web typography study guide

Choosing Colors

Although using black or dark grey text on a white background offers the highest amount of contrast and thus provides great readability, a hint of bold, bright color somewhere can easily grab the viewer's attention. Colors can bring more flair to type. However, just as with typefaces, it is easy to lose control if too many are involved. It is color's rarity that makes it noticeable and powerful.

In addition to considering how the color choices complement other parts of the design and the product branding, the designer must understand that colors also evoke different emotional associations. Also, colors may have different meanings in different industries and cultures. For example, green is the obvious color choice for nature and life, but it also represents jealousy and greed. It is important to use the right color to help a word have additional meaning or feeling.

There also are technical concerns when choosing colors for the web. A Macintosh usually display colors more brightly than does a Windows machine. The same color may appear drastically different on different types of monitors as well.

tip  Consider these guidelines when making color choices for the web:

  • Work out the color scheme at the beginning of the design process. Color should be designed, not added as an afterthought.
  • If the headlines are already stand out thanks to their font-size and style, then it may not be necessary to use different colors. Too many visual attributes can cause confusion and redundancy.
  • It is a usability issue if links are not presented in a separate color. Even if other styles such as underline are used to distinguish links, such as underline, they need to be in a different color than the rest of the text.
  • Choose at least one and no more than two highlight colors for all text. Use them consistently: for instance, if one color represents links, then text in that color should always link to somewhere.