July 15, 2024


Sublime Arts Bar None

Color Study in Website Design – Understanding the Basic Psychology of Color

Color Study in Website Design – Understanding the Basic Psychology of Color

Color is the most neglected subject in sales and marketing. Non-designing marketers abandoned the subject of colors to their webmasters or graphic designers. However, the subject of colour is the business of all of us. Your understanding the principles of colour will make your marketing promotions outstanding. This is how fortunes are made.

The study of color in design is as complex as the variety of colors in existence. I must start by simplifying a complex subject by going back to the basics–the primary colors. Scientists and artists differ in their definition and application of colors. When scientist talk of primary colors, they are referring to the primary colors of light (spectrum) and not pigment or paint. The primary colors of light are Red, Green and Blue (RGB colors popular with computer and TV screens). On the other hand, when artists talk of colors–especially in print, they are referring to the primary colours of pigment. These are Red, Yellow and Green. This “RYG” colors has been branded as CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). K stands for Black so as to not confuse it with Blue. Cyan is a nickname for Blue or dark Blue. Magenta is another name for purplish Red.

The difference in these two major color modes is that screens emit colors in form of light when you look at them. Paper (print) on the other hand absorb colors in form of pigment. This is why color mode in print (CMYK) must be different from that of monitors (web design and TV graphics) which must come in RGB color mode. This is how we come to talk about web-friendly colors. This is also the reason why what works on screen does not work in print. The standard resolution for monitors is 72 dpi while the resolution for most print jobs is 300 dpi. Dpi stands for dots per inch. It measures the resolution of your monitor setting. You should not confuse dpi with pixels which is picture elements.

Overall, colors affect the way we live, interact and do business. Look around you and you will notice that our environment is draped in colours. Therefore, the best way to study colors is to study nature.

Art and Design is man’s attempt to copy nature. So, color study takes us back to appreciation of nature. Color contrast and harmony which is central to design work is prevalent in nature study. For instance, green snakes blend with green grass to escape detection. Look at the leaves of a tree. You will see green in proximity with yellow and earth brown in beautiful variety.

The closest we come to nature in design is adopt the man-made guide we call color wheel. Color wheel is the heart and soul of color theory, colour contrast and harmony in design. Color wheel uses the primary colors of pigment and not light. The three primary colors of red, blue and yellow produce secondary colors when mixed in varying proportions. Tertiary colors are produced when secondary colors are mixed together. Colors that stand opposite to one another on the colour wheel are called complimentary colors. Red is complimentary to green. Colours lying close to each other are called contiguous colors. Black and white are contrasting colors.

There are no black and white originals in nature. Black and white you see is man-made.

This is the beginning of a series of articles on thoughts and ideas about color. You are welcome to cross-pollinate ideas with the author by posting your own comments and concerns. The focus here is on the role of colors in website design, graphic arts, business and life. You can explore more about colors by reading the color tutorial ebook.