Color is an element of light that deeply impacts us physically and psychologically. Naturally, it forms an important part of any design. Colors used well can enhance and clarify; colors used poorly can obscure and confuse.
Interior designers as well as Web page designers need to understand this concept well in order to achieve the purpose of their color design. For example, interior designers typically use vibrant shades of red and orange on the insides of restaurants and fast food joints. This is done with the purpose of stimulating the customers’ appetites (since such warm colors are considered appetite-inducing). However, on the inside of airplanes, these hues must be avoided, since one does not want to stimulate passengers here, but relax them.
Likewise, color design in web pages is an important communication tool used by the Web producers to ‘talk’ to their users. By using the rules of color design theory, Web page designers send messages more effectively to the readers.
Important terms used in color design theory
To choose colors in the color design, one must be familiar with certain important terms used therein. Contrast, hues, values, chroma and analogy are the main principles of color design. Let us study these elements in detail:
- Contrasting colors– These are different or dissimilar colors which, when used in color design, help draw attention.
- Analogous colors– These are similar colors. Analogous colors can be used in color design to create ‘groups’, particularly important in graphs and data representation.
- Hues– Hue is a term used to denote the color positions on the color wheel (thus light blue, dark blue or pale blue belong to the same hue-blue).
- Value– Value is the perceived lightness or darkness of color.
- Chroma– This is the term that describes the ‘colorfulness of a color’. Thus “high chroma” means brighter or more vivid or more saturated colors. Low chroma, on the other hand, denotes muted tones.
Guidelines for selecting colors in color design
As stated above, using analogous colors can help group certain objects whereas, by using contrasting colors, one can highlight certain objects used in the color design. Controlling the value and contrast of colors can help make the design more legible, a point very important for making graphs and data representations.
Here are a few tips for choosing colors in your design:
- You can start by trying out complimentary color schemes in your web design. These are the colors that are, location wise, placed opposite to each other on the color wheel. Naturally, you must also pay attention to the hue and saturation values of the chosen colors. You might also need to mix and match colors until a final satisfactory color design emerges.
- Experts also recommend choosing color palettes that have already been used elsewhere. Many online and offline graphic art books can also help you to select good examples of attractive color palettes which can also be incorporated in your design.
- Generally speaking: colors like reds, yellows and orange etc, called warm colors, help make the color design more “stimulating and positive”. However, they may also be considered as too “direct and impetuous”.
- Grey, black, brown and white are considered quite elegant and passive but they may also make the color design seem a bit “cold or detached”.
- Pastel shades as well as greens and blues are colors that help instill confidence as they are “reassuring and inspiring”.
There is no right or wrong color for a particular color design. You must always bear in mind the message your color design is intended to portray. The unique characteristics of the color design are what will determine its colors. That being said; do not be afraid to experiment until you determine the best fit for your project.