One of the most challenging and crucial parts of the web design process is choosing the right color palette. The right color palette will accentuate your brand or message while providing an amazing design.
The perfect color combination is more than throwing a dart at the color palette wheel and running with it. Let's look at more of what's involved in this decision process.
The color wheel we use is the same color wheel you saw in arts/crafts class in school
The color wheel is the most practical way to determine whether a group of colors will relate to one another in a harmonious way.
The wheel contains primary, secondary and tertiary colors and all combinations.
- Primary colors: Red, Yellow, blue
- Secondary colors: Green, purple, orange (mix of two primary colors)
- Tertiary colors: Azure, violet, rose, red-orange, chartreuse, spring green
Most color-picking tools use a simulation of a color wheel to help you make color choices.
Black and White DOES Matter
Some of the most important colors in the color palette are the neutrals, blacks and whites. You can create aesthetically amazing web design using the basic colors. Above is a screenshot of a great application of black, white and neutrals in a design.
These colors can provide a warm or cool feel for the project and can contribute to the navigation of a website or typography.
Use Trends with Caution
With all the trends out there - you'll end up finding one that you like. Trending colors can be difficult to use long-term and may require more work in the long run. If you're going to use a color trend in your design, pick one and stick with it to make it work with your palette.
You want a color palette that will last over time and used repeatedly in your designs, marketing, business cards, publications and more. Work with colors that you have chosen and add a trendy accent that way when the trend ends, you can change that out and it's a minimal impact.
Avoid the Rainbow
Color is best when used in moderation. There is no need for 10 or 15 colors in your palette. The best combinations of colors are typically only 2 or 3 colors. Each color needs to be seen and have an impact on the design - too many colors and it starts taking away from the appeal and become overwhelming for the users.
The best designs and color combinations exist so that each color has a specific role allowing for users to engage with a color that makes the website easier to use. (For example, most designers use the same color for every button in a web design.)
Color for Text Elements
When establishing color combinations, it's important to include your typography. Unless you are leaving the text black, white or gray - make sure you pick a color that's compliant with your other color combinations.
Typography color can include multiple colors because you have normal text, link text, bold text, headings and more. It's recommended to keep the color choices to a minimum and allow font weights to help distinguish headings. Choose a differing color that contrasts the normal text for your links so that user understand it's a clickable element in the design.
Color Relating to Content
Relating color to your content means ensuring that your color choices blend well with the content. Websites that deal with nature might use greens and browns. Banks might use blue because studies have shown it's associated with trust. Financial advisors and stock market companies like to associate with green because it associates with money.
Stick to Your Color Palette
Once you make your selections of the color combinations - establish that as a palette so that it will remain consistent throughout a project. Establish your own rules for your site design as to how and where the colors will be used.
These questions will help you get started:
- How many colors are you working with?
- Can text be colored?
- Is there a set hue for UI elements?
- Can accent colors outside the palette be added to the mix?
You are what makes the start to a great color palette. Do the colors look right yo you? If you're unsure - you should start over until you reach the point where you don't have doubt. Starting over at this point is much easier than 2-3 months or even years down the road.
Remember to create contrast within the color palette - establish a feel for your web design and match your color to content for the greatest user experience.