Refining Your Color Scheme for 2013

Color carries much of the weight in web design. It is one of the first things noticed by viewers, and it can often have an effect on their immediate reaction to a website. Beyond this conscious level, color has a strong influence on the state of mind and emotion of viewers. Understanding how colors interact with each other and how most viewers react to them can optimize your work in web design. You can use this knowledge to thoroughly communicate everything from your brand’s message to a persuasion to make an impulse purchase. In this fast-paced, visual world, you may need to revisit your current color schemes to enhance user experience.

About Color Theory

Colors vary in the way they influence viewers’ thoughts and emotions. The commonly used structure of a color wheel demonstrates the visual spectrum of colors and how they relate to each other, which you must first understand when developing a palette.

The hues that make up the warm side of the wheel, which are red, orange and yellow, invoke a high sense of alertness and urgency, and can even raise heart rates. Websites that aim to encourage consumers to make a purchase on a whim or take action quickly often employ these colors.

Blue, green and purple are cool colors. More relaxing, soothing and rejuvenating, these colors are often used to balance the more vibrant and warm hues, or to promote a sense of trust, reliability, nature and growth. Websites with these colors usually strive to emphasize content, as their viewers will be more relaxed and content to browse.

To create a color harmony that negates chaos or banality, use a color formula to create a solid scheme. These include analogous (which uses colors that sit next to each other on the wheel), complementary (which are opposing colors), and triads (which are triangles formed by connecting three opposite sides of the wheel). Use the more vibrant hues sparingly to attract attention to important page elements. It’s also important to stick to 2-3 colors, and to create a stark contrast between the background and the text/content to prevent eyestrain.

Websites With Great Color Schemes


Green symbolizes growth and learning, which is completely appropriate for this site. The background also helps the viewer stay relaxed, while the yellow of the light bulb immediately calls attention to the company description. The combination of these colors creates a balance that is pleasing to the eye and mind.


FlatIcons does a great job utilizing color blocking and shading to offer a strong presence. The dark blue elicits a powerful aura that is offset nicely by the muted pastels apparent in the shades of red and green. This site is a great example of a color scheme that can be bold while still offering a softer side.


This digital security guide is a great example of successful readability, as the text both black and white easily stand out from the bold background. The subdued yellow raises alert, but isn’t so bright that it overwhelms the viewer.

Tools For Refinement

If you’re in need of color scheme refinement or are just getting started on a project, here are some tools to help you brainstorm, experiment and alter color palettes.

  • Shutterstock Color Spectrum: This advanced image discovery tool bases its real-time searches on color, which uniquely caters to the visually inclined nature of designers. This is a great tool for ideation and experimentation.
  • ColorBlender: This tool enables you to upload your current color scheme for easy editing. Change certain hues, and watch how it affects the overall blend. Once you’re finished, the program makes it easy to apply the changes to your design files.
  • Colrd: This interactive tool is great for gaining inspiration from photos, graphics and illustrations. You can browse the library of color palettes, as well as extract a palette from your chosen image. Once built, you can alter the hues and save your work.

When used intentionally, color can have great power in influencing your users. Consider the effects of your color choices, and how they can help your users and your brand.