Of the many important things to consider when creating your web identity, a well-thought-out color scheme should be one of your top priorities. Within this article, we’ll review three helpful steps you can take to choose the right color scheme for your online presence.
Step 1: Learn the Meaning of Colors in Branding
Understanding the meaning of colors will help guide you in selecting the right hues for your branding needs. Colors can have various meanings to different people. This can be influenced by one’s gender, culture, age, life experience, and many other factors.
“It takes only 90 seconds for people to make a subconscious judgment about a product and between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone.”
Let’s take a spin around the color wheel to review what words are commonly associated with each color and consider whether the colors you are choosing “fit what’s being sold.”
Red portrays passion, love, strength, aggression, and anger. Red commands attention, and for this reason, is often used for call-to-action buttons. Be careful though. Red also can invoke a negative reaction, like a warning or danger.
Orange is energetic, motivating, exciting, and warm. Orange is equal parts red-power and yellow-friendliness. It provides a sense of creativity and adventure.
Orange is a great alternative color for call-to-action buttons, offering the same attention red commands without the negative connotations that are often associated with red. The key is whether these colors offer a noticeable contrast from the rest of your design. If your scheme is comprised of predominately warm colors, then I would recommend employing a cool color to distinguish your call-to-action from its surroundings.
Yellow makes one think of sunlight, warmth, joy, and happiness. It shows confidence. However, too much yellow can spawn feelings of anxiety and fear.
Green symbolizes nature, balance, harmony, renewal, and growth. Green is calming, stable, and positive. This color can also represent money, affluence, materialism, and inexperience.
Blue is the most common color used by corporations, as it embodies a sense of trust, stability, and reliability. It can also convey a feeling of sadness; cold and distant.
Violet and Purple
Violet and purple exude wealth, nobility, royalty, and luxury. They can also conjure thoughts of mystery and magic. Violet and purple are combinations of red-power and blue-stability. Excessive amounts can be distracting, so use cautiously.
Pink brings hope, sensitivity, and romance to your palette. Pink portrays youthful femininity.
Brown offers security, protection, and represents Mother Earth. Brown gives the sensation of warmth, comfort, experience, and reassurance.
Black can be traditional or modern. Black is serious and mysterious. It can also indicate tragedy, loss, and mourning.
White suggests purity, innocence, wholeness, and clarity. White is the color of a blank sheet of paper, ready to be filled with new ideas. However, an abundance of white could imply loneliness and isolation.
Why These Meanings Matter
It is important to learn your target audience. Their color preferences can depend on many factors including age, culture, and gender.
The age of your audience can determine what colors will work best for your brand. Children tend to like hues of a longer wavelength (warm colors like red, orange, and yellow). Adults more often like hues of a shorter wavelength (cool colors like blue, green, and violet). Children tend to change their favorite colors frequently while adults keep their favorites long term.
Another preference variable is people’s cultural differences. For example, the color white can mean happiness and purity in Western countries, while it can symbolize death in some Asian countries. Red denotes good luck, prosperity, and happiness in China, while it is the color of mourning in South Africa.
While blue is one of the top color preferences for both men and women, shades of blue such as cerulean, azure, beryl, cornflower, and sapphire are more popular among women. Women tend to have a dislike for orange, while men tend to not care for the color brown. Men also lean toward the achromatic colors: black, grey, and white.
Keep in mind with this discussion of color meanings, there are no hard and fast rules on how colors may affect people’s perceptions or behaviors. For instance, midnight blue can provoke a very different reaction than sky blue. Mustard yellow is my daughter’s favorite color, but to her, canary yellow is an unacceptable color choice.
“Personal preference, experiences, upbringing, cultural differences and context muddy the effect individual colors have on us.”
Step 2: Create balance and harmony
Picking colors for your brand is one thing, but making sure there is harmony between them and the supporting colors in your color scheme is easier said than done.
“The color balance is vital in design since users make their impression of the website or application by the first look, and colors have the big influence.”
The simplest color scheme used to achieve color harmony is monochromatic. It consists of one color and then adding various shades or tints of that same color.
Next is the analogous color scheme. This is comprised of colors located next to each other on the color wheel. For example, green, blue, and violet.
The complementary scheme is a mix of colors opposite each other on the color wheel. This combination can be used for a great effect when needing a color in high contrast, for use in something like a call to action button.
There are other more complicated schemes like split-complementary, triadic, and tetradic/double complementary as well. Find the one that works best to create balance and harmony for your online branding needs.
Step 3: Try a color scheme generator like Coolors or Colormind
Once you have chosen one or more colors for your online branding scheme, what about adding supplemental colors to use for ancillary purposes? You can assemble a more comprehensive color scheme by utilizing an online color scheme generator. Simply enter the hex code from each color you have already chosen into the generator, and by pressing your spacebar (Coolors) or clicking the “Generate” button (Colormind), you will be shown additional colors that may complement the ones you submit (there are five total colors in each scheme generated). Lock-in the colors you like as you go and scroll through combinations until you find one that appeals to you. You can save the schemes you like so far while continuing to browse for another one you might like even better.
These generators come in handy when you already have a set of brand colors that work well together and just need a little inspiration in finding a complementary hue to use as an accent or a neutral color for low-key background use.