Selecting which color theme to use – when developing your website often comes down to selecting a pre-coded theme that appeals to you specifically, but will your target audience perceive it the same way? After all, color is a perceptual characteristic of light. We see the visual spectrum in colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet, but we also perceive color by its chroma, intensity, saturation and luminance – and more importantly, globally we perceive the same color schemes quite differently by regions and cultures.
Understanding the basics of color helps you – develop websites that deliver your message, products or services to a targeted audience. Essentially colors are wavelengths of light that we see as reflections (those wavelengths that have not been absorbed). We identify these reflections of light with names, but in describing them we also need to examine variations – saturation, lightness, hues and so on. The color red can have variations of pink and crimson, but each of these also can be differentiated by its own chroma, saturation, intensity and luminance.
For reference, chroma is defined as how pure a hue is in relation to gray, and saturation as the degree of purity of a hue. Intensity is the brightness (or dullness) of a hue. Luminance is a measure of the amount of light reflected from a hue. Colors with higher content of white (think light bulbs) have higher luminance. Adding black increases the shade whereas adding white increases the tint.
Quite often I’ve been asked to match colors on a website – to those on a glossy brochure, but matching those goes beyond simply selecting the name of the color, or its chroma, intensity, saturation, luminance, shade or tint. The methods for producing perceived color vary by process. Most printing presses use combinations of Pantone colors (ink) and color copiers use combinations of CMYK toners (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) while most TVs use combinations of RGB (red, green and blue) and more recently yellow.
If you’re attempting to match Pantone colors in Illustrator and Photoshop, please take a few moments to read this article, PANTONE colors don’t match in Illustrator and Photoshop.
To make matters worse – each person viewing your website will have their desktops, laptops, tablets or smart phones color tuned differently.
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