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When designing a website, one of major considerations needs to be colour. Colour helps to set the tone and emotional punch of the website. It can draw the viewer in or repel them depending on how well colour is used. Effective use of colour is produced by understanding the basics of colour theory.

The colour wheel

The colour wheel is a tool to show us how colours are related.

It is divided in the following way

Primary colours

Red yellow, blue. These are colours that cannot be produced by mixing other colours together, they are used as the basis to mix all colours

Secondary colours

Green, violet, orange

These are created by mixing two primary colours.

Tertiary colours

These are created by mixing a primary with its adjacent secondary colour

For example yellow mixed with orange will create orange-yellow. Blue mixed with green makes a blue-green.

Warm colours

Warm colours on the colour wheel range through red, orange and yellow. These colours can come forward, feel closer, or come towards you.

Cool colours

Cool colours range through blue, green and violet, tend to recede, feel distant or move away from you.

Colours appear warmer or cooler depending on the amount of warm colors, such as red, vs the amount of cool colors such as blue, that appear in each color.

Various colour schemes can be used to make harmonious and effective colour combinations.

Monochomatic colour

This is variations in lightness and saturation of a single color, it produces a soothing scheme, that is easy on the eyes when using cool colours.

Analogous Colour

These are colours that are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel and have a harmonizing effect when used together. It is similar to the monochromatic colour scheme, but has more nuances.

Complementary colours

These are colours that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. They contrast with each other quite dramatically when placed next to each other and create tension.

There are other more complex colour schemes which are variations on the complementary colour scheme


This scheme uses three colours equally spaced around the colour wheel, which can produce less contrast and more harmonious, balanced results than the complementary scheme.

Tetradic (Double Complementary) Color Scheme

This scheme uses two complementary colour pairs and can be hard to harmonise. It can look unbalanced if the four hues are used in equal amounts. One dominant colour needs to be chosen or the four colours need to be subdued.

Our response to colour is physical, emotional, psychological and mental, it is also determined by culture. These factors need to be considered when designing websites to ensure that you are sending the correct message.


Is an extremely dominant hot, colour, It stimulates the metabolism, respiration and appetite.

It can evoke the following: energy, strength, dynamism, heat, passion, vibrancy, love, lust, aggression, violence, dominance, danger

It makes objects on a page appear larger and closer and can become overpowering and ‘congested’ – It is a good iconic colour to encourage people to act quickly (buy/click here buttons).

It is seen as a masculine colour.


Is another hot colour, it expresses romance, love, friendship, peace. Pale pinks suggest ethereal, delicate qualities. It is regarded n European culture as a feminine colour.


This colour acts as an appetite stimulant, it also makes objects seem nearer/larger.

It suggests warmth, energy, excitement, friendliness, cheerfulness, it is inviting.

It is also seen as ‘cheap’ and is often used for promoting sales, bargain products, toys and food.


This colour stimulates mental activity. It is the colour most visible to the human eye, it attracts attention.

Yellow is the colour of sunshine, light, joy and energy, happiness, cooperation, wisdom, hope, enlightenment. Depending on its shade or tint it can also suggest jealously, deceit, disease, cowardice and weakness.

It is colour that needs careful handling to work successfully. Overuse can be disturbing and produce anxiety. Some shades lose their warmth and appear dirty. It can also be perceived as a childish colour.


This is a neutral, natural colour with a wide palette. It conveys a feeling of warmth, honesty, and wholesomeness. It is suggestive of stability, simplicity, nurturing,,the outdoors and nature, fertility, productivity and hard work. Some of the warmer browns such as a chocolate or coffee brown promote sophistication and richness.


Green is a cool colour. It lowers blood pressure, relaxes the nervous system and calms and soothes the mind. It stimulates creativity and suppresses appetite.

Green images tend to recede and appear further away.

Green can represent fertility, physical healing, abundance, growth, freshness, nature, harmony, safety and suggest monetary success. It also represents jealousy, inexperience, disease, decay and nausea.


Blue is a very popular colour. It slows the metabolism and suppresses the appetite. This is a cool colour that recedes.

Blue is associated with wisdom, spirituality, faith, patience. It is harmonius, soothing and serious. It suggests fluidity, freedom, peace and mystery. It can also evoke conservatism, depression and coldness.

This is seen as a colour predominantly favoured by males.


This is a strong colour, that is quite polarizing. It is either loved or hated.

It is the colour of spiritual power, self assurance, dignity, royalty, wisdom, empathy, sophistication, wealth, ambition, luxury and elegance. On it’s flip side it suggests cruelty, arrogance, gloom and can be very oppressive.


This is another neutral colour. It is grounding and can be used with bright hot colours to calm them down.

It is the colour of security, reliability, professionalism, dignity. It is durable, quite and practical. It can also be seen as gloomy, depressing, boring and sad. It is a popular colour in current web design.


This is another strong colour. It evokes power, sophistication, sexuality, mystery, elegance, power and wealth. It is also the colour of fear, sadness, anger, anonymity and evil. It can be seen as an anti establishment.

Large areas of black diminish the readability of text. It is a good colour to use with most others.


Though often viewed as a neutral it is in fact a brilliant colour that can induce headache, something to consider when designing a website, especially if there is a lot of text to read.

White is the colour of purity, innocence and cleanliness  and is a colour that goes well with others and can make dark colours appear brighter and more prominent when placed next to them.


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