic design, and clothing color palettes – perhaps drop in some dark deep reds, blues and yellows and offset that rich color with a brown, gold or another earthy shade.



Best Color Schemes for 2016, Ultimate Guide to Color for Designers 2016Trajectory of Color 2016 - The Ultimate Guide to color trends in 2016

Benjamin Moore picks “Simply White” as it’s color of the year for 2016

One of the first things designers learn in school is that white space is your friend. I think what the Benjamin Moore color of the year video really speaks to is all of the ways white can be used. With the texture shown within the video, and the shapes laid on top of each other, demonstrate how white can be used as a force in it’s own right. I remember when I first started using white on top of colored canvases in painting classes to show light, and in that I learned that white has it’s own presence besides being just an emptiness. Also the variations of the color white are important are well, whether used by themselves or alongside another color. White is often the sidekick, but a faithful one which draws out the beauty of other colors in contrast.

So many things I observed while studying the taste-makers choices of color in the next year’s lines, didn’t fall directly under the category of color. Texture and pattern both were in full force during my deep dive into the top designers. 3 of my favorite patterns I saw amongst the top 16 most expensive designers were these three. From left to right; Fendi, Gucci, and Oscar De La Renta.

Blue and Yellow, Pink/Red and Green and Deep Blue - Designer

Note the recurrence of the yellow and blue, both pastel in the Fendi on the left, and the deep blue/green and red Gucci dress in the middle.

The Predominance of White and Texture, Nudes/Pale Pinks

Flesh Tones, Pale, Pink, whiteSomething my lovely fiance has been obsessed with for the past year has been trying to get her hair to match her skin. Something I found strange and fascinating, but one common thread through the designers and color experts observations is a deep respect for the pastel creams, use of white and different textures, and pale pinks. Everyone from Sherwin Williams, Pantone, Burberry, Armani and Chanel is displaying a cyclical resurgence of pastels and perhaps it’s not just coming back for 2016, but has been back for a little while now. Hair died pale pink and other pale colors has been showing up in my neighborhood of Uptown Minneapolis, amongst the often black-clad street people that pop in and out of our breweries. Isn’t that where the best color trends start?

Of course, what is one of the most classic color schemes of all? Black on black on black. Or white on creme on white. Or a combination of white and black, but I saw quite a bit of white in different textures paired together in the top designers work I observed.

Masculine and Feminine Color Subtleties

Men wear different colors, but much of the clothing is affected by the more involved color politics of women’s clothing. Even though I’m fascinated by the evolution of color trends, I go for days wearing black jeans and a black shirt as I like to simplify things which can be distracting and stay focused on my work. But I believe staying up on color and fashions allow me to be a better web and graphic designer.

As you can see below in this small grab of some forward thinking designs for men, much of the color is muted even more than the color trends for women. Deep gold, Brown, and Green with flashes of orange, green and red on the more adventurous Gucci designs.

Men's fashion, color and design for 2016


Color Tools, Resource and Links

1. The Ultrabright Color Forecast – This isn’t updated as often as I would like, and that was partly the reason for creating this resource for people, but the colors represented on the site are brilliant and very tasteful and stylish.

The Ultrabright - Color Palette Design

2. Design Seeds – This is an incredible tool where you use the sliders to search for palettes with a particular color. I appreciate the way they pull the colors out of a photograph that’s displayed to make the palette as it gives you some real world context and is very pleasant.

3. RGB.to Allows you to search for pantone by hex, or vice versa and allows fairly seemless cross color format translation.

4. Name That Hue – Originally made for the colorblind, this tool allows you to check on the name of any color, so you won’t be sitting there looking like a chump trying to figure out if something is canary yellow or mustard pecan salamander orange.

5. 10 Beautiful Gradients for Web Design – This is a resource I created with some of the best gradients I’ve seen. UI Gradients is another tool for this, but I felt a lot of the gradients were a bit too dramatic to be usable, so I curated some more subtle ones.

6. Material Palette – Allow yourself to look at your colors in a user interface quickly, with variations on the color quickly.

Here’s a brief video about Material palette:


7. StylifyMe.com – Allows you to type in the address of any website and see the colors, styles and even fonts it’s using and download them quickly as a PDF for later reference. This tool is very fun to mess around with. Here’s a screengrab of me using it on Starbucks.com.

Color Palette Tools - Starbucks.com, design web design inspiration

8. 20 Websites of The Day from Awwwards.com with great color Schemes – Though this article is named “great color tools” it’s real glory is the examples of work with excellent web design color palettes as seen in the wild on extremely well-done websites. Pretty progressive stuff for June, 2015. Here’s an excellent example of the collection:

Web Design Color Inspiration - Ultimate Designers Guide to Color for 2016

9. 5 Web Design Color Palettes – From yours truly, I share examples of 5 palettes I think are strong and the types of situations I might use them within. HEX values included.

10. Coolors – Fairly similar to Adobe’s Kuler, this tool has been featured on CoDrops, Smashing Magazine, and Wired, partly because it churns out some pretty excellent color palettes, and has some nice features. According to the Wired article, Coolors uses a database of hundreds and hundreds of palettes made by people. Out of the database, computationally the algorithm compares values and  comes up with new design palettes.  It seems to do it in a way that feels very human-made, which I like a lot, from there you can modify one of the values and save palettes.

My Picks for the Colors of 2016

My independent color analysis is complete, and I’ve come to a couple conclusions. Here are the colors that made the biggest impact on me; my picks for the best colors for designers in 2016.

My Bright color for 2016: Flamingo, #ed4436
My Accent color for 2016: Old Gold, #cfbf2b
My Color to use with Abandon for 2016: Wafer, #d8bebf
My Deep Color for 2016: Nordic, #20403c
My Dark Color for 2016: Mirage, #1d2b3d
My Favorite Color for Fashion in 2016: Soft Amber, #d1beb4

And of course every shade of black and white you can imagine up in your magical brain.

Thank you for reading this analysis of the top designers and color tastemakers color choices and my favorites amongst them. It has been a pleasure writing “Ultimate Designer’s Color Guide for 2016“, partly because I think color is a very fun thing to talk about, write about and weigh in on. Kind of like music, or anything else based on taste, the subjectivity is what makes it fun. If you have any favorite colors, or your top picks for 2016 please tweet at me or leave a comment below.

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Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

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