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Choosing Color Themes

In order to choose pleasing color themes for your web pages and sites, it's necessary to learn a bit about color relationships. This next section will familiarize you with some terms that will later be shown in the context of web pages.

Many books on the market describe the emotion of color. Some might say that purple is for passion, red is for anger or attention, and blue is for tranquility. I don't believe anyone can or should project what a color means to someone else. It is totally subjective, regardless of what any book might tell you.

As well, color associations are cultural. To cite a specific example, someone from Israel came to our school in California and complained that the colors of our site were the same that were used by the Nazis for armbands that identified Jews during the holocaust. For this reason, he was deeply offended that the site used yellow and black. As a person of Jewish descent, this wasn't an association I had ever made—I just liked the way yellow and black look together. I didn't change the colors of the site, because they don't carry that association for me. I would, however, be sensitive to using those colors if I were designing a Jewish web site.

Some clients might use pre-existing color schemes for their logos, printed brochures, or corporate identity. In such cases, you will need to work with their colors in a pleasing manner that is suitable for the Web.

Other times, you might have total freedom over a color scheme. Sometimes freedom is a dangerous thing in the hands of someone who doesn't know what to do with it! Rather than focus on the subjective and intangible aspects of color emotion, I've chosen here to focus on harmonic relationships of color.

Color Relationship Terms

Figure 2.9Figure 2.9 May be rotated in any direction on the wheel.

Figure 2.10Figure 2.10 May be rotated in any direction on the wheel.

Figure 2.11Figure 2.11 May be rotated in any direction on the wheel.


Figure 2.12Figure 2.12 Takes a single hue and uses different values of that hue.

Figure 2.13Figure 2.13 Three examples of monochromatic color schemes using (from left to right) cyan, warm colors, and cool colors.

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