Different Methods for Choosing Color Schemes in Web Design
One of the most challenging aspects of design for many web designers is color selection. The color scheme of a site can have a huge impact on the overall look of the site, and it will have an impact on visitors as well. There are a number of different methods that can be used for finding the right color scheme for a particular project, and in this post we will look at several of those methods. Throughout the post you will find links to helpful resources that you may appreciate.
Getting Colors from Existing Marketing Materials
In many situations the client will already have an established color scheme from an existing website or from other marketing materials. In some cases they may want a change, but frequently you will need to work from the established color scheme. Sometimes making slight changes to the shades of colors but sticking with the same basic color scheme can make an impact, and combined with a fresh design of the website it can help to give the company some added interest to their identity.
In situations where you are not working with a client that has an established color scheme, here are some methods that you can try for finding the right one on your own.
Online Color Palette Resources
There are a number of websites and online tools available for selecting color palettes. Many of these sites allow users to upload color palettes that they have put together, and the rest of us benefit by being able to browse through those that have been uploaded. Most of these sites allow you to search or sort the color schemes by a particular hue or by keyword, which can be helpful if you have one color that you want to use but you are looking for others to use with it.
Here is a quick listing of some of the best places to find color palettes.
Other online tools exist for helping you to put your own color palette together. Here are some of the best.
Taking Colors from Photographs
Photographs are a great source of color inspiration. You can easily and quickly browse through photos either of your own or random photos from sites like Flickr and deviantART. When you find one that includes a beautiful color scheme, you can upload it to one of several different online tools that will help you to determine the specific colors that are used, providing the hex value so that you can use them in your design work.
Here are some of the best resources of this kind.
- Color Palette Generator from jrm.cc
- Palette Generator from Big Huge Labs
- Color Palette Generator from DeGraeve.com
At From the Couch David Perel has a nice video tutorial where he goes over his process for choosing colors from a photograph. This is a method that can easily be applied by designers with impressive results.
Taking Colors from Magazines and Other Printed Materials
Online resources aren’t the only place to find color schemes. Magazines, books, flyers, posters, brochures, cards and any other type of printed material can be another source of color inspiration. You can either find a scheme that you like and try to come close just by eyeballing it, or you can scan it in and take the colors directly from the scan in Photoshop or another program.
Browsing Web Design Galleries
One of the best ways to find color schemes that work well for the web is to browse through design galleries. As you do, you will come across some color schemes that you really like and it may give you some ideas for your own work. Of course, what is good for one site may not work very well for another, so it is a good idea to keep your particular project in mind so you can find some colors that will work well for your situation.
You can search around and take one color from a few different websites, or find a scheme that you like and work with Photoshop to find a similar color scheme that will work for you but will avoid copying the colors of the other site. One of the downsides to this approach is that you can wind up doing more copying than you intend, so be careful to make your scheme unique even if it is inspired by other sites.
I Like Your Colors is an online tool that allows you to enter a URL, and it will give you the hex value of the colors in use.
Based on Psychology of Colors
One of the factors that should be considered when choosing a color scheme is the psychology of color. There is a great deal of research that has been done over the years to indicate meanings and messages that are associated with various colors. In many cases this will vary from one culture to the next, so be sure that you are paying attention to information that is relevant to your client and their audience.
Here is a list of some online resources and articles regarding the psychology of color.
- Color Psychology in Online Marketing
- Color Wheel Pro: See Color Theory in Action
- The Meaning of Colours
- Why Color Matter
- Color Psychology
- Color Symbolism and Psychology (from Wikipedia)
Color is everywhere in nature. Step outside, look around, and you are bound to find some inspiring color schemes. Plants, animals, sunsets, color schemes can be found from just about anything in nature. Of course, getting the exact colors and shades isn’t as simple as when you are working with a photograph (although you can always take a picture) or an inspirational website, you can still get many ideas simply from observing nature and the colors that appear.
What’s Your Approach to Choosing Colors?
If you have a method that works well for you, please share in the comments.
Published September 30th, 2009 by Steven Snell