Color Theory In A Nutshell

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When it comes to web design, one of the most basic, yet toughest decisions is deciding on a color scheme that works well for a specific project. While this step in the web design process if often overlooked, it is one of the most important elements in creating a successful website. For example, certain color choices have the ability to evoke positive or negative feelings within the visitor, impacting the overall appeal. It also dictates how much effort the viewer must put in to read the content that is written. After all, who would want to waste time straining their eyes trying to read text that matches the color of the background? By learning the basics of Color Theory, common design mistakes can be avoided, ultimately strengthening a website’s overall appearance. 


So what is Color Theory? While Color Theory covers a wide variety of things related to color, at the most basic level, it is simply the interaction of colors in a design through these three concepts: complementation, contrast, and vibrancy. 






Complementation refers to the way in which a viewer would see colors in terms of their relationship with other colors on the website. Colors from opposite ends of the color spectrum (namely Black, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet and White), can lead people to establish a positive impression. This is due to the balance created by the opposite colors, which reduces strain on the eye. By mastering the intricacies of different color combinations, complementation can take your web design to new levels of sophistication and appeal. 






Contrast is what helps reduce eyestrain by focusing and guiding the reader’s attention through the clearly divided elements on the page. The most basic example of contrast would be the selection of background and text color. If the background of the page is white, choosing a stark, complementary color (such as black) makes the text easily readable. Alternately, if the background is black, choosing a color in which the text is brightest also reduces eyestrain because it focuses the user’s attention. A lack of contrast between the background and the text (such as orange and yellow) will cause the viewer’s eyes to become strained because they simply don’t know what color to focus their attention on. However, it is important to remember that a complementary color scheme does not always mean that the contrast between the two colors is strong enough. If one of the colors is too bright in comparison to the other (such as yellow and blue), eye strain can still occur, which will reduce the overall appeal of the website. 


When it comes to large bodies of text, or just text in general, these areas aren’t always places to try and be really creative so it is best to keep it simple and most importantly, legible. 


While contrast establishes readable text, it can also help draw the viewer’s attention towards specific elements on the page. For example, if you want to draw attention to a specific portion of the page, making that area appear different than the rest helps make it stand out. If the website has a dark background, focusing the main content with a lighter color will draw attention. By essentially “framing” the content, the viewers eyes will be drawn to the most apparent section. 






Last but not least, there is vibrancy. Vibrancy is what dictates the emotion that a certain design gives off to the viewer. Whereas brighter shades often lead the viewer to feel more energetic or lively, darker shades are more relaxing and give off a more serious feel. When choosing a color scheme, it is important to keep in mind that different colors and shades stimulate different feelings. 


And those are the three basic components of Color Theory. So next time you reach the crucial step of having to choose a color scheme for a specific project, keep the concepts of complementation, contrast, and vibrancy in mind. It can truly make or break the overall appeal of the website, and quite literally, the viewer’s eyes as well. 


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