Color Combination for your Paper Projects

Color Combination for your Paper Projects main article image
Posted on May 15, 2021 by Fernanda Rafagnin

Have you ever seen a box, a card, or any paper project that you thought wasn’t quite perfect and wondered if they would be better if the colors were different? Some combinations just don’t feel right and sometimes when we are trying to put a project together, it’s hard to choose the right colors, or maybe we don’t have many different options to choose from. I’m here today to share a little light on that.

Since we’re talking about paper projets here, I’ll stick to cardstock and scrapbook paper. If you choose a digital paper to print, be aware that the colors most likely will come out differently than what you see on your screen. Be sure to use CMYK colors when putting together a project that requires printing, and keep your monitor well calibrated for better results.

Mood Board

I know one of the options to start (and what I did when I started) is to take out all the material you have and just put the papers next to each other and see if they go together, but let’s face it, some of us crafters have way too much material and it would take a lot of time to do that (and to put everything back where they belong afterwards), so what I find easier is to put together something like a moodboard before I start. Just write down the general feel I want with the project and if I want a specific main color, how many additional colors, or if I want to use a print or pattern and go from there.

mood board for inspiration

When choosing the colors for your project, you need to figure out what you want to represent, what feeling you want to show. Also, you need to decide what you want to stand out and what you want to blend in. If you have that start, you can go to the color wheel, which is very helpful for paper projects, from ones for printing to the cardstock-cutting ones. There are some easy ways to get inspiration for harmonic combinations and it saves a lot of time for people who have too much options of paper to choose from (guilty!).

color wheels

Choosing your colors

I could get all technical and write about monochromatic, analogous, complementary, but I really want to be practical here. There is just so much to say about color theory that I prefer to leave that to the experts. There are many books and websites dedicated to that and I’ve learned so much about mixing and matching, but here I would like to give hints and tips specifically for paper projects without getting to technical.

The color wheel is a great tool when you are choosing an inspiration. One option is to choose one main color that you want to work with and then go to the wheel to choose the other colors. If I’m doing a project focused on a person specifically, I like to take into account their personality and favorite color.

Do you want something more playful? For children or for someone with a cheerful spirit? Choose bright colors, play with them, and with textures and patterns. Choose colors that are opposite on the color wheel, or even in a triangle or square pattern. Making something for people who are more serious? Bet on darker colors like navy and black, contrasting with light gray and pastel tones. By the way, pastel tones are a great choice for a romantic person, specially if combined with a floral pattern.


I love working with gradients. It’s basically the same color, but some with more pigmentation than others, so on the wheel it’s going from the outside to the inside instead of going around the circle. I think gradients are classy and go together really well specially in layered projects like shadow boxes. You can go full gradient if you have different shades for all the layers, or they can be used two at a time if your project requires more layers than the colors you have available. Monochromatic combinations give a sense of depth and are easy on the eyes. It’s a great combination if you’re doing a project for someone who is more romantic, introverted or calm.

analogous and complementary

Other way to mix colors are choosing the ones that are side-by-side on the wheel, or analogous colors. They kind of blend in together and it’s a combination that is very harmonic and easy on the eyes. No wonder the rainbow is a combination that so many people love, the order of the colors makes them go  perfectly together.

You can also choose colors that are opposites in the color wheel (or complementary colors). Like purple and green, orange and blue, red and cyan. Those combinations might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they’re edgy, bright and fun. It gives great contrast as well. If you’re doing a project for someone who is energetic, young and fun to be around, this is a great choice.

dog paw mandala

I made this seven-layer project mixing analogous colors and gradients. I alternated each color between dark and light. The colors I used were (from bottom to top): light green, dark green, light blue, dark blue, lilac, hot pink and light pink. Looking at the project, the bottom layers don’t appear as much, but the mix between dark and light gives a sense of depth, which is cool because all layers are glued instead of using foam tape to give it a 3D effect.

For the paw print, I used the Dog Paw 3D Layered Mandala from Creative Fabrica and cut it on the Silhouette Cameo, and for the swirls on the sides I used an old Martha Stewart punch I have.

prints and patterns

Using prints and patterns

When working with patterned paper, try not to mix too many elements. One thing I’ve seen many people do, specially when they’re starting in paper projects (myself included) is mixing as much stuff as possible. Lots of patterns and colors and embellishments and everything to fill every inch of the space. It can become too much, and sometimes less is more.

If you use more than one design, make sure they complement each other. One thing I like to do is choose one patterned paper I want to work with and use the same colors on it. It’s easy to find a palette by looking at the paper. I choose one of the colors to be my main (and not necessarily the prominent color on the paper) and go from there.

Project: Double fold album with gift card holder

For this project I used the Double Fold Mini Album with Tags template. I chose a scrapbook paper with roses and then got cardstock in pink and green. Since the pink color was prominent on the design, I chose the green of the leaves to make the base of the card, because I didn’t want it to be too pink overall.

For the insert cards, I chose light pink, to be able to write something, and for the outline I did two options: one in hot pink to match the inserts, and one in a darker green to match the base of the card.

On the center insert I chose to make it a gift card holder. I measured the card and made small cuts at the bottom with a stylus, very easy and I really liked the result. Now the project is ready to be gifted to someone special!

gift card holder

This is the final product. Were you inspired? Now let’s combine those colors and get crafting!

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