Material Design

Color scheme

The Material Design color system can be used to create a color theme that reflects your brand or style. A color scheme represents your theme’s specific color values, such as its primary color and the surface colors of views.

Design & API documentation

Table of contents


An implementation of the Material Design color scheme is provided in the MDCSemanticColorScheme class. By default, an instance of this class is configured with the Material defaults. While it is possible to use these defaults out of the box, you are highly encouraged to set — at a minimum — the primary and secondary color values. The following image shows an MDCButton themed with the default color scheme values (top) and an MDCButton themed with custom color scheme values (bottom).

An MDCButton themed with the default color scheme and a custom one.

Most components support being themed with a color scheme using a color themer extension. You can learn more about which extensions are available for a given component by reading the component documentation.

Semantic color values

A color scheme consists of the following semantic color values:

Color name Use
primaryColor The color displayed most frequently across your app’s screens and components.
primaryColorVariant A light or dark variation of the primary color.
secondaryColor Provides ways to accent and distinguish your product. Floating action buttons use the secondary color.
errorColor The indication of errors within components such as text fields.
surfaceColor Typically maps to the background of components such as cards, sheets, and dialogs.
backgroundColor Typically found behind scrollable content.

Each of these colors are paired with a corresponding “on-color”. An on color defines the color for text and iconography drawn on top of the associated color. Take care when picking on colors that they meet the accessibility guidelines for text and contrasting color.

On color name Use
onPrimaryColor Text/iconography drawn on top of primaryColor.
onSecondaryColor Text/iconography drawn on top of secondaryColor.
onErrorColor Text/iconography drawn on top of errorColor.
onSurfaceColor Text/iconography drawn on top of surfaceColor.
onBackgroundColor Text/iconography drawn on top of backgroundColor.


Installation with CocoaPods

Add the following to your Podfile:

pod 'MaterialComponents/schemes/Color'

Then, run the following command:

pod install


To import the component:


import MaterialComponents.MaterialColorScheme


#import "MaterialColorScheme.h"


Typical use: customizing a color scheme

You’ll typically want to create one default MDCSemanticColorScheme instance for your app where all of the color properties are set to your desired brand or style.


let colorScheme = MDCSemanticColorScheme()
colorScheme.primaryColor = UIColor(red: CGFloat(0x21) / 255.0,
                                   green: CGFloat(0x21) / 255.0,
                                   blue: CGFloat(0x21) / 255.0,
                                   alpha: 1)
colorScheme.primaryColorVariant = UIColor(red: CGFloat(0x44) / 255.0,
                                   green: CGFloat(0x44) / 255.0,
                                   blue: CGFloat(0x44) / 255.0,
                                   alpha: 1)

// In this case we don't intend to use a secondary color, so we make it match our primary color
colorScheme.secondaryColor = colorScheme.primaryColor


// A helper method for creating colors from hex values.
static UIColor *ColorFromRGB(uint32_t colorValue) {
  return [[UIColor alloc] initWithRed:(CGFloat)(((colorValue >> 16) & 0xFF) / 255.0)
                                green:(CGFloat)(((colorValue >> 8) & 0xFF) / 255.0)
                                 blue:(CGFloat)((colorValue & 0xFF) / 255.0) alpha:1];

MDCSemanticColorScheme *colorScheme = [[MDCSemanticColorScheme alloc] initWithDefaults:MDCColorSchemeDefaultsMaterial201804];
colorScheme.primaryColor = ColorFromRGB(0x212121);
colorScheme.primaryColorVariant = ColorFromRGB(0x444444);

// In this case we don't intend to use a secondary color, so we make it match our primary color
colorScheme.secondaryColor = colorScheme.primaryColor;

Migration guides

Migration guide: semantic color schemes

Deprecation schedule:

  • October 10, 2018: Both APIs and any corresponding themer API will be deprecated.
  • November 10, 2018: Both APIs and any corresponding themer API will be deleted.

The following is guidance for migrating from the legacy colors cheme APIs to the modern, Material color system-compatible APIs.

The legacy APIs roughly map to the modern APIs like so:

Legacy API Modern API
MDCColorScheme MDCColorScheming
MDCBasicColorScheme MDCSemanticColorScheme
MDCTonalColorScheme No equivalent.
MDCTonalPalette No equivalent.

A brief comparison of MDCColorScheme and MDCColorScheming

MDCColorScheme and MDCColorScheming are both protocols that define a set of semantic property names. The key difference between these two APIs is that MDCColorScheme is a mostly-optional bag of color properties, while MDCColorScheming’s properties are all required.

Both protocols are currently accepted by each component’s color themer. The legacy themer APIs tend to map far fewer color scheme properties to their components, while the modern themer APIs more rigorously map the scheme’s colors to their component. For example, MDCButtonColorThemer’s legacy API merely sets the button’s background color, while the modern API sets background color, text color, image tint color, ink color, and more.

The modern APIs also introduce a concept of “on-“ colors, which are colors that can generally be used as the color for text or iconography placed in front of their similarly-named color. For example, if primaryColor is white, onPrimaryColor might typically be black.

In essence: the modern APIs represent a more comprehensive take on a global theming system.

The legacy properties map to the modern properties roughly like so:

MDCColorScheme MDCColorScheming
primaryColor primaryColor
primaryLightColor primaryColorVariant
primaryDarkColor primaryColorVariant
secondaryColor secondaryColor
secondaryLightColor No equivalent.
secondaryDarkColor No equivalent.
No equivalent. errorColor
No equivalent. surfaceColor
No equivalent. backgroundColor
No equivalent. onPrimaryColor
No equivalent. onSecondaryColor
No equivalent. onSurfaceColor
No equivalent. onBackgroundColor

A brief comparison of MDCBasicColorScheme and MDCSemanticColorScheme

MDCBasicColorScheme and MDCSemanticColorScheme are both concrete implementations of MDCColorScheme and MDCColorScheming, respectively.

The legacy API, MDCBasicColorScheme, provides a variety of convenience initializers for setting specific subsets of the color scheme.

The modern API, MDCSemanticColorScheme, only provides a basic initializer that initializes the colors to the Material defaults. You are expected to fully configure the color scheme according to your needs. A common pattern is to define a global method that returns an instance of a pre-configured color scheme for your app to use when theming components.


// Before
let colorScheme = MDCBasicColorScheme(primaryColor: .white)

// After
let colorScheme = MDCSemanticColorScheme()
colorScheme.primaryColor = .white
colorScheme.onPrimaryColor = .black


// Before
MDCBasicColorScheme *colorScheme =
      [[MDCBasicColorScheme alloc] initWithPrimaryColor:UIColor.whiteColor];

// After
MDCSemanticColorScheme *colorScheme = [[MDCSemanticColorScheme alloc] initWithDefaults:MDCColorSchemeDefaultsMaterial201804];
colorScheme.primaryColor = UIColor.whiteColor;
colorScheme.onPrimaryColor = UIColor.blackColor;

Differences in themer APIs

The color themer extensions for each component now have both a legacy and modern API for color theming. The legacy APIs typically have the signature applyColorScheme:toComponent:, while the modern APIs typically have the signature applySemanticColorScheme:toComponent:.

In cases where no previous legacy API existed, the modern API may use the applyColorScheme:toComponent: signature but it will accept an MDCColorScheming instance.

Example before/after code:


// Before
MDCActivityIndicatorColorThemer.apply(colorScheme, to: activityIndicator)

// After
MDCActivityIndicatorColorThemer.applySemanticColorScheme(colorScheme, to: activityIndicator)


// Before
[MDCActivityIndicatorColorThemer applyColorScheme:colorScheme

// After
[MDCActivityIndicatorColorThemer applySemanticColorScheme:colorScheme