In branding and website design, colors really matter.
Research shows that 62-90% of snap purchase decisions are driven purely by the perception of colors.
Choosing the right website color scheme is what makes it memorable, trustworthy, attractive, and profitable. The first impression is everything.
When building a site, you should consider carefully which colors to add to your color scheme and why. Different colors will send different messages to your visitors, changing their understanding of your website, even when it wasn’t intended.
Clueless where to even begin? Follow these steps for creating a website color scheme and avoid making the biggest design mistakes.
An average user has an attention span of 8 seconds. That’s how long you have to convince them to continue browsing your website.
Choosing the right color scheme for your web design will help you engage the users with color accents, sharp navigational elements, and memorable branding.
So, here’s where to start…
7 Steps to Create Your Own Website Color Scheme
1. Find Your Primary Color
Chances are you’ve already selected your primary color. If you have a logo or any existing branding in place, there’s probably one main color that’s dominating the designs. This is the color that your brand will be associated with – your primary brand color.
You can also browse this list of hex code palettes of some of the world’s best-known brands to widen your pool of ideas.
When you come across a particularly eye-pleasing design or image, don’t hesitate to use a color picker to grab the hex code and add it to your favorites list. ColorZilla seems to be a popular tool.
2. Decide On The Number of Colors (Recommended: 3)
Once you have the primary color nailed down, the next step is to decide how many other colors you will add to the mix.
It’s typically recommended to use a three-color combination. A triadic color scheme, which comprises three colors spaced out evenly around the color wheel, is a good starting point. A triadic palette can be quite dramatic if it features three primary vibrant colors, so designers often opt for a combination of secondary tones.
There’s also an old designer’s rule that can be helpful when applying your color scheme to the website design. It’s known as the 60-30-10 rule.
The 60-30-10 rule advises not to use equal amounts of the colors selected, but rather divide them into percentages and apply accordingly. A good example of this rule in practice is a man’s suit: the blazer and slacks take up around 60% of the look, the shirt represents another 30%, and the tie 10%.
3. Use Secondary Colors When Needed
Matching secondary colors to your main brand colors can be a struggle, but don’t despair! There are plenty of smart free tools available online that will make this task much easier. For instance, you can head to ColorSpace, enter the hex code of your chosen color, and sit back! (More color palette generator tools below…)
What’s the point of adding secondary colors anyway? Sometimes a design will require more than just a few primary colors. This is especially true for websites that are packed with content and landing pages – products, enablement materials, downloadable assets, etc.
The ability to visually separate headings, sidebars, captions, buttons, and other elements increase the conversion rate and improve the user experience.
If you’re in this boat, it’s worth considering adding different shades and tints of your main colors instead of looking for additional ones. Sometimes simplicity is the best strategy.
4. Don’t Forget Your Neutral Colors (White, Black Gray)
You will need neutral colors for text, to create contrast for important elements, or as background colors.
The function of neutral color in modern web design is much like that of white space – to give users a break and allow them time to better digest and prioritize information on the page.
It’s a good idea to have one dark and one light neutral color for different use cases. The most common neutral colors are white, black, and gray. You can also use shades of your dominant colors as neutrals, although that’s a little trickier to harmonize.
If you’re stuck for ideas, head back to Dribbble or Designspiration and use the color search to see what others are doing.
5. Add Primary, Secondary and Neutral Colors In The Following Places:
How do you go about applying the website color scheme? Which colors go where, and why?
- Primary colors go to the “hot spots” on your web page. You should use these bold, vibrant colors to attract users’ attention and prompt them to take action. CTA buttons, headlines, benefits icons, download forms, and other important information should be highlighted using primary colors.
- Secondary colors are used to highlight the less important information on the website, such as secondary buttons, subheadings, active menu items, backgrounds, or supporting content like FAQs and testimonials.
- Neutral colors will most likely be used for text and background but could come in handy in particularly colorful sections of the site, just to help tone it down and refocus the eye.
6. Go Through The Process Several Times
When you finally devise your color palette, put it to the test in various scenarios. Will it work in print? What if you decide to start a merchandise line? Does it have an effect on visitors you expected it to have?
It’s best to go through this process a couple of times and create a few different color palettes. If one fails to meet all your requirements, you’ll have a plan B.
7. Brainstorm When Needed
Beautiful color schemes are not that hard to come by when you know where to look. Here’s a list of helpful tools that will guide you in your search for the best website color combinations.Helpful tools for brainstorming color schemes (expands)
- ColorSpace – this site can generate an entire color scheme based on the hex code of one selected color.
- Adobe Color – this Adobe tool is built around the concept of the color wheel and allows you to develop any kind of website color scheme in a few clicks. You can also upload an image to extract color codes by dragging and dropping your file into the tool.
- Paletton – Paletton is another user-friendly tool for generating beautiful color schemes without any technical or design knowledge.
- Coolors – this tool is really handy for testing how different colors work together. With its drag-and-drop interface, you can move the colors around and see whether they clash or work nicely together.
- ColorSpire – another website color scheme generator.
- Canva’s Color Wheel – this free tool is super user-friendly and can help you understand which colors look great together and which color combinations are a no-no. Plus, there’s a lot of educational content to answer any questions you might have about the color theory and color wheel.
Most Commonly Asked Questions:
1. Why Is the Website Color Scheme Important?
The influence of color on the human brain is a real phenomenon. Whether we consciously feel the effects of it or not, colors have a major impact on how our brain processes information and the world around us.
Science has shown that red can increase circulation, while blue produces a calming effect.
For instance, in 2000, Glasgow introduced blue street lighting to improve the city’s landscape, which accidentally led to a noticeable decrease in the number of crimes in areas illuminated by the blue lights. Similarly, Tokyo’s Yamanote railway line opted to install blue lights at the end of train platforms to reduce the number of suicides. As a result, suicides at these stations fell by 74%.
That probably explains why most medical and pharmaceutical brands choose blue as their primary color.
One thing is clear: when used correctly, colors can have great power over us. And that’s precisely why choosing the right color scheme for your website is so important.
By combining different colors and hues, we can create color palettes that bring harmony to the design, evoke desired emotions, influence users’ moods, and shape their perception of the brand.
2. What Emotions Are Associated With Different Colors?
There is a whole field of science dedicated to studying the effects of color on human behavior – it’s called color psychology. Through many experiments and research, scientists have established that colors indeed evoke emotions: some make us happy, alert, or relaxed, while others tap into darker feelings and can make us anxious or sad.
In fact, 85% of shoppers have said they purchase products based on color alone.
By choosing the right color palette for your website, you can change the way people think of your brand and generate lasting emotions that will drive consumers’ purchasing decisions.
But where to start?
Here are six main colors that elicit a unique emotional response in viewers:
Red symbolizes importance, passion, and aggression. Think of the red carpet, the heart as a love symbol, or the stop sign. It demands attention and, when it comes to design, should be used sparingly so as not to overwhelm or tire the viewer.
Orange is associated with energy, playfulness, and low prices. Using orange in web design can help bring out the brand’s youthfulness and even catch the eye of impulse buyers.
As the color of the sun, yellow can play on happiness and fun aspects. But it also activates the anxiety area in the brain, so it should be used cautiously and in varying shades.
The color of nature, green has a strong association with health, prosperity, and environmentally friendly initiatives. It lends itself beautifully to all kinds of organic or natural products and brands focused on the outdoors and nature.
The color blue instantly inspires trust and evokes a feeling of safety. Plus, it’s been shown to have a calming effect on the brain, so it also comes across as inviting and friendly. Being so versatile and vibrant, blue is one of the most popular color choices among web designers.
Purple is the color of royalty. Often associated with elegance, mystery, and creativity, it’s a go-to color for brands that are chasing the high-end or luxury appeal or want to create a more sensual allure with their website design.
Thinking about which primary and secondary colors to use for your website color scheme will allow you to influence the way people feel about your website and your brand.
3. What Should I Know About Gender/Age Color Differences?
The best-performing websites have one thing in common – they know their target audience. Whether through market research or years of experience in your industry, you should be able to tell who you want to appeal to. Why? Because colors, design choices, typography, and things like tone of voice affect different demographics differently.
And it’s not just different demographics that view colors differently. It turns out that men and women prefer different colors too.
In a 2012 study, nearly 2,000 men and women were asked whether they preferred purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, or pink.
42% of men said blue was their favorite color, followed by green (25%) and purple (12%). Women also said blue was their preferred color (29%), followed closely by purple (27%) and green (19%).
Although subtle, the difference in color preferences between men and women could make a significant impact on a brand’s success. That’s not all. When creating a website color scheme that appeals to both genders, it’s also important to consider the least favorite colors.
So which colors do the different genders prefer? Some research has been done in that direction.
According to this research, both men and women dislike brown and orange. 17% of women also put gray on their list of the top three least favorite colors. Interestingly, both genders consider these same colors as “cheap” or “inexpensive.”
4. What Colors Grab The Most Attention?
The right color combinations are essential in web design as they help designers establish visual hierarchy. Visual hierarchy, in turn, allows users to distinguish the core elements almost instantly and spot the most important information first.
But it’s not just various color combinations that give design structure. Colors naturally have their own hierarchy, which is best defined by the impact each color makes on our emotions, senses, and behavior.
There are bold colors, like red, yellow, or orange, that are practically unmissable and demand our undivided attention. And there are weaker colors, such as gray, white, or light blue, that help to create contrast and make important elements pop.
Designers love to use bold colors to sharpen navigation and create a more intuitive user experience. Besides that, bold colors can be used to create consistency across different pages and help users find what they need faster. For instance, using red color for call-to-action buttons across your website can increase your conversion rate and make the UI design more intuitive.
5. Which Industries Favor Different Colors?
We’ve already discussed how important color psychology is to branding, identity, and logo design and how each shade has a different psychological impact on the customer.
So it’s not at all surprising to learn that different industries favor different colors, as they’re trying to evoke particular emotions and create industry-relevant associations.
One study analyzed 520 logos in a range of industries to determine which sector favors which color. The findings were compiled into a colorful chart, which represents the top 20 brands in each industry and their dominant colors.
6. How Do I Improve Brand Recognition?
Color is one of the most important elements of a memorable brand – alongside typography, brand name, and graphics.
We know that our brains crave visual information. Crafting compelling visual content that uses the right colors and eye-pleasing design piques users’ interest and locks in their attention long before the information is actually processed. It takes a quarter of a second for the brain to process visual cues, while the average consumer attention span is just 8 seconds.
Let’s do a quick experiment. Close your eyes and think of these three brands: Milka Chocolate, IKEA, and Carlsberg. Did you see their brand colors? I bet your brain was instantly showered with purple, blue-with-yellow, and green images.
Research has shown that color increases brand recognition by 80%. Building better brand recognition, in turn, helps companies establish familiarity. And the more familiar something is, the more we trust it.
Studying color psychology can also help you ensure that your brand is associated with the right emotions and create a positive sentiment in consumers.
This may seem like a lot of work for something as basic as a website color scheme, but it’s a vital step in the website design process. To be able to influence how users see and feel about your brand, we need to better understand the connection between colors and emotions.
7. What Are Neutral Colors?
Can you create an appealing website design without using any color? The answer is yes, but that requires a good understanding of other design elements, such as typography, grid, and layout, to attract visitors’ attention.
Black and white website design is known as a monochromatic color scheme. The combination of black and white colors is a safe bet – these are the two colors that will never go out of fashion. However, a monochromatic color scheme can be based on any color, as long as it’s derived from a single hue and extended using its tints, shades, and tones.
A well-executed monochromatic design ensures a website stands out as sophisticated, classy, and timeless.
On the downside, it can be a challenge to get an emotional response from your visitors. Devoid of color, monochromatic web designs are also devoid of personality and emotion. Designers must think creatively about developing a compelling browsing experience when they opt for a monochromatic color scheme.
Research on minimalism in web design shows that using an accent color intentionally and consistently across the design helps to highlight the most important information and motivates users to take action.
Blue, red, and green are the three dominant colors that crop up in nearly every industry.
However, there’s one exception that applies to the color blue. According to food researchers, when humans searched for food, they learned to avoid toxic or spoiled objects, which were often blue, black, or purple. When food dyed blue is served to study subjects, they lose appetite.
If every other brand in your industry is using the same colors, it may seem impossible to stand out and build a recognizable brand. That’s why it’s important to compile a broader color scheme that will apply to all branding and marketing materials, instead of going with just a simple combination of primary and secondary colors.
8. Are There Any Examples of Good Website Color Schemes?
There are! Here are 20 examples to inspire your website’s color scheme.
1. Bright Accent Color
Using an accent color in your website color scheme is one of the most effective ways of directing the visitor’s attention to the most important bits of information on the page. In the example above, the bold colors – yellow – is used to single out the core services and create a memorable concept.
2. A Bright but Balanced Color Scheme
This website color scheme balances two vibrant colors, using the bright red as an accent color.
3. Fresh and Organic-Looking Color Scheme
The saying that we eat with our eyes first is spot-on. Our brain receives a signal from the eyes well before our taste buds get to work. Color is often the first element that our eyes notice about a food product, which predetermines how we perceive the taste and flavor of what we’re about to eat. In the example below, we see how using a natural color scheme, dominated by yellow, white, and green colors, creates an organic and fresh look.
4. Earthy Tones
This website color scheme uses a neutral color background to bring out the peachy color of the product.
5. Calm and Minimalistic Color Scheme
This simple combination of earthy, calm colors creates a relaxing atmosphere and sets the right tone for the message of the website – overcoming stress and anxiety. It’s also an example of how a limited color palette can still be powerful in making an impact on a visitor’s mood and behavior.
6. Sleek and Relaxed Color Scheme
Pairing different shades of blue with matching pastels, this sleek website color scheme creates a calm and dreamy ambiance.
7. Pastel and Muted Color Scheme
Using a soft, pastel color scheme, this website design manages to create an impression of organic flow and visual structure. It’s eye-pleasing and well-balanced, enticing the visitor to stick around and continue browsing.
8. Soft and Inviting Color Scheme
This website color scheme combines several pastel colors to create a soft and inviting look.
9. Vibrant and Bold Color Scheme
Bursting with color and energy, this vibrant color palette brings together bright yellow and vibrant blue, creating a powerful combination. With vivid colors and interesting design elements, the website leaves a long-lasting impression, and a citrusy flavor burst.
10. Vibrant Contrast
In this color scheme, two vibrant colors are used to create an eye-grabbing contrast.
11. Colorful and Modern Color Scheme
This site pulls off a sophisticated and modern design by combining brightly colored products with neutral backgrounds. With one accent color for CTA buttons, the website design works brilliantly at guiding the visitor to the desired action.
12. Fun and Playful
Combining many different colors and hues, this website pulls off a playful color scheme that uses color to create information categories.
13. Monochromatic Color Scheme
Playing with texture and various shades of black and gray, this color palette helps to create a mysterious yet approachable website design. The lack of color in this web design forces the visitor to focus on other elements, including copy, shapes, and visuals.
14. Elegant and Peaceful
Playing with a few shades of green, this website design creates depth and uses a calm, clean color scheme to keep visitors engaged.
15. Vivid and Sharp Color Scheme
Channeling a sharp color scheme, this website design makes a strong first impression. Unafraid to lead with vivid colors, the website design combines different shades to create a stark contrast and attract the visitor’s eye – from deep pink to teal green and rich blue, the color scheme is eclectic yet balanced.
16. Not Afraid of Bold Colors
With a high contrast and three vibrant colors at play, this website color scheme makes a bold impression.
17. Elegant and Luxurious Color Scheme
This beautiful color scheme pulls off a royal, elegant look by combining deep blue with gold shades. It’s a classic color scheme with a modern twist that delivers a powerful visual experience and immediately positions the brand as a high-end player.
18. With a Touch of Gold
The example below demonstrates how throwing in a color that has strong cultural associations – in this case; gold – can change the dynamics of the whole design and make it look more majestic.
19. Corporate yet Energetic Color Scheme
Relying on a vivid yet rather traditional color palette, this website design manages to evoke trust while creating an impression of a forward-thinking, modern brand. With strong contrast and great legibility, the combination of red and blue gives the website a dynamic and powerful vibe.
20. Traditional but Interesting
The classic combination of red and blue comes alive in this cool website design.
Now You Know How to Design a Website Color Scheme Yourself
The truth is, you don’t need to be a designer to compile a beautiful website color scheme. With a broad understanding of color psychology, the fundamentals of the color theory, and an arsenal of helpful tools, you can develop a color palette that gives your brand a powerful visual identity.
Take your time to explore creative examples, test out different color combinations, and find complementary colors that work nicely together. Great design is relative – if it works for your brand, drives engagement, and boosts brand recognition, that’s all that really matters.
Now put on your designer hat and start experimenting with your color palettes.