As many of you know, I worked as a graphic designer for 18 years, mostly designing book covers for publishers and authors around the world. During that time, I developed a great understanding and appreciation for the power of color and its effect on the consumer. It’s a topic that I’d like to share about briefly in this post for one simple reason…I see many in the Internet Marketing community creating websites, e-book covers or Powerpoint presentations without any regard to the effect their color choices are having on their visitors or prospects. In other words, “because it looks cool or pretty” is NOT the reason to use a certain color scheme…grin.
Color has a language of its own and that language should be understood by anyone who expects to use it to its best effect. Many good website designs or product covers have been spoiled because the colors used said one thing and the words and illustrations another. Color has three dimensions: hue, intensity, and value.
Each of these has its part in the message of color, but the message of hue is most universally understood. For example, red suggests heat; yellow, light; blue, cold; purple suggests darkness; orange suggests flame; green suggests the blending light and coolness that conveys rest. Of course, these examples are just that…examples…because color can have multiple meanings. For instance, red can also mean “stop” and green “go.”
Intensity of color is measured by its brightness or dullness. The usual danger is that of using colors that are too bright. In general, it may be said that a full intensity color should never be used for backgrounds or for large spaces. Dull or neutralized colors are better for these purposes. The primary reason for this is that having a large area of bright color can be distractive. Your eye doesn’t know where to land because of the huge area of bright color. When, from a selling perspective, we want the reader’s eye to land on our website headline or book title.
The value of color is measured by its lightness or darkness. The lighter values should be used for backgrounds because they look larger; the darker values for the material which is to be emphasized. Of course, there are exceptions to this from a stylized design perspective. But let me ask you a question that drives this point home: “How many of the top 25 websites online have “dark” backgrounds?” (The Top 4 are pictured below). Enough said.
Of course, Colors should normally be used in harmonious combinations. There are of two types of these combinations; the combination of allied colors and the combination of contrasting or complementary colors. Allied colors are those which contain some part of the same primary hue. Two shades of green, or of blue, form an allied combination. Brown and yellow make a good combination. In the same way a pair of complements, as red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange, may be used. For the best effect and result for your designs, never use complementary combinations in their full intensity. Two complementary colors in full intensity form the crudest of all harmonious color combinations. Red and green is perhaps the worst of all combinations and the most frequently used and abused. A quick glance at the illustration below should be enough explanation for this warning.
My favorite website for choosing the best color schemes for any design I work on, whether it’s a WordPress theme or a book cover, is Color Scheme Designer (http://www.colorschemedesigner.com). It allows you to generate endless combinations of allied and complementary color schemes. And best of all, this amazing tool is free. If you are creating ANY kind of design – website graphics, banners, book covers, logos, etc. – Color Scheme Designer should become your newest best friend. Have fun with it!