A website color scheme is one of those silent communication channels that talks to the user the way a written word cannot. In every human creation, including website design, colors carry messages. Because of this, finding the right color combination will help your visitor know that your website is the right place for him and where he will find what he’s looking for.: So let’s begin and find the right website color scheme that can generate emotions, encourage engagement and help you convert better.
Color schemes define four aspects of a website’s personality:
- Brand recognition and its persuasion power, when you (the website owner) speak to your readers
- Emotional appeal to connect subliminally with your readers
- Tell the visitor he’s arrived at the right place, for example: red and pink are a perfect pick for relationship blogs, darker colors are a great fit for science sites, pastels are great for comedians.
- Increase in conversions, the whole reason for all the web design work (color schemes included).
A few case studies of how colors help websites
To help you get a better idea of how color combinations can affect the performance of a website, we listed some interesting case studies:
The color in itself is not directly responsible for a website performance. However, it influences the visual hierarchy in the page and drives users’ attention to certain parts of it.
Emotions arise when the combination of colors, good design and smart copy becomes a single unified message.. When all of these elements come together, visitors will trust you more (and convert better), because there is nothing there that can make visitors doubt you.
So, balance. To be in the know, we’ll walk you through some principles related to colors. And if you know what you’re doing, every step in the design process will bring you closer to the optimal distribution of colors.
A good starting point is to make connections between colors and the subject of the website (e.g. flowers, sun, buildings, seasons, elegant clothing, etc.)
With these in mind, consider the distinction among 3 key colors you have to choose:
- Base color – this is the fundamental color you will build on. On top of it, you will add other colors and combine hues and shades
- Accent color –used for emphasis and contrasting effects
- Text color in black, white or grey – depending on the background color, the text color should be adjusted for good contrast and readability. In terms of readability, it is convenient to have a black-to-white ratio of about 60 to 80%.
Do’s: the less a color is used, the more likely it is to stand out. Good to know for calls-to-action.
Don’ts: do not use complementary colors for text and background. Good to know for readability and visual aspect. *Complementary colors are those colors directly opposed to each other in the color spectrum.
All colors are composed of the following elements:
Saturation refers to the bandwidth of light coming from a source. Or in simpler terms, it means a color intensity. Maximal saturation means color in its purest form.
Lightness, or brightness, refers to the amount of white contained by a color. In technical terms, lightness is identified as the “value” of a color.
Hue is a color property that describes how different a color is from another one.
Now that you know what to take into consideration for defining colors, and what to choose for a complete color scheme, let’s see some basic color combination principles.
These principles are guidelines on how to combine colors, following the basic rules of visual representation.
Why do these rules exist? Because we seem to perceive some color combinations as pleasant, for biological (due to cells in the eye that identify colors), and psychological (due to our own experiences and the cultural symbolism of each particular color) reasons.
So, what are the rules underlying fundamental color combinations?
Rule of Complementation
It refers to focusing on complementary colors, that is on colors directly opposed to each other in the color spectrum. One note though… color complementation should be carefully tackled, as inappropriate use of it will lead to inappropriate color schemes (see the recommendation to avoid complementation in text color versus background color).
Rule of Contrast
This process takes advantage of contrasting colors, to reduce eyestrain and make the webpages pleasant to explore.
Rule of Vibrancy
With this color combination principle, we begin plunging into the immense realm of color psychology. More vibrant colors are intended to arise strong emotions into the readers, while less vibrant colors are meant to relax the readers, with the aim at focusing their energy on something else or of higher importance.
See, for instance:
In this digital era, communication with a website’s users is highly important. You want to get them understand a particular message or do a specific action. Therefore, colors should not be the “star” of your website, rather they should serve as subtle guidance towards the diverse parts of your message spread on the page. Colors should just connect the dots among these elements, and offer appropriate context for transmitting a message.
From these 3 color combination principles lead to different combination models, all useful as an overview of what can be done in terms of color combos.
First, you must know that these models fall into 2 distinct categories:
- The additive color models
In this category of models, the pervasive rule is that, the more light one adds to the color, the brighter and lighter that color becomes. It defines the RGB color system (red, green, blue) and is specific to the digital medium.
- The subtractive color models
In this second category of models, color is obtained by the subtraction of light. This category is specific to arts, i.e. painting, vastly differing from the digital color system.
Let’s focus on the digital color system, as this is the one that concerns us.
There are 6 main models, and 6 starting points to consider before rolling up your sleeves and getting to work:
Monochrome models refer to variants of a single color, which differ in terms of brightness, shades and saturation.
Analogous models refer to any 3 colors placed next to one another, in the color spectrum. They create harmony and a very cohesive visual representation.
Complementary models combine one color with its opposite in the color wheel.
Triadic Color Model
Triadic models combine colors placed at the 3 corners of an equilateral triangle drawn into the color spectrum.
Split-complementary models combine colors placed at the 3 corners of a triangle drawn into the color wheel. This triangle unifies one color with its opposite (complementary) color, plus the two colors adjacent to this opposite.
This rectangle/tetradic model combines 2 colors with their opposite colors in the color wheel. The shape that defines the combination is a rectangle, hence the name of this model.
The square model combines 2 colors with their opposites in the color wheel, like in the tetradic model, with one difference: the 2 colors and their opposites are distributed evenly in the color wheel, and unified, give the form of a square.
Keep in mind that, whichever color model you choose, there are some best practices to consider. Here are the recommendations:
- The 60-30-10 rule (60% is the dominant color, 30% is the secondary color, 10% is the accent color). If we take the example of the Mesmerize theme, the customizer includes a dedicated section where you define colors. You have options to select the primary color, the secondary color, the third (accent) color, and make tweak and refines with additional hues.
- Design in grayscale first. This is the best way to check for possible issues and to quickly spot any disruption in the website layout. Hence, you can check the design against the rule of continuity and make changes to ensure a consistent experience on the website.
You can try your hand at generating color schemes with Paletton. Also, you can combine colors according to each of the color models, as simple as that.
So, experiment with any of the above color models, practice and perfect, until the colors balance triggers emotions into your readers.
Now that you master the techniques of color combinations, it is time to consider the psychological implications of using some color schemes, instead of others. You already control the “how” and the “what”, but let’s dive deeper, to discover the “why” behind your choices.
This is where the Muller formula comes in. It states that certain color schemes are pleasant to the eyes and subject to favourable perceptions, while other color schemes are “ugly” and negatively perceived by most people. How is this possible? The formula says that if a color scheme follows the natural brightness of colors, that combination will be perceived as pleasant. If, on the contrary, a color scheme doesn’t follow the natural brightness of colors, that combination won’t be liked by people.
Therefore, you should be aware of what works and what doesn’t, in terms of color combinations.
On top of that, your selection depends on the message you want to convey to your users, its tone and intended impact.
Below is a basic breakdown of color psychology. We list some simple colors that are suited for certain messages, with the corresponding meanings and emotions they create (keep in mind that emotions are set off by both personal experience and cultural perceptions/the symbolism of colors):
Blue Color Palettes
The blue color is best known for its soothing, calming effect. It also conveys security, trust and communication.
Blue color palettes in websites:
Blue is an excellent choice for data and technology companies. It communicates that the technology the company develops is secure, and also earns the trust that user’s data is properly managed.
Green Color Palettes
The green color is often associated with nature, natural, freshness, growth, balance and peace.
Green color palettes in websites:
Yellow Color Palettes
This color conveys brightness, cheerfulness, energy and optimism. However, it should be carefully used, to avoid eyestrain.
Orange Color Palettes
Orange is the color of enthusiasm, passion, energy and joy. Vitality, fun and abundance are strongly expressed by orange, altogether.
Violet Color Palettes
The violet color is generally associated with spiritual awareness and contemplation, and the power of introspection.
Pink Color Palettes
As a variation of red, the pink color has won a distinct name due to its expressive power. It is often associated with femininity, it is soothing and emanates a sense of warmth.
Red Color Palettes
Red – a simple, yet powerful color, that appears nearer than it is, and gives the impression of increased velocity. It suggests luxury and abundance, strength and warmth.
Brown Color Palettes
The brown color instils a sense of reliability, support, earthiness. It approaches the characteristics of black.
Black Color Palettes
Black is often associated with elegance, mystery, power and authority. It can also be associated with the unknown.
White Color Palettes
White means cleanness, purity, hygiene, both simplicity and sophistication. It has the property of making spaces look wider.
Armed with good knowledge of the colors theory, you can further explore the magic of combining colors, test with different emotional implications, put color schemes at work for you.
The color combination standards make it easier to create your own color combination and limit the blunders in your color scheme creation.
There are tools that help you combine colors in beautiful ways, unleashing your creative powers:
Khroma comes with a wide array of colors, that represent the basic elements to start with. Then, it allows you to make a selection of no less than 50 colors that will feed a color generator. Based on a customized algorithm, these colors will be mixed and arranged to result in viable color schemes.
Here is what the trained color generator suggested in one session:
Colormind, like Khroma, provides a color generator tool. Its color generator uses deep learning, as it can learn new color schemes from photos, movies and art.
Apart from that, you can define the colors for your own template, and Colormind will adjust their hues, shades and brightness to look fine.
Here is the color generator in action:
This tool lets you start from a color, and adjust luminosity, saturation and hue until you get the perfect version of that color.
Here is the tool at play:
Colorme is another great tool for finding the perfect version of one color. It is similar to the previous tool, but it includes additional parameters you can adjust. So, for instance, in the RGB system, you select the amount of red, green and blue that the final color will contain, and preview the results.
Here is an example:
A tool that you cannot help loving. It is interactive, and thus puts your skills to test, for some color models (analogous, triadic, tetradic). For any selection of you, the tool will give you an assessment of the color combination quality (it ranges from ”poor” to “very good”). This way, you will be able to identify the color combination method you are more skilled at, and base your color scheme creation upon this data.
Below is a screenshot of Color.Method in action:
Wrapping up, colors and color combinations belong to the emotional side of communicating with the website readers. Hence, their elusive nature when it comes to drawing a plan and creating website color schemes. There are, nevertheless, techniques and theories that help systematize the process of combing colors. By following them, error is minified, and success can thrive in an excellent color scheme. So, trust your quality standards, and you will see them reflected in YOUR OWN excellent color scheme for YOUR OWN website.