Even though web developers don’t need to be highly skilled when it comes to color theory, a few basic rules and principles will go a long way. As you start working with colors and begin understanding their connections and possible effects, you will learn the theory along the way.
To get started, you need to know three basic terms: complementation, contrast, and vibrancy. This will teach you the basics of the interaction of colors, which will help you create an effective color palette.
You probably already know that some colors are complementary. What this means is they match each other, or they have a good visual relationship. Colors found on opposite ends of the spectrum lead people to consider a design visually appealing. In other words, the eye is provided balance this way, as complementary colors avoid eyestrain.
There are two main types of complementation: The Triadic and Compound scheme.
The Triadic scheme connects three colors on separate ends of the spectrum. This system can be utilized once you decide on a base color. So, take the color wheel and see where your base color is located. Draw an equilateral triangle from this point, so the three points of the triangle form a tri-color scheme. This is the easiest way to create a color scheme consisting of colors with equal vibrancy and complementation.
The Compound scheme allows you to easily pick a complementary color. The colors are chosen from opposite ends of the color spectrum. You can use this system of picking complementary colors if you need more freedom in your design or if you need a greater variety of colors and hues.
Contrast allows web developers to avoid eyestrain in their designs while providing focus toward different visual elements. The safest approach is to pick a very light background while applying a very dark color for the text. Still, you should choose different ways of achieving contrast if you want to focus the viewer’s attention to different page elements.
Vibrancy provides atmosphere and emotion to your design. Bright colors lead users to feel more energetic, while darker shades are more suitable for more serious and corporate projects.
You still need to make sure you’re using complementary colors, regardless of whether you’re using a bright or dark color palette.
How to Pick a Base Color
Sometimes, the biggest problem is selecting a base color. Since our eyes can detect ten million colors and color variances, it’s understandable why this can be an issue.
First, have a defendable reason behind your decision for your base color. You will often hear your clients like a certain color, but that isn’t enough. Maybe you can start with your client’s logo, which may have an established color, or you can study your client’s main competitors to see their color palettes and avoid using anything similar.
Also, think about your client’s target audience, which should help you with choosing the right vibrancy. Keep in mind, you’ll need a good reason for your decision, which won’t only make you look good, but will also help you choose additional colors from the spectrum.
Pro Tip: Since you’ll need to know how to define a color in CSS using hex codes, this means that you’ll need to know a color’s alphanumeric six-digit code (like #cccccc for a light gray). If you use Adobe’s Photoshop, you can use a screen capture to save and open the image in this application, and then use the eyedropper tool. Now right-click on the area you wish to copy the color from and pick “Copy Color as HTML.”
You can also use an online tool called Name That Color to pick a color, along with the corresponding hex code.
How to Create a Color Palette
Now that you’ve chosen your base color (along with its hex value), it’s time to make a cohesive color palette. In many cases, using two colors is just enough. For example, look at Microsoft’s website, which uses light gray in combination with black (which create a nice background for vibrant images).
There are numerous online tools you can use to make a color selection as effortless as it can possibly be. This is also a good way to test your knowledge of color theory.
Adobe’s Color is perhaps the most intuitive online tool that allows you to create a complementary palette. This is the essential tool if you’re willing to tackle a more comprehensive palette of up to five colors. This way, even if you fine-tune only one of your colors, this online tool will change the rest of the palette accordingly.
Furthermore, the export codes are provided under each of the selected colors, including their hex values. If you are afraid of making a mistake, Adobe’s Color has a rich library of user-created palettes.
How to Apply Your Newly Picked Color Scheme
After picking the right color scheme, it is time to see it in action. It’s always recommended you first create your website in grayscale. This is a good way to see how different elements interact with each other before applying colors. This method will also allow you to identify the heaviest elements, so you’ll know which elements need to be bright and vibrant.
In other words, this is a good way to choose featured colors, as well as colors that can be used as accents (for buttons and icons), in addition to colors for text, logos, and icon outlines.
A Final Note
You will learn that sometimes a good-looking color palette (that you created in Photoshop or Adobe’s Color) doesn’t really work when applied. However, don’t be afraid to go back to your digital drawing board. Even the slightest modifications can go a long way.
Choosing the most effective color palette and applying it to your web project maybe sounds complicated at first, but you don’t need to spend a lot of time figuring out the basic principles of color theory. As you’re building your web projects, you will learn more about connections between colors as well as what kind of effects can be achieved.