As a web designer seeking to offer a message to your audience, you will find that you will need to understand the psychological effects, cultural influence and gender issues associated with colors.

The appropriate use of color is a significant piece to visual communication. Color can be just as, if not more, persuasive to the human eye as imagery and text.  Therefore, the colors you choose for your web page need to be appropriate to your overall message.

The influence of color on human emotion is a complex relationship involving numerous factors:

See Also:

Choosing Your Colors

Each element of the page can have a different color specific to its function on the page. But, together they must be a cohesive family of colors.

1) Backgrounds

The background is the backdrop or canvas against which all of the content and information appears. It should make an impression on the viewers and relate to the story but not detract from the action on the stage.

2) Body Text & Headlines

Your text must be easy to read! Pick a color that reads well on the background you have chosen.

Most typefaces were designed for black ink on white paper. So, shapes, proportions and stroke weights of their characters must have a high contrast between letter and background. This serves to increase readability.

3) Navigation

The user should be aware of the navigation but not distracted; non-distracting color from the palette should be used.

Establishing rules for navigation via color will help overall consistency.

Basic Color Theory & Color Combinations


With colors you can set a mood, attract attention, or make a statement. You can use color to energize, or to cool down. By selecting the right color scheme, you can create an ambiance of elegance, warmth or tranquility, or you can convey an image of playful youthfulness. Color can be your most powerful design element if you learn to use it effectively.

See Also: 

Creating Color Palettes



Creating a color palette from scratch can be difficult at best. I recommend using a pre-existing palette to start with.

COLOURlovers™ is a resource that monitors and influences color trends. COLOURlovers gives the people who use color – whether for ad campaigns, product design, or in architectural specification – a place to check out a world of color, compare color palettes, submit news and comments, and read color related articles and interviews

See Also:

Extending Your Color Palette with Tints & Shades

Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design - p. 251

Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design – p. 251

Once you have a color palette established, you can create tints & shades from the colors to expand the palette:

Starting with the branded color scheme and creating tints & tones will greatly expand your palette.

See Also:

Putting it all together…

Let’s take a look at some examples:


Co., Ltd.

Zen Army

Zen Army

Dazzling Beauty

Dazzling Beauty



Start Listening!

Start Listening!



This portion of the Premium Design Works website is written by Mike Sinkula for the Web Design & Development students at Seattle Central College and the Human Centered Design & Engineering students at the University of Washington.

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    Here is a nice site that names the 147 CSS colors that are available:


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  15. Vy says:

    Hi Mike, I found two color resources that might be useful:

  16. A nifty tool to find the closest pantone color to the hex or RGB value you have.

  17. Ken Gard says:

    This is a really cool color site I use often.

  18. Kianoush Moradian says:

    Upload your photo and get your color pallet. http://www.colorhunter.com

  19. Tim Garret says:

    Check out Adobe’s Web site Kuler where you can explore, browse and create color themes.

    Kuler can also be accessed from inside Illustrator CS5 (and other Adobe applications). Go to: Window > Extensions > Kuler

  20. http://colorschemedesigner.com/

    This is a really fun tool that allows you to export a palette to a photoshop file, text, css, etc.

  21. Trevor says:

    I thought this was a cool use of Flash. You don’t need Flash to completely design a site, but sprinkling it like stardust on certain elements can make a site unique. Check out this link:



  22. Trevor says:

    My favorite stock image site is stock.xchng at http://www.sxc.hu/ . Their selection is really good and I’ve found a photo for just about anything. You can type in colors and get great images back.


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    Photocase is a curated, user-driven stock photography library of high-resolution photography. Updated with new photos daily, our aim is to publish photos with style and character at an affordable price. We see Photocase as a place to go to get away from the clichéd classic stock style. All photos are uploaded by users, reviewed by our photo editors for quality and suitability, then the lucky ones are published online and may be purchased or downloaded and used for private or commercial projects by any registered member of Photocase (providing the use complies with our Terms of Use).


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