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2.3: Choosing Colors

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    Page Colors

    Colors draw attention to a Web page. They focus interest on page elements and help to highlight important information. Colors can also be distractive. Improperly used they can draw attention to themselves and away from central page content. One of the most important choices you make as a page designer, then, is a color scheme to complement or enhance information appearing on a Web page.

    Color Wheel

    color wheel is a chart that shows how colors are related to make it easier to choose harmonious color combinations that attract attention to page content. The color wheel is divided into three categories of colors.

    Color Wheel
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Color wheel.


    Tint and shade
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Tints and shades.


    The primary colors are redyellow, and blue. These are the foundation colors from which all other colors derive. They are called primary colors because no other colors can be mixed to create these colors. They are evenly spaced around the color wheel.

    Secondary colors are produced by combining any two of the primary colors. The three secondary colors are orange (red + yellow), green (yellow + blue), and violet (red + blue).

    Tertiary colors are produced by mixing a primary color and an adjacent secondary color. The six tertiary colors are red-orangered-violetyellow-greenyellow-orangeblue-green, and blue-violet.

    The purest value of a color is its hue. A color's tint is a lighter value of the hue made by adding white; a color's shade is a darker value of the hue made by adding black.

    Picking Colors

    When choosing colors for a Web site it is best to select only a few colors. You do not want to overpower and detract from the information contained on the page; you want to complement or emphasize it. Generally, you will pick a dominant color along with other colors that are analogous to it or that contrast with it. There are standard color-matching schemes that can be followed in picking these colors.

    Color Wheel Pro - a unique software program that allows you to see color theory in action. With Color Wheel Pro, you can create harmonious color schemes and preview them on real-world examples.

    Other useful color scheme Web sites include


    Monocromatic colors.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Monocromatic colors.

    A monochromatic color scheme uses a single hue with various tints and shades for contrast. Normally you will pick darker colors for text presentation and lighter colors for backgrounds. The various tints and shadings range from bold to subtle, and you need to choose the combination that works well for the message you are trying to get across and the mood you are trying to set.

    Monochromatic Table Colors


    Section Hue Hex Value RGB Value
    Header Red (dark) #CC6666 204, 102, 102
    Column Red (light) #FAC8C8 250, 200, 200
    Background Red (light) #F6E1E1 246, 225, 225
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): Examples of monocromatic colors.


    Analogous colors.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{5}\):  Analogous colors.

    An analogous color scheme uses adjacent hues and their tints and shadings. All of the colors share a common hue, for example, red-violet, red, and red-orange. The presentation and feeling is similar to a monochromatic scheme with a larger assortment of hues from which to choose.

    Analogous Table Colors

    Section Hue Hex Value RGB Value
    Header Red-Violet (dark) #C4028F 196, 2, 143
    Column Red-Orange (light) #FFAD5B 255, 173, 91
    Background Red (light) #FFCCCC 255, 204, 204
    Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\): Examples of analogous colors.


    Complementary colors.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{7}\): Complementary colors.

    A complementary color scheme uses a hue on the opposite side of the color wheel from the dominant color. This color combination provides the greatest contrast and makes both colors more intense and brighter than when they are used alone.

    Complementary Table Colors

    Section Hue Hex Value RGB Value
    Header Red (dark) #C4028F 196, 2, 143
    Column Green (dark) #02D0BF 2, 208, 191
    Background Green (light) #D0F2E0 208, 242, 224
    Figure \(\PageIndex{8}\): Examples of complementary colors.


    Split-complementary colors.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{9}\): Split-complementary colors.

    A split-complementary color scheme uses a hue along with two colors that are adjacent to its complement. For example, if the dominant color is red, then split-complementary hues are yellow-green and blue-green.

    Split-Complementary Table Colors

    Section Hue Hex Value RGB Value
    Header Red (light) #FF6666 255, 102, 102
    Column Blue-Green (dark) #25EADA 37, 234, 218
    Background Yellow-Green (light) #E6FBC6 230, 251, 198
    Figure \(\PageIndex{10}\): Examples of split-complementary colors.


    Triadic colors.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{11}\): Triadic colors.

    A triadic color scheme uses three hues that are evenly spaced from each other on the color wheel. For example, if the dominant color is red, then blue and yellow hues are the triadic complements. Like the complementary color scheme, this one also emphasize the colors through their contrasts.

    Triadic Table Colors

    Section Hue Hex Value RGB Value
    Header Red (light) #FF7575 255, 117, 117
    Column Blue (light) #7676FB 118, 118, 153
    Background Yellow #FFFF99 255, 255, 153
    Figure \(\PageIndex{12}\): Examples of triadic colors.


    Although they do not appear in the color wheel, don't forget about black, white, and the range of gray tints that can be applied to highlight or emphasize page content. These achromatic tones can offer high contrast or subtle shading.

    Achromatic Table Colors

    Section Hue Hex Value RGB Value
    Header 50% Gray #818181 255, 117, 117
    Column 25% Gray #C1C1C1 193, 193, 193
    Background 5% Gray #F6F6F6 246, 256, 256
    Figure \(\PageIndex{13}\): Examples of achromatic colors.

    Selecting a Color Palette

    A half-dozen or so colors is normally a good starting point for building a pallet of analogous or complementary colors for a page color scheme. In some cases you pick the colors based on preferences or existing standards.

    Screenshot 2023-04-12 at 3.56.39 PM.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{14}\): Selecting a triadic color scheme.

    When working with photographs, a good starting point is to select colors based on those appearing in the picture. In the accompanying illustration, a palette of five colors, plus black and white, have been chosen from the picture. Various muted shades of red and blue -- part of the triadic color scheme -- produce the subtle contrast needed between text and background. The intent is to recede the text in order to bring the picture to attention. These colors were extracted from the photograph using the Photoshop eyedropper tool.

    As a general rule, it is probably best to stay away from pure hues as is used in the second illustration. Pure colors tend to be garish, with high contrast that can confuse the eye as to the point of focus. In this case, the boldness of the text tends to draw attention away from the picture and towards the upper and lower portions of the illustration. If that is the look you are going for, then fine, although there are better ways to emphasize text without high contrast colors.

    Screenshot 2023-04-12 at 3.56.24 PM.png

    Figure \(\PageIndex{15}\): Selecting pure hues.

    With 16 million or so colors to choose from, it can be difficult picking the half-dozen you need for your pages. An effective way of choosing colors is with various types of color-wheel software that is available. Color Wheel Pro - a unique software program that allows you to see color theory in action. With Color Wheel Pro, you can create harmonious color schemes and preview them on real-world examples.

    2.3: Choosing Colors is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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