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The web is a visual medium, so color is important. It invokes mood and can make one site dynamic and interesting and another bland and boring. Millions of colors are available to you, so let your creativity and personal style be your guide.

The Magic Four

If you go to your local newsstand and look at the colors used on magazines, you will most likely see the following dominant colors:

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Black
  • White

These are the magic colors in advertising. These colors all attract the eye, are easy to read text off of, and are familiar to all visitors (see Figure 4.3). They immediately give your site an air of polish and professionalism, but overdoing it on any of them will lead to a mixed-up muddle instead of a well-designed website.

Figure 4-3

Figure 4.3. The website for the magazine GQ (http://www.gq.com/) uses the magic four colors.

If you are unsure about what colors to use, start with one of these. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something different and want a color that matches certain images or other design elements of your site, you have a multitude of options.

Hex Color

When you are dealing with color on the Internet, you need to understand that roses are not “red” but “#FF0000.” This is called hex color, and you have to get used to it when you’re using color on the web. The strange notation is really three sets of numbers: FF, 00, and 00. (FF is actually a number, in this case.)

Each two-digit number is a hexadecimal value of a much larger number. The three sets of numbers in a hex code represent red, green, and blue (referred to as RGB). HTML tags use the hex number to define colors.

Each color (red, green, and blue) has 256 possible values, and the three of them together make all other colors. To determine the hex value for a number, you use a scientific calculator. For Windows, follow these steps:

  1. Press the Windows key and R.
  2. In the Run box, type calc.exe, and click OK.
  3. From the View menu, select Scientific (see Figure 4.4).

    Figure 4-4

    Figure 4.4. The scientific calculator.

  4. Type 214, and click the Hex option.

    The Hex value of 214, which is D6, is displayed. Many HTML tags and other applications use hexadecimal to describe colors.

As practice, find the RGB numbers of your favorite color and convert them to hexadecimal.

Color Schemes

A set of colors that complement each other is called a color scheme. These colors simply look good together and probably contain one of the four magic colors. Sometimes, you might have something like a company logo that has a set color. You can use a color scheme to find colors that go well with that set color and don’t overpower or conflict with it. Above all, with color, go with what feels and looks right. You may also want to show your site to a number of people and get their input. I use the color scheme of my latest book cover for my website; that way, people know they are at the right site for my book. A couple of tools on the web can help you match colors:

  • Color Combos (http://www.colorcombos.com/)—This website is all about creating color combinations for the web (see Figure 4.5). You can use it to pick existing color combinations, test combinations, and browse its color combination library.

    Figure 4-5

    Figure 4.5. Color Combos is a site with many color tools.

  • Color Palette Generator (http://www.degraeve.com/color-palette/)—If you have a central image around which you want to build your website, all you need to do is load it into this website, and the tool determines the colors used in the picture (see Figure 4.6).

    Figure 4-6

    Figure 4.6. The Color Palette Generator finds the color palette used in an image.

  • ColorBlender (http://colorblender.com/)—This tool enables you to create matching colors and a color palette based on a color you select. If you know the central color you want to use, this site gives you options to use with it.
  • colrpickr (http://www.krazydad.com/colrpickr/)—This site finds pictures on flickr that match the color you choose.
  • COLOURlovers (http://www.colourlovers.com/)—This is a website and community dedicated to color on websites (see Figure 4.7). These people take color seriously and have a lot of fun doing it. They also follow trends of web color. You can find some good color advice on this site.

    Figure 4-7

    Figure 4.7. COLOURlovers is a colorful community.

Color Blindness

One thing to be wary of when working with color is that a portion of the population is color blind and might not see website colors as you do. This is especially relevant with RGB. Try not to mix red, blue, and green text and red, blue, and green background colors. Text and background like this may prevent color blind people from seeing the text at all.

If you are color blind, make sure a person who is not color blind checks out the colors on your site.

The Colorblind Web Page filter (http://colorfilter.wickline.org/) can show you what your site looks like to a color-blind person, so take the time to run your page through the filter. If you use this tool on some popular sites, like cnn.com and huffingtonpost.com, you will see that the site is still easy to read and use.

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