In part one of Understanding Color, we went into great detail about how color can inspire and manipulate the emotions of your viewers. We also analyzed each of the main colors you’re likely to see used on a website. Give it a look if you haven't read it yet:
There was a whole lot of detail in each bit of that post, but it was still just scratching the surface of how to use color on a website in an effective way. The real magic comes when we take those colors and combine them with other colors in a way so pleasing and sometimes unexpected that your viewers can’t help but smile when they see what you’ve got going on.
Oh yes, it’s time to talk about...
Let’s thrown on a Beatles song. Frankly, it could be any one of them because they’re all great, but for the sake of this post let’s go with the band’s chart topping 1962 hit, Love Me Do. Enjoy that wailing harmonica for a bit (rock it, John). There’s that steady Ringo beat. Right away comes the Lennon-McCartney duet that spirals higher into a ringing peak before shimmering away into the distance.
Each member of The Beatles was a true master in their particular role. They could each write songs like no one’s business, make their instruments shine, and look damn good while doing it. However, combine their talents and you’ve got something special. Combine their voices and you’ve got a unique mixture of vocal sound that’s beyond compare.
That Lennon-McCartney harmony is part of the reason why Love Me Do sticks in our heads. They were able to mix together their separate voices into a beautiful sound. In much the same way, mixing together different colors will help make you a web design star. This takes some concerted effort, though. The Beatles worked hard at their craft; you need to make sure you’re not just slapping together some colors and calling it a day.
Types of Color Schemes
The word “monochrome” may make visions of dull grays float into your head, but monochromatic colors are much more versatile than that. Dull doesn’t even enter the equation here. A monochromatic color scheme represents one color in many shades. For instance, start with a nice, fire truck red color. Make that color both progressively darker and then lighter. The combination of the base red and the other shades extending out in both directions make up a monochromatic color scheme.
Using this color scheme is a good way to introduce a sense of subtlety and peacefulness into your work. There’s no veering off into other directions on the color wheel. For example, using a nice blue as your main color and a lighter or darker blue for an accent is a great monochromatic scheme. The smooth gradient from one shade to a similar shade makes for calm focus. Make sure you don’t choose shades that are too similar. You still need to distinguish between the colors.
Blue and green. Red and purple. Orange and yellow. These colors are the best of friends. They go so well together because of their position on the color wheel—they’re smack dab next to each other. An analogous color scheme is just that. The harmony I was talking about above is personified well with analogous colors. They harmonize so well because colors next to each other tend to have similar emotional connections.
It’s hard to wrong with an analogous color scheme. They’re tried and true combinations that play well to people’s emotions. Using a light red for your main color and a light purple for an accent already sounds like a pleasant hit. You may not shock anyone into attention with an analogous scheme, but you’re probably not going to drive anyone away either.
Do opposites really attract? Let’s hope so or Hollywood is going to have a hard time making any more engaging romantic dramas. In the color world, however, opposites definitely create an attractive color scheme. Complementary colors are those that sit directly across from each other on the color wheel. Orange and blue is a notable example, as is red and green.
Using a complementary scheme is choosing to send a powerful message out into the world. You’re standing up and saying, “I dare you to notice me.” This is a dynamic and popular style that can have a great impact. Red and green isn’t just a popular winter season color; it can be an awesome main color and an accent color with a heap of flair.
Thinking you want a triadic color scheme for your work? Sounds like you’re also the kind of daredevil designer that insists os making big waves. Waves that’ll knock any competitor into the water. There’s a stable excitement in a triadic color scheme. The only issue you may have is finding colors that actually go along with what you’re selling.
Consider orange, green, and purple. This is a color pyramid that can’t be knocked down. Play with the different colors and see what sort of fun you can create. With a triadic scheme, you get the assurance of an analogous scheme along with the contrast of a complementary scheme.
There are some other color schemes, but these four can get you anywhere you want to be.
How you use and combine color is an important aspect of developing your business or product. It’s not a trivial matter that should be tossed away and figured out later. We went deep into the emotional impact color can have on a person. With such potential influence in your hands, it would be foolish not to choose a good assortment of colors that can not only represent your identity, but also impress a viewer. Color will keep coming up in your work, so work with it.
Have fun with color and experiment with different schemes. Just think about how cool it’ll be to see an impressed viewer’s eyes widen with one look at your website.
Before I end this post, I want to include links to some resources that I’ve found helpful. I hope you’ll enjoy them, too.
Colormind - a cool color scheme generator
Adobe Color CC - a color scheme tool that has a crazy amount of power in it
Canva Color Palette Generator - upload a photo and get a palette of colors from your image created for you