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Tips on Using Colour in Web Design

Colour Schemes

There are quite a few “colour schemers” available for free use either on the Web or as downloadable applications. These suggest a set of colours which the author of the scheme asserts will go well together. Some of these schemers are much better than others, but all should be used with caution. Very often they do not offer adequate contrast in the colour schemes they suggest. The very basic schemer offered online at Color Schemer Online v2 is typical of this; most of the schemes it suggests have a range of colours of very similar tonal value. This is therefore inappropriate for Web design. Adobe's Kuler is a more elaborate tool (implemented in Flash), which allows colour schemes to be shared among designers. Although a tool like this can be very valuable to a designer with little experience of colour, you should never accept the scheme offered without assessing it yourself, particularly for contrast. We have mentioned two schemers, but there are many others.

An interesting alternative approach to using a formulaic schemer is to base your colour scheme on some instance from nature. Some examples are given at the Web Page Design for Designers site under Palettes, where restricted colour palettes are derived from photographs of plants and wildlife. You might need quite a good eye for colour to determine for yourself which particular instances from nature would work well on a Web site, however.

Whatever aid you use in choosing colour schemes, it remains that while the choice of hues may be personal or cultural, so that there is really no “right” scheme or combination of colours, there is always a need to ensure adequate tonal contrast for good usability and accessibility.