Although modern computers are capable of displaying millions of colors on the screen, web design is limited to only 216 colors. The reason for this is that Mac computers and PC’s both use completely different color palettes. However, they have 216 colors that are common to both. These 216 colors are considered “Web safe”. Using the 216 web safe colors means that your website colors will look fairly consistent on different computers (Mac or PC), different operating systems (Windows or Mac), as well as different browsers (Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, to name two).
Choosing a Color Scheme
Once you understand colors and their feelings you are ready to begin choosing a color scheme for your site. But, where do you begin? Let’s look at different types of color combinations.
Monochromatic color schemes use a single color. Differing values of the chosen color can be used to create the feel of different colors. Monochromatic color schemes are harmonious and peaceful. Using a single color creates unity and can help to create or tie things together.
Analogous color combinations use colors that are related, but not the same, to create visually appealing schemes. A selection of blues and purples, or reds and oranges create an analogous color scheme. Two or more colors can be used in an analogous color scheme however, one color is often used as a dominant color while others are used as accents.
Contrasting colors are complimentary and pleasing to the eye. colors that are opposites create contrasting color schemes. For instance, yellow and purple or red and green are contrasting colors. Contrasting color schemes generally use a warm color and a cool color but it isn’t necessary to use the startling and obvious combinations, like blue and orange. You might try beige and light blue or maroon and forest green to create very pleasing and contrasting combinations.
A word of caution concerning contrasting colors. Generally, the eye has difficulty focusing on contrasting colors at the same time. Orange type in a blue background is very difficult for your viewer to read. Use contrasting colors for your accents and avoid setting strong contrasts as background and type colors or take them down a notch. A light orange, almost cream, dark blue background is much more readable and still a contrasting combination.
Triadic color combinations are comprised of three opposing colors. Red, yellow, and blue would be a triadic color scheme. Like contrasting color combinations it is not necessary to use full strength, startling combinations to create effective triadic color schemes. Using a more subdued value of one or more color can help to create greater subtlety, harmony and readability for your site.
It can be a lot of fun to choose colors. Color is all around us, from nature to our cars, furnishings and the multitudes of designs we see on the web and in print. Look around at the colors that other designers have used. Ask yourself what you like about them, or what you don’t like. Nature is an unbeatable resource. Flowers and birds, mountains and deserts all provide fabulous color combinations. When you see a color combination that thrills you jot it down and save it for the future. You never know when you may be in need of a fabulous color scheme for a new site or an update.
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