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    The Science and Process Behind Website Color Scheme Choices

    By Kay Swift

    Color is magical, energizing, powerful–and most importantly, persuasive. Without it, suffice it to say that life would be dull and gray. Humans are lucky enough to see a wide range of colors, from calming blues to energizing reds.

     

    However, there is more to color than meets the supposedly trichromatic human eye. The psychology behind color is fascinating, largely inspiring the process of picking out brand and website color palettes. You see, different colors evoke different emotions and actions in us.

     

    Choosing the right website color schemes may increase brand memorability, revenue, and customer engagement. This involves understanding  the psychology and meaning behind popular shades as well as looking at the best background colors and color palettes for websites.

     

    How to Choose the Right Color Palette for Your Website Design

    How to Choose the Right Color Palette for Your Website Design

    There are a few important rules to follow when selecting a color palette for a website. These form part of other critical website design best practices. They apply whether you’re an experienced website designer or inexperienced and using a website-building platform.

     

    1. Always Choose a Website Color Scheme That Fits the Brand

    As far as web design color palettes go, one important best practice prevails. The website color scheme must match the person or business’s branding guidelines. Following this design rule ensures that the website is recognizable. If you don’t have yours mapped out, now is the time to get your branding finalized.

     

    2. Consult Your Business’s or Client’s Branding Guidelines for Focus Colors

    Yours or your businesses’ or clients’ branding guide is exactly where to find your web design color palette—particularly the website focus colors. Consulting it will make your task straightforward and result in a design that seamlessly fits the brand identity. Ultimately, this is one of the main goals when designing and developing a website, not simply achieving an aesthetic look. 

     

    3. Take Inspiration From Other Packaging and Marketing Collateral

    It’s very unusual to start designing an online store or website without already having a logo, brand colors, and fonts picked out. However, if this is the case, you may use existing brand packaging, logos, and marketing collateral as inspiration. You may be able to create a satisfactory color palette for a website design from the most recognizable and popular content.

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    4. Refine Your Web Design Color Palette

    Of course, you don’t necessarily need to use all of the colors in the branding guidelines or collateral. Picking out the most distinct, attractive, and complementary colors to build upon is preferred. Again, your first priority should be brand recognition, not necessarily the prettiest or your favorite colors.

     

    5. Expand on the Web Design Color Palette

    When designing a website, it’s not unusual for a designer to expand on the focus colors with additional complementary shades. After all, you cannot use bright red for every button, tab, and page background. Not only would this look unattractive, it would also confuse users by creating a lack of distinction between elements and pages.

     

    How Website Designers Create Professional Website Color Schemes?

    If you’re not a professional, you may be wondering how a website design company chooses a color palette for a website design. They may employ a few tricks to create a professional website color palette. Mainly, they will use color theory to build a color palette for the website design. 

     

    This palette will consist of various focus colors and complementary hues, shades, tones, tints, and neutrals. All these colors should work together. However, the website color palette should also offer enough variance to differentiate elements and pages in an attractive manner.

     

    Here are the colors that a complementary website color scheme may consist of:

    • Focus colors. Focus colors are the specific colors that website designers pick out to be central to a website. Bright primary and secondary colors (known as hues), such as red, blue, and yellow, are typically chosen as focus colors. However, focus colors are also generally central to the business’s brand, tying it and the site together.
    • Pure neutrals. Black, gray, white, and brown are considered pure neutrals. These colors are safe to use with almost any focus color. As they contain no distinct primary or secondary color hue, they don’t compete with focus colors that do. When used correctly, neutrals ensure that focus colors remain the stars of the web design color palette.
    • Monochromes Monochrome colors are different shades, tones, and tints of the same color or hue. Monochromatic colors are created by mixing either pure black, gray, or white, into the original focus color. In this way, monochromes do not compete with the focus color, making them a top color palette choice for website design. 
    • Pastels. A color with white mixed into it is called a tint, but we also know these as pastels. Ideally, you should only use pastels with the same base hue as your focus colors. However, you may also use pastels with complementary base hues in a website color scheme.
    • Shades. A color with black mixed into it is known as a shade. Ideally, you should only use shades with the same base hue as your focus colors. However, you may also use shades with complementary base color hues in a website color palette.
    • Complementary colors. In color theory, complementary colors are those that oppose each other on a color wheel. If your focus color is red, green is its complementary color, as is orange to blue and purple to yellow. Complementary colors offer a way to add another focus color that is also eye-catching but still fits the website color scheme.
    • Neutrals. White, black, gray, and brown are called pure neutrals as they contain no distinct color hue. However, you may also create near neutrals by mixing a pure neutral with one primary or secondary color hue. As such, near neutrals are better used with focus colors containing the same or complementary base color hues.

     

    Popular Primary and Secondary Focus Colors Used for Websites

    Popular Primary and Secondary Focus Colors Used for Websites

    The color wheel comprises six main hues that are visible to the human eye. Red, blue, and yellow are the three primary color hues. Green, orange, and purple are the three secondary color hues because they are each a mixture of two primary colors. 

     

    These six hues exist on a color wheel, blending into each other to create a diverse range of colors ideal for website color palettes. Each hue fits into one of two categories: cool or warm. 

     

    Warm colors include reds, oranges, and yellows, while purples, blues, and greens fall under the cool category. Blues, purples, and greens bring cool landscapes and weather to mind while reds, oranges, and yellows evoke the opposite. 

     

    Beyond real-world associations, each color may induce certain feelings, sensations, and actions in humans and even animals. When choosing brand colors and, subsequently, your website color scheme, a web design company takes all this into consideration. 

     

    The meanings and psychology behind colors should be central to your choice, tying into your branding and business ethos. Here are explanations of each color’s meaning and the psychology behind their usage in branding and web design color palettes.

     

    Red for Food, Drink, and Entertainment Brands

    In nature, spicy chili peppers, fire, roses, blood, the heart, and poisonous animal markings bear the color red proudly. Red is associated with action, hunger, danger, anger, passion, lust, vigor, life, romance, love, war, fieriness, excitement, and energy. 

     

    Red is one of the top branding colors because of its association with action and strong positive emotions. You’ll find red in the website color schemes of brands in various industries because of this and its versatility.

     

    Popular brands that use red as a focus color for their branding and web design color schemes include:

    • Coca Cola
    • YouTube
    • Netflix
    • Kellogg’s
    • Red Bull
    • Nescafe

     

    Red shades include scarlet, crimson, ruby, carmine, vermillion, coral, maroon, burgundy, and mahogany.

     

    Orange for Travel, Leisure, Craft, and DIY Brands

    Orange is the slightly sunnier, relaxed counterpart of the color red, associated with sunsets, tropical climates, and acidic fruits. This color evokes energetic,fun feelings, such as happiness, cheerfulness, creativity, childishness, and hilarity. 

     

    As such, yellow features a lot in kids’ food and drinks branding as well as “fun” adult brands. Because of its association with warm weather and sunsets, you may also find it in color palettes for travel website designs and branding. 

     

    Brands that use orange as a focus color for their branding and web design color schemes include:

    • Nickelodeon
    • Fanta
    • JetStar Airlines
    • Harley Davidson
    • Hooters
    • Etsy

     

    Orange shades include tangerine, bronze, pumpkin, sunrise, marigold, apricot, rust, ginger, and honey.

     

    Yellow for Kids, Manufacturing, and Convenience Brands

    Yellow is another energizing and bright color, inspiring feelings of joy, speed, spontaneity, youthfulness, productivity, and optimism. Similar to orange, it’s associated with sunsets, summer, and citrus, but also with lightning, flowers, natural produce, DIY, and manufacturing

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    Brands that want to proffer a sense of cheerfulness, expedience, excitement, productivity, and happiness opt for this color in their branding. Interestingly, yellow also features as children’s favorite color, and is often used in web design color palettes and branding for kids.

     

    Brands that use yellow as a focus color for their branding and web design color schemes include:

    • Ferrari
    • National Geographic
    • McDonald’s
    • Amazon
    • DHL
    • Best Buy

     

    Yellow shades include canary, lemon, butter, mustard, amber, flax, gold, saffron, corn, and butterscotch.

     

    Green for Eco-Conscious, Wellness, Health, and Wealth Brands

    Green is thought of as one of the most natural colors associated with plants, trees, forests, and nature. It evokes a sense of tranquility, peace, health, self-discovery, exploration, conscientiousness, and spiritual growth. However, it’s also tied to money, wealth, and envy.

     

    Eco-conscious, sustainable, and green businesses, or those selling health products and foods, often use green in their website color schemes. Healthcare websites also often feature green. That said, green makes an excellent choice for businesses looking to convey elitism, wealth, and old-world luxury as well.

     

    Brands that use green as a focus color for their branding and web design color schemes include:

    • Hello Fresh
    • Whole Foods
    • Land Rover
    • Perrier
    • TD Bank
    • Starbucks

     

    Green shades include forest, hunter, emerald, mint, olive, lime, moss, pistachio, fern, seafoam, jade, and sage.

     

    Blue for Tech and Communications Brands and Government Organizations

    Blue is thought of as calming and refreshing, just like the ocean or a cool glass of water. The color has a very relaxing effect, encouraging rational action and thought over spontaneous emotions. 

     

    It’s also associated with tech and communication, both in the real world and via digital methods. Blue is undoubtedly one of the top branding colors picked for logos and web design color palettes. It’s pleasing to the eye and less likely to cause feelings of agitation or urgency. 

     

    As such, you’ll find it used in the branding of many businesses that wish to appear both helpful and trustworthy, like government websites. Blue is also an excellent color palette choice for an education website.

     

    Brands that use blue as a focus color for their branding and web design color schemes include:

    • Twitter
    • Samsung
    • PayPal
    • Windows
    • Skype
    • Facebook

     

    Blue shades include aquamarine, turquoise, azure, cornflower, sapphire, midnight, navy, royal, ultramarine, and cobalt.

     

    Purple for Luxury, Women’s, Esoteric, and Spirituality Brands

    Purple is a bit of an outsider in the branding world, giving off a whacky individualistic vibe. Generally considered very feminine, it is also associated with wisdom, royalty, spirituality, luxury, magic, enlightenment, and fantasy. Businesses and brands in the entertainment and luxury food and gift industries tend to find purple a fitting color for their web design color palettes. 

     

    However, it’s important to note that women preferred purple while men liked it least compared to every other color. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons why many brands catering to both men and women may avoid the color.

     

    Brands that use purple as a focus color for their branding and web design color schemes include:

    • Taco Bell
    • Cadbury
    • Yahoo!
    • Wonka
    • Twitch
    • Hallmark

     

    Purple shades include magenta, lavender, violet, indigo, eggplant, amethyst, plum, lilac, iris, mauve, and grape.

     

    Pink for Baby, Girl’s, Women’s Beauty, and Romance Brands

    Though not one of the six core primary and secondary colors used for websites, pink is worth mentioning separately. A mixture of red and purple, it still appears distinctly unique to the eye. This color is associated with sugar, spice, and all things nice, like children, babies, femininity, romance, love, flowers, and innocence. 

     

    As it’s a lot more subtle and wholesome than red, it often gets used to signify chaste love and infatuation. Baby’s and children’s clothing, toiletries, and toy brands often use pink. However, it also suits florists, bridal services, make-up, women’s clothing, confectionery, and candy brands. Pink may feature in a color palette for a bridal or baby photography website, as well.

     

    Brands that use pink as a focus color for their branding and web design color schemes include:

    • Barbie
    • Cosmopolitan
    • Dunkin’ Donuts
    • Airbnb
    • Victoria’s Secret
    • Benefit

     

    Pink shades include bubblegum, strawberry, rose, peach, salmon, hot pink, baby pink, blush, fuchsia, rouge, and flamingo.

     

    The Best Background Colors for Websites: Neutrals

    Picking out bright primary and secondary colors as website focus colors is the obvious choice. Hues of red, blue, green, purple, orange, yellow, and pink are excellent accent colors, ideal for catching the eye and the memory. 

     

    Picking out a custom-mixed hue for your business also improves brand awareness. However, you may be wondering which are the best background colors for websites to complement these focus colors. 

    Pure and Near Neutrals

    As they are less eye-catching and gentler, neutrals make the best background colors for websites.  The less brightly or distinctly hued, the better.

    Pastels, Shades, Tints, and Monochromatic Colors

    Pastels, tints, shades, and monochromes are also ideal. These background color choices ensure that the brighter focus color website on elements such as tabs, buttons, and text pop. 

    Tinted Textures, Illustrations, and Images

    Tinted Textures, Illustrations, and Images

    A background may be a gradient, textured, or opaque, not simply a flat neutral color. A web design company may also place illustrations or photographs as backgrounds. 

    However, these images usually get edited to be semi-opaque, lighter, or darker. Alternatively, these may get toned to match the website’s focus colors.

     

    Conclusion:

    Website design color palettes vary, influenced by a business’s industry and the image it wishes to portray to the public. Primary and secondary colors are top choices for website design color schemes. Monochromes, neutrals, shades, and pastels, play an equally crucial supporting role, being the best background colors for websites. 

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    However, your existing business branding and ethos are really the main web design color palette deciders. Offline and online brand identity plays a key role in website design. Put brand awareness and memorability first. Then, choose a website design color scheme your customer will identify easily.

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