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Who picked this color? Why color theory matters for web design

If you’ve picked colors for a design, you know it can be hard to choose right. Color theory affects web design, but these color picker tools will help you.

You might not think much about the colors you choose for your website or your logo, but colors affect people in many ways. Looking at different colors can evoke different emotions; some colors make you feel happy while others make you feel melancholy. You might have noticed that you’re drawn to decorating with certain colors in your home, or that you have a tendency to buy products of a certain color.

The science behind colors is known as color theory, and it has to do with the way colors look together, the way they affect our brains, and more. Whether you’re talking about your logo, your website, or the products you make, choosing the right colors is important to form a solid brand identity. People associate colors with brands, so it’s crucial to make sure you choose a color scheme that fits your brand.

As simple as it might seem, picking the best colors for your website can actually be a little complicated. Some colors don’t work together, and you have to consider how the colors of your website affect readability. Every choice you make involving the colors you use on your website has an effect on website visitors, so getting the colors right is vital.

The good news is that there are some basic rules you can apply when choosing colors—these rules are known as color theory. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at color theory and talk about why it matters for web design. We’ll also discuss how you can use color picker tools to form a visual identity that your customers associate with your brand.

What is color theory?

Color theory is essentially the science of colors, which includes a number of rules pertaining to how you combine different colors in design. Colors are classified into different groups, and all the different aspects of color—such as contrast and hue—are taken into account. This set of rules ensures you’re picking the right colors, whether you’re perfecting your blog design or choosing colors for your logo.

Below, we’ll talk about some of the specific principles of color theory and how they can help you choose the right color schemes.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary colors

You probably remember hearing about primary and secondary colors when you were in school, but colors are actually separated into 3 groups: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Primary colors include red, yellow, and blue. These are the most simplistic colors, and they’re used to make all of the other colors. You might have noticed that primary colors are often used in children’s toys, TV shows, and movies—that’s because the bright colors are more easily distinguishable.

Secondary colors include orange, green, and violet. These colors are a result of mixing two primary colors. Orange comes from red and yellow, green comes from blue and yellow, and violet comes from blue and red.

Tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color together with a secondary, which makes for a long list of colors. Tertiary colors include red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet. Different combinations can produce vastly different tertiary colors.

The color wheel

The color wheel is where the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors live. Color wheels vary widely in terms of how many colors are available, with some allowing you to select as few as 12 colors and others allowing you to select millions.

If you’ve ever used Microsoft Paint or PhotoShop, you’ve probably messed around with a digital color wheel. These color wheels blend the lines between different colors to allow you to create unique color combinations, which is how they’re able to offer millions of unique combinations.

Hue, tone, tint, and shade

Hue, tone, tint, and shade may all sound like different words for color, but they each have a more specific, subtle meaning. Here’s a quick breakdown of these four commonly used terms:

  • Hue: Hue refers to the original colors used to create the colors you’re looking at. Since all colors are a mixture of yellow, orange, red, violet, green or blue, the hue of a color can fall within any of those ranges.
  • Tone: The tone of a color refers to the intensity, which you can tone down by adding gray to colors. Toned colors—which include muted colors—are pleasing to the eye because they’re colorful without being too bright.
  • Tint: Tint is just like hue, only it’s the effect you achieve by adding pure white to colors. Tint lightens colors without actually making them brighter, with more tint bringing the color closer to a pure white with a bit of color mixed in.
  • Shade: Shade is like tint and tone, but it occurs when you mix pure black with colors. Darker shades of colors can be a good way to add some contrast and mix up your color scheme.

Additive and subtractive color theory

Additive and subtractive color theory refers to 2 different types of color models. RGB—red, green, and blue—is an additive color model, while CMYK—cyan, magenta, and yellow—is a subtractive color model. Here’s what that means.

Subtractive colors use reflected light, which gives them a sort of muted look. When you combine magenta and cyan in a CMYK color model, you get blue. This color system is often used for print and other physical media.

Additive colors use transmitted light, which makes them appear a lot brighter and allows for a greater number of color combinations. RGB is an example of an additive color model, and it’s used in everything from LED strip lights to computers and other electronics. If you’ve ever seen the bright, colorful lights people put in their computers or around their bedrooms, those are RGB lights. These lights work by mixing red, green, and blue to produce nearly 16.8 million colors.

Color schemes

Colors schemes are different combinations of colors that complement each other.

  • Monochromatic: Monochromatic color schemes use a single color, with different variations created by adding tints and shades to the original color.
  • Analogous: Analogous color schemes pair a color with 2 colors that are directly next to it on the color wheel. In some cases, another 2 colors are added.
  • Complementary: Complementary color schemes use a color on one end of the wheel and 2nd color from the exact opposite end.
  • Split complementary: Split complementary uses colors that are adjacent to the complementary colors of the main color, which gives them a more subtle contrasting look.
  • Triadic: Triadic color schemes use lines to separate the color wheel into 3rds, then select a color from each line.
  • Square: Square color schemes use 4 colors that are an equal distance from each other in a square pattern on the color wheel, which works best if you select 1 dominant color.
  • Tetradic: Tetradic (or rectangle) color schemes are just like square schemes, only the 4 colors are in the shape of a rectangle on the wheel.

Color schemes for web design

Choosing the right color schemes for web design is extremely important because your colors have a huge effect on your website. The colors you choose help you maintain brand consistency and form a strong brand identity, and they can also highlight important parts of the website that you want to direct visitors toward.

Good web designers spend a lot of time figuring out the best color scheme and the best way to implement that color scheme based on the brand, the type of website, and other factors. These colors are often used in every aspect of a company’s branding—a good example being the Cadbury website versus the packaging for Cadbury products. The goal is to create a combination of colors that makes your brand immediately recognizable. When people see the colors that represent your brand, you want them to think about your brand.

With all the brands and products throughout the world today, finding a unique color scheme that people can really associate with your brand can be tough. You can use color picker tools and color theory to find a scheme that looks good, but there are only so many color combinations that work. As long as you’re not using colors that are similar to a competing brand, your color scheme is unique enough.

What is a color picker tool?

A color picker tool is a tool that allows you to select colors from a graphical interface, with some color pickers allowing you to create color schemes with your picked colors. These color pickers can allow you to look at a wide range of colors to find a combination that works for your website.

Some color picker tools allow you to take a snapshot of an area of your screen to capture the color in that space. Once you’ve found the color you want to use, you can grab the hex code and use it for your website or graphic designs.

10 Popular color picker tools

If you need a little help finding a color scheme that’s right for your brand, color picker tools can be a good place to start. Here are 10 color picker tools you can use to find a great color scheme.

1. ColorSnapper 2

ColorSnapper 2 might seem like a simple color picker on the surface. You can use a magnifying glass to select an area of the screen to find that color. Your picked colors are saved in the color panel, where you can look at your collection to create a color palette. You can even click on your saved colors to instantly copy them to your clipboard, so they’re always easy to use.

2. Happy Hues

Happy Hues gives you inspiration by showing you color palettes you might want to use for your website, but they go a step beyond that. When you look at a color scheme, Happy Hues shows you an example of what it would look like if it were used for a website. It can be tough to imagine how a color scheme would fit into your website, but Happy Hues helps you put color schemes into context so you can pick one that works for your website and brand.

3. ColorPick Eyedropper for Chrome

If you’re looking for a simple color picker that allows you to grab a color directly from your web browser, ColorPick Eyedropper for Chrome is the solution. This Google Chrome extension works just like the eyedropper tool you’ll find in programs like Paint and PhotoShop, allowing you to click any spot on the screen and grab the hex code for the color displayed there. You can then use these picked colors on your website.

4. Color

Color is a tool that’s as simple as its name is. If you’re looking for a basic color picker for the web that allows you to quickly generate color swatches and find schemes for your website, Color is a good choice. You can use Color directly in your web browser, so there’s no need to download or sign up for anything. Simply move your mouse until you find a color you like, left-click, then repeat the process until you’ve found a color scheme for your website.

5. Coolors

Coolors is sort of like Color, giving you a simple way to generate color swatches directly in your web browser. All you have to do is select a color, then Coolors finds other colors that match. You can refine your color palette if you don’t like your results. There’s even a Coolors mobile app that allows you to look at your picked colors and add new colors to your collection when you’re not at your computer.

6. LOLColors

LOLColors is more of a collection of color palettes than a color picker, but it’s still great nonetheless. LOLColors features a collection of curated color schemes that you can look at to get inspiration for your next project. When you find a color palette you like, you can favorite it to save it for later. With a selection of wonderful color palettes to choose from, LOLColors is a solid option.

7. CSS Gradient

CSS Gradient is a nice tool if you want to find gradient color combinations. This website allows you to select 2 different colors, then it creates a gradient from the 1st color to the other. You can use the slider to adjust the balance of the gradient, and you can also select between linear and radial gradient patterns.

8. Adobe Capture CC

Adobe Capture CC allows you to take inspiration from the world around you and turn it into a color palette that you can use for your brand or website. With Adobe Capture CC, all you have to do is take a picture using the app, which will automatically create a color palette based on the colors in the photo you choose. This is a great way to find a unique color palette that works for your brand and represents what your brand is about.

9. Colormind

Taking advantage of deep learning technology, Colormind is a tool that can help you create neat color palettes from nothing. You can create color palettes from scratch if you don’t have a starting point, or you can give Colormind a color to start with and watch the technology go to work. Deep learning technology makes Colormind one of the smartest and most intuitive color pickers on the web, so it’s a great choice if you’re new to all of this.

10. Brandmark’s Color Wheel

Sometimes you need to see an example that puts color schemes into a real-world context. Brandmark’s color wheel uses artificial intelligence to show you what color schemes would look like if they were used in logos, illustrations, and other graphics. Just choose a color palette and Brandmark’s color wheel will show you what it looks like with some of the biggest brands’ logos.

Pick the right color for you

As simple as choosing a color scheme might seem, it’s a big decision. You need to choose a color scheme that creates a strong brand identity, but you also need to take color theory into account if you want an aesthetically pleasing color scheme.

If you need a little help finding the right color scheme for your website or boosting your marketing campaign, Mailchimp can help. With tools like Creative Assistant, Mailchimp can help you create beautiful designs even if you’re not an expert graphic or web designer. Plus, you can use Mailchimp email marketing tools to expand your audience and optimize your email marketing campaign. If your brand needs a boost, try Mailchimp today.

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