Choosing Colors

Think about the last time you watched a sunset or looked at changing leaves in the fall. Colors can bring to mind emotions and feelings. We subconsciously associate different colors with experiences. As publishers, we can use colors to create an emotional connection with our readers. Colors contribute to the visual experience of your page, but they can also evoke emotion, increase engagement, and affect readability.

To really understand how colors affect us, it’s best to start with understanding how colors are organized. A color wheel is a visual representation of color hues organized around a circle. The circle shows relationships between colors. The color wheel is first created by putting the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) at equal distances from one another. Then the space between the primary colors is filled by secondary and tertiary colors. Secondary colors are created by mixing primary colors. Tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary and a secondary color. This creates a bridge between the colors. A typical color wheel looks something like this:

Understanding the relationship between different colors is part of color theory. Color theory is a body of study dedicated to organizing and understanding colors. According to color theory, people associated specific colors to different feelings. These are some common emotions and feelings associated with each major color:

Yellow: warmth, optimism, clarity

Orange: adventure, confidence, appetizing

Red: excitement, love, active

Purple: wise, integrity, creativity

Blue: clean, trust, sadness

Green: growth, health, peaceful

White: pure, balance, simplicity

Black: power, secrecy, elegance

Knowing that colors evoke different feelings, we can organize them in a way that is visually pleasing. Color schemes help us create harmony by arranging colors strategically. On a webpage, color schemes add structure to a page and draw a reader’s attention to the most important content. These are the main types of color schemes:

Analogous: colors are all next to one another on the color wheel.

Complementary: colors are across from each other on the color wheel.

Monochromatic: colors are different tints and tones of one hue.

These types of color schemes create harmony on the page. If you use other combinations of colors, the appearance may be too busy or too bland. To explore different color schemes, you can check out Adobe’s Color Wheel. Experiment with different color combinations and see how different colors relate to each other on the color wheel.

When choosing colors for your website, think about your audience. Older audiences may have a harder time reading light colors and small fonts. During Build Your Blog Conference 2016, Guy Kawasaki spoke with us about website branding. He said, “I simply cannot read light gray text that’s a size 8 point font.” On the other hand, younger audiences prefer bolder colors. Their eyesight is also probably better so they can read fonts with serifs or a smaller point font. Gender can make an impact on color preference as well. Women tend to prefer softer colors while men prefer bright colors.

When you eventually decide on the perfect color palette for your site, use that color scheme to brand your site. Include those colors on every page. Incorporate the colors into your logo. Use the colors frequently in social media posts. This will help you create an emotional connection between your audience and your brand.

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