Web Designer's Guide to Color Contrast

Web Designer’s Guide to Color Contrast

Understanding and using color design and theory is the threshold of web design. It can be extremely difficult to decide on a theme and color palette for your site, but it is one of the most important decisions you will make. People respond to different colors in various ways. There is a reason why the coca-cola colors are red and white, and why car companies show black cars more than red ones. A bride in India will wear red on her wedding day and a bride in America will wear white. There is a whole psychology behind color theory and why certain people are drawn to different colors. In this article “Web Designer’s Guide to Color Contrast” explains about site designs.

As a designer, you can tap into the emotions of your intended audience and enhance them with the colors you choose. Nothing is more off putting to the user experience than a glaring color scheme. A dark black background and bright red font might be cool for an image, but it means nothing more than a monstrous headache for readers trying to work through an entire page of it.

Your job as a designer is to create a visually pleasing aesthetic for your audience. Your design should complement the site’s overall look, contrast differing elements, and create a sense of vibrancy and life.




Use contrast to your advantage to highlight the site by implementing the fundamentals of color theory to strengthen and enhance your design. For example, in a blog, large bodies of text should be surrounded by a very light color and the font of the text itself should be a dark color to reduce eye strain. Use pops of color with contrast in smaller fields around elements you want to draw the reader’s attention to. It should be just enough to catch their attention, but not so much as to be distracting.

Web Designer’s Guide to Color Contrast

Consider the example of the website with only a black background and thick red letters. It’s horrendous and ugly. Granted, there are designs that use black and red very well on a flag or in a logo. In other words, the combination is used in small bits, not on an entire page. However, if the designer had layered a white background on top of the black and then used thin red font, the effect would be much more bearable (not perfect, of course) and the reader would not walk away with a headache. Color contrasts that work well on paper may not translate well to a web page if the contrast is not done properly so make use of shades, tints, and saturations in your design.

In addition, you can use contrast on your CTA buttons or subscriber fields to make them stand out. Your landing page should be in a different (but complementary) scheme from the rest of the site so that the user can immediately register it as different and important.  Your contact section, biography section, headers and footers should also be contrasted by font, design, or color blocks so that the user can find them easily.

Keep in mind the population of people who are color blind when using contrasts. One person out of every twelve men and two-hundred women are color blind. In other words, 18 out of every 200 visitors you receive on your site are color blind. The most common type of color blindness is red-green, so those individuals will perceive any design elements in that scheme as purple. If your design contrasts well with red or green but not purple, your site may be not be useful to the individual with red-green blindness. Optimizing your site for those who are color blind is well worth the effort.

Bottom line: experiment! This aspect of design, like many others, must be experienced first-hand before it can truly be understood.




Try out different colors and work it into different elements, play around with complements, triads, and analogous combinations to see what best displays each element. Black and red does not work for text blocks, but it looks amazing on CTAs or as a page border for emphasis. Look around at popular, professional sites and pay attention to how they use contrast to their advantage.

Look up videos, play with swatches at the paint store, download Photoshop, upload images of WebPages and experiment with different patterns and combinations to see what looks good. There’s a plethora of options to choose and avenues to learn from. Mix it up and have fun!



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