Choosing a website’s colours is much more than picking colours that look great. Creating an effective colour palette requires an understanding of how colours work together and against each other, theory, harmony and psychology. From there, they can pick the right colours to include in their palette. In this article, we will look at how to create highly impactful and homogenous colour palettes for their web design projects.

Free Watercolor Colour photo and picture


Understanding Colour Pallets

Before we look at the different things developers need to know to use colour properly in their design, we need to understand colour palettes. A colour palette is a selected set of colours used together in a design, art, or project. It serves as a guide for choosing and combining different colours to come up with a website’s theme. For example, a developer using different shades of blue for a design can look up the electric-blue colour code and include it and related colours in a colour palette.

The point of creating one is to ensure the final design or website is homogenous and follows a specific colour theme. If not, it would look like the developer picked colours at random, and the website would end up looking terrible.

A typical colour palette includes a primary colour like electric blue, which is the dominant colour in the scheme. The designer can then choose secondary colours complementary to the primary one, accent colours that are contrasting, and a neutral colour like white or shades of black, grey, beige or brown. Designers choose neutral colours that balance and ground the vibrant colours they include in their colour palettes.

Considering Context

One of the first things designers should do when picking the colours to include in a colour pallete is to understand the context behind specific colours. Colours have different meanings on an individual level, but they also have specific meanings in a broader sense. For example, some cultures consider purple to be a colour that represents royalty and success, while others consider it a sign of mourning.

Understanding this, the colours used on a website can send different messages to different people and regions. Designers must conduct meticulous research to understand the context behind the colours they are considering, especially if they are working with a global brand whose website will be available the world over.

Understanding Colour Theory

Every designer should understand colour theory, which defines the principles that help them create harmonious colour palettes. If nothing else, they should understand how a colour wheel works.

A colour wheel contains different colours on its surface. For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider primary, secondary, and tertiary colours. The primary colours are red, blue, and yellow. Combining these gives us secondary colours. These are purple, orange, and green.

Combining secondary colours produces tertiary colours. These use hyphenated names like blue-green or yellow-orange, but many have specific names depending on the quantities of primary, secondary, and tertiary colours they contain.

It is also important to mention shades, tints and tones. We get colour tints by adding white to pure colours (primary, secondary, and tertiary colours). Tints are lighter and less intense hues of these pure colours. Shades are created by adding black to pure colours, while tones include pure colours plus black and white. Tones are typically more muted than pure colours.

Communicating Brand Values and Messaging Using Colour

Colour psychology studies how colours affect people, including how they impact their emotions, perceptions, choices, and actions. Although not a scientific area of study, it can give designers and developers a good idea of how a website’s colour will impact its visitors.

Colour psychology terms us people are drawn to colours depending on how they make them feel. However, designers must also understand the context to fully grasp how this happens. Consider the colour red. In specific contexts, it can represent danger, but love and passion in others.

To ensure the colours a designer uses on a website evoke specific emotions and reactions, they must ensure the colours work together with other elements on the page. These elements include typography, copy, and imagery.

Relying on Online Tools

Even with an understanding of colour theory and psychology, designers still rely on design tools to create colour pallets. These tools provide a great starting point on which designers can build. Designers should see them as assistants rather than replacements for their understanding of context, colour theory, usage, and meaning.

Choosing the right colours for a web design project requires careful consideration because there is so much that goes into doing so. Designers must understand how colours work and then apply colour theory and psychology to see how the ones they pick will impact website visitors. Lastly, they must consider how people will perceive the brands to whom the websites belong once they are online.