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Understanding The Basics Of Colour Theory

Colour theory & matching colours for websites

colour matching for websites


Before looking at the practical aspects of choosing a colour palette for your website, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the theories behind this. The colour wheel is a fundamental tool, which consists of three primary colours (red, yellow, and blue), three secondary colours (orange, green, and purple), and six tertiary colours (yellow-green, blue-green, blue-purple, red-purple, red-orange, and yellow-orange).

Complementary and analogous schemes are two of the most common ways to create palettes for web design. A complementary scheme involves using colours that are opposite each other on the wheel, while an analogous scheme uses colours that are adjacent to each other on the wheel.

For a more in-depth look at colour theory, have a look at the article Colour Theory for Designers by Smashing Magazine.

Design example of a website that uses contrasting colour

Colour Contrast

The Psychology Of Colour

Colour contrast is an important consideration in web design, as it can affect the readability and usability of a website. Good contrast ensures that text and other elements are easily distinguishable from the background, particularly for users with visual impairments.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide guidelines for contrast ratios to ensure accessibility. WCAG 2.0 recommends a ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text. There are various tools available to help designers test colour contrast ratios, such as the WebAIM Contrast Checker tool.

Choosing The Right Colour Palette For Your Website

When choosing a colour palette for a website, there are several factors to consider, including brand identity, target audience, and website purpose. A brand’s existing colour scheme should be considered to maintain consistency across all marketing channels.

Different colour palette options include monochromatic, analogous, complementary, and triadic. Designers use tools to help create colour palettes, an example is Adobe Colour, which provides a tool to explore different colour schemes.

Using colour to create hierarchy and visual interest on a website is another important consideration. The use of colour in typography, buttons, navigation, and images can help guide users and create a sense of hierarchy. However, it’s important to use colour consistently and in balance throughout the website to avoid overwhelming the user.

To learn more about using colour to create hierarchy, here’s an article from Nielsen Norman Group.

Colour theory infographic. Colours for web designers

Enhancing Colour

Enhancing Colour With Shadow

The use of shadow can also enhance the colour scheme and create depth and dimension. Shadows can add a sense of realism and tactile quality to the website, making it feel more interactive and engaging.

There are several ways to use shadow to enhance colour on a website. One common technique is to use drop shadows to create a sense of depth and separation between different elements on the page. Drop shadows can be used on buttons, images, and other elements to make them stand out from the background and create a sense of hierarchy.

Another technique is to use text shadows to create contrast and emphasis. Text shadows can be used to make text more readable and legible, particularly when placed on top of images or other colourful backgrounds. Text shadows can also be used to create visual interest and enhance the overall depth of the website.

When using shadows to enhance colour, it’s important to use them sparingly and with intention. Overuse of shadows can create a cluttered and confusing design, while too little use can result in a flat and uninteresting design.

website design with colourful introduction

Implementing Colour In Web Design

Once a colour palette has been chosen, it’s important to implement it effectively in the website design. Using colour in typography can help create contrast and hierarchy, while the use of colour in buttons and navigation can guide users through the website.

Maintaining consistency throughout the website is also important. Using a consistent scheme and style can help create a cohesive professional-looking website.

To learn more about using colour in design systems, here is a guide from Design Systems.

Colour can also be used to enhance user experience. For example, using colour to indicate errors or successful actions can provide users with immediate feedback and improve the overall usability of the website. However, it’s important to use it in combination with other design elements, such as text and icons, to ensure that the message is clear to all users.

Colour Matching

When choosing a palette for your website, it’s important to select colours that complement each other and create a harmonious overall look. While there are no exact rules for selecting matching colours, there are several techniques and tools that can help guide you in the process.

One technique for selecting matching colours is to use colour harmonies, which are sets of colours that work well together based on their position on the colour wheel.

There are also several tools available to help you select matching colours for your website. Colour palette generators, such as Adobe Color or Paletton, can help you create custom colour palettes based on colour theory principles. Colour scheme extractors, such as Adobe or Colour Space, can extract colour schemes from images or photographs.

If you’re looking for additional inspiration when selecting matching colours, check out Color Hunt, a collection of user-generated colour palettes that you can use for inspiration.

Another useful tool when selecting matching colours is Colour Blender, which allows you to create a gradient of colours between two different colours.

Colour palette to match colours in design

Additional Info

Here are some additional resources that you may find helpful when designing a colour palette for your website:

  • Color Safe – a tool that helps designers choose accessible colour combinations that meet WCAG standards.
  • Color Hunt – a collection of user-generated colour palettes that you can use for inspiration.
  • Paletton – a colour palette generator that allows you to explore different schemes and adjust hue, saturation, and brightness.
  • Material Design Color Tool – a tool that provides a set of recommended colour palettes for Material Design, as well as the ability to create custom palettes.
  • Coolors – a colour palette generator that allows you to explore different schemes and save your favourite palettes.

By utilizing these resources and following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can create a visually appealing and effective colour palette for your website. Remember to consider the psychology of colour, accessibility, and consistency when making colour decisions, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different schemes to find the perfect one for your website.

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