The Application Of Color Theory In Web Design

Application Of Color Theory In Web Design


Introduction. 0

Discussion. 0

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Harmony. 0

Triadic Color Scheme. 1

Color Contrast. 3

Silhouette. 4

Vibrancy. 4

Conclusion. 6

References. 6




In many parts of the world, people use high quality color monitors to access the Web. Thus, color graphics and colors are essential dimensions of website design. Effective use of colors and color graphics in Web site designs to enhance visual communication requires clear understanding of colors. The color theory provides information on colors and their importance in various industries, including in the graphic design industry. Fundamental to the theory is the ability to make distinctions between colors and give them names (Grannell, Sumner & Synodinos, 2012). As well, the theoretical principles and describes strategies for a successful combination of colors. This paper describes the impact and applications of the color theory in Web Design.


There are several concepts described in the color theory that are important to a web designer. The concepts include harmony, contrast, Silhouette, and vibrancy.


Harmony refers to pleasant arrangement of colors. As Wolper (2011) explains, harmonious color creates a visual balance and an inner sense of order which engages the viewer. The concept of color harmony implies that the color scene is neither chaotic nor boring. The knowledge of the color theory enables a web designer to understand what and how much colors to include in a design. In Web design, lack of enough color can make the design boring to the viewer. At the same time, visuals may not make sense to the viewer when a design is overwhelmed with too much color. Further, color theory teaches web designers the reasons for using each color when designing Web sites (Grannell et al., 2012). Viewers of Websites usually have strong likes and dislikes when it comes to color. Like many other activities in Web design, selecting a harmonious color is subjective. The process of selecting harmonious colors sometimes brings out what a viewer likes or dislikes. Despite this, the color theory describes some general principles for achieving or using color harmony that most viewers would respond positively to (Grannell et al., 2012).  For instance, the generally accepted color schemes, as described in the color theory, are triadic, compound, and analogous schemes.

Triadic Color Scheme

Source: Cannon (2012).

By using an equilateral triangle, a web designer can ensure that the colors used complement each other and color harmony is achieved.

Compound color Scheme

Source: Cannon (2012).


The compound color scheme involves combining a range of complementary colors selected from opposite ends of the color spectrum. As Cannon (2012) explains, compound color scheme allows a Web designer more freedom in their site design. At the same time, the designer benefits from the visual appeal resulting after combining complementary colors.

Analogous color scheme

Source: Cannon (2012).

Analogous color scheme is derived through careful selection of colors in the same color spectrum area. Usually, the colors are differentiated by their contrast and vibrancy when compared to each other (Cannon, 2012).

Color Contrast

Another important concept described in the color theory is color contrast. Contrast refers to the color difference between a figure or a subject and its surrounding (ground). The more the contrast between an object and the surrounding, the more visible it becomes. In Web sites, contrast helps to reduce eye strain (Cannon, 2012). As well, it helps to show clear distinction between different elements on a web page, hence attracting viewer attention to specific elements. Knowledge of contrast helps Web designers to effectively select text and background colors. The following figures show Web image with different contrasts:

Source: Cannon (2012).

In the first image, the text has a very dark color, whereas the background has very light color. Such difference between the color of the text and the color of the background presents one of the best contrasts. On top of drawing viewer attention towards the text, the contrast enhances readability of the text. On the other hand, there is little difference between the color of the text and the color of background in the second image (Wolper, 2011). Unlike in the first image, the contrast in the second image makes it difficult for the viewer to read the text. Therefore, color contrast is one area where color theory is crucial to the usability of a web design.


In Wed design, silhouette refers to the process of masking some elements of an image (such as background) so that they do not show (Wolper, 2011). In Web design, silhouette is useful in designing advertisements, as shown in the figure below.

Source: Cannon (2012).


Vibration refers to how bright and dark features or elements are presented in a site. Vibrancy is another element that is important to Web designers as it influences the emotions of site design. As described in the color theory, brighter colors make viewers feel more energetic (Wolper, 2011). Thus, the use of brighter colors is particularly effective when designing a site to promote a product or when trying to invoke an emotional response. Usually, darker colors relax the viewer’s attention, allowing him or her to focus on other things. A good example is a comparison between Ars Technica and CNN Web sites shown bellow

Source: Cannon (2012).

Source: Cannon (2012).


In conclusion, color theory has numerous applications in the Web design industry. The principles described in the theory are useful to Web designers in various ways. As noted in the discussion, they help Web designers to achieve desired aspects, such as color harmony, color contrast, vibration and silhouette.


Cannon, T. (2012). An Introduction to Color Theory for Web Designers. Retrieved from

Grannell, C., Sumner, V. & Synodinos, D. (2012). The Essential Guide to HTML5 and CSS3

Web Design. New York: Apress

Wolper, V. K. (2011). Artistic Web Design Using Adobe Dreamweaver and Photoshop: An

Introduction. California: Jones & Bartlett Learning

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