A Crash Course in Color Theory




In today’s digital age we have access to ultra-advanced 5k retina displays with up to 14.7 million pixels and billions of colors to use in web design. With so many colors to choose from it’s important to know the very basics of color theory. In this blog post we’ll give you a crash course on how color plays a role in marketing and branding efforts and the influence color has on the perception of your brand.

Why Color is Important?

The use of color in web design can easily be taken for granted. Take it from pro skateboarder Tony Hawk, who created his first advertisements for his skateboard company in the early days when laptops had black and white screens. Many times he didn’t know what colors his ads were until they were actually printed and already being circulated in magazines.

So why is color important for your design? Being able to choose colors in your web design is a tool that you can truly use to your advantage and make strong first impressions to your visitors and those who are interacting with your brand. Read on to find out how colors hold meaning around the world and how you can implement them correctly on your site.

Color Meanings

In every societal culture, colors are perceived with different meanings. In web design, it is important to understand your audience and what type of colors will be used for the message you are trying to portray. Here is a more in-depth look at what different colors mean throughout the world and how you can apply different colors in your web designs.


Red is a warm tone on the color wheel. If you were born and raised in a western society red is usually associated with stop, danger ahead, or maybe used as a way to get your attention for a sale on your favorite products and services.

In other countries such as India, red is associated with purity and spirituality and in Asian cultures red can also be used for good luck charms and prosperity. In design, red is a strong, warm color and will highlight portions of your site.

Be careful how much red you use in your design. While you may be trying to get a visitor’s attention you may also be too bold in your approach. Use red sparingly and use contrast for clear legible text.


Around the world, purple is associated with a sign of royalty and wealth. During the middle ages purple dye was extremely hard to make and equally expensive to purchase. In countries like Brazil and Thailand purple is worn during the mourning of a lost one.

Purple is a popular choice for web designers because of the diversity this color can offer. Due to its mixture of blues and reds the possibilities are endless. The use of purple on your website can be used as an electrifying flair, or can be toned down to a deep, rich shade for a serene space theme.


Blue is a cooler tone on the color wheel. Blue is used in web design as an inviting trusting color. It is no coincidence that Facebook and Twitter both use shades of blue as their company’s color scheme. Blue can be used in web design to give a sense of calm or professionalism.


Using green can symbolize environmental awareness, wealth, and prosperity. It can also symbolize energy, renewal and can have the same calming effects as blue offers.

In today’s web designs we see a lot more brighter greens that truly standout when used against white and combined with other shades of green. You can get a wider range of greens when adding undertones of blue to harmonize the look and feel of your site.


Implement yellow for calm, bright, and happy feelings on your website. Try to avoid using yellow for text colors unless you understand basic color combination theory which is explained further below. Be careful how you use yellow because it can hinder you in the long run if used improperly, especially for printing.


Orange is a trending color that works well in warm gradients and can give your site an extra sense of energy and passion. Use orange in your designs to reflect enthusiasm, energy, and use it as a powerful and elegant accent to a warm color scheme.

Understanding Color Combinations

Now that you’ve been able to get a glimpse of the meaning behind each color, now you can understand the science of which colors look the best when you pair them together.

In web design you want to avoid clashing colors and driving people away because they can’t read your text or graphics. Here are a few terms to know and how you can pair colors to your advantage. If you need help pairing these colors try using the Adobe Color Wheel tool for a quick reference guide.

If you follow these basic color principles you will be on your way to training your eye to see truly stunning designs.


Colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel


Colors of a single hue


A range of black to white


3 colors spaced equally on the wheel


Colors opposite of each other on the color wheel

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