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Posted by on Jul 15, 2013 in Bootcamp, Stars and Stamps | 10 comments

Get your Priorities Straight (Choosing a Major, Minor & Accent Color)

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Hello everyone and welcome to the July Bootcamp! It’s hard to believe we’re half way through the year and already on our 7th Bootcamp. This month we’re going to delve back into the topic of color. If you missed the very first Bootcamp in January where we talked about the Color Wheel, how colors relate to each other and how you can use it to help you choose effective color combinations you can check it out here.

When it comes to color one of the most common questions is ‘How Many Colors Should I use in My Design’? As you might guess there really is no right answer to this question and an experienced designer can get away with almost any number of colors, but generally speaking the risk of combining too many colors and ending up with a busy or chaotic result is much greater than using too few colors. As you may recall from the ABC’s of Color Bootcamp it’s completely possible to make a good design using variations (tints, tones and shades) of a single hue and this Monochromatic Color Harmony is one of the easiest to manage. It’s also interesting to note that the CAS (clean and simple) designs many of us admire often contain only 2-3 colors.

A three color combination is a good starting point for any design. It’s enough to create variation and give a design visual interest but still easy to manage. Once you’ve chosen your colors you won’t want to use them in equal amounts so you’ll need to prioritize them and assign each one the role of Major, Minor or Accent color. There is a simple and time-tested rule to distributing them that is referred to as the 60-30-10 Formula (or rule). The numbers refer to the percentage of each color you’ll want to use. The Major Color should cover about 60% of the space which will unifying the design. By then adding about 30% of the Minor Color you will create contrast and visual interest and finally using about 10% of the Accent Color will provide finishing touches and define details in your design. As is the case with all the concepts we’ve talked about you will see them applied to most every design discipline and this rule is very commonly used and discussed in the home decorating industry too.

Let’s take a look at some card samples that apply the 60-30-10 rule to their colors. I have added a ‘color graph’ to the bottom of each of these to help illustrate the 60-30-10 color distirbution.


Penny Ward MMA

 Sample Card by Penny


julie MMA

 Sample Card by Julie


Yolanda MMA

Sample Card by Yolanda


Barb M. MMA

Sample Card by Barbara M.


dixie MMA

Sample Card by Dixie


barb MMA

Sample Card by Barb H.


Okay, so I suspect some of you will now ask… can I only use 3 colors in the 60-30-10 rule? My response would be that while there is some leeway and you could potentially add a small amount of another color if you needed it for contrast, the best way to make the formula work is to primarily stick with 3 colors in these approximate percentages. As you can see from these fabulous examples limiting your design to 3 colors can result in beautifully balanced, bold, crisp designs and really isn’t limiting at all.


MMA Color Combos



Your assignment is to choose one of the combinations used in the sample cards or choose from the additional mixes and create a card to share with everyone here.  You may link up more than once as long as the card relates directly to the lesson. Everyone who participates in the Design Bootcamp by linking up a card created for the class will receive a Class Summary in PDF format via email.


  1. thank you for this lesson-I am trying to learn more about design and I found this really informative

  2. Thank you Paula, this is a super informative lesson and will be a huge help in getting the right amount of colors for a cohesive design! This has got to be my favorite Boot Camp by far. Thanks to all of you ladies for the beautiful example cards!

  3. Paula, I am learning so much about good design from your Boot Camp posts! Thank you so much!! My beginning card making skills always grow from your lessons. ♡ Dawn

  4. Paula, Thanks for another wonderful lesson! And, thanks to OWH cardmakers for some fabulous sample cards.

  5. Thanks, Paula, for another great lesson. The samples are all wonderful and the “color graph” under the sample cards is really helpful.


  6. Thanks Paula, sooo very helpful. When I look at my cards that I really love, I can see the 60-10-30 in them! Now to remember the rule when my design just doesn’t click!

  7. I LOVE the bootcamps! This lesson is so easy to follow – the color charts make it simple to see how the principle works out in the cards. Great samples. This will help me keep my focus and not just jumble a lot of pretty colors together. Thanks!

  8. Paula, thank you for another super lesson! I think this is going to be beneficial to a lot of people, myself definitely included. 🙂
    Julie, I fondly remember the OWH sketch you used for your card because I made the samples for the sketch that week! 🙂
    I do have one question about the homework. Are we allowed to use a 3-color combo that isn’t listed, so long as we keep the 60-30-10 proportions?

  9. I had my cards already made but I thought they still followed the basic boot camp guidelines. Pink is the main color, but I used different patterned paper accented with black and white. Your examples were great!! Thanks for the great tips.

    • So sorry I don’t think anyone can access your image to comment Lisa. I can definitely see the pink but can’t give you any guidance as to proportions of 60/30/10 that we’re focusing in on for this bootcamp. Glad you enjoyed the lesson nonetheless.


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