Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Colour Wheel Theory In Web Design

This article examines the use of the colour wheel theory in relation to web design. It explores the basic six colour schemes that are possible as well as touching on the history and origin of the theory, its advantages and disadvantages.

The colour wheel theory is used for analyzing hues in design, a very important factor to consider is that it generally only targets hues and does not incorporate saturation or brightness levels. While this seems quite severe you must remember there are almost infinite amounts of shades and a more limited amount of colours that can be analyzed.

Its origins lie with Sir Isaac Newton and his experiment to split light into various colours. His original colour wheel features red, orange, yellow, green, cyan and blue and was joined at the ends by Newton to display the natural hue progression. Over a century later Johann Wolfgang Goethe studied the psychological effects of colours and modified the colour wheel to split the colours into two sides, the plus and minus colours. Plus colours were ones that had a positive effect on psychology and generally included the warm colours such as red and orange. The minus colours generally invoked unsettled feelings in participants and tended to lean to the blue and green.

The next major revolution was by a Swiss art theorist named Johann Itten. He modified the wheel to the form we see today based on the primary triad and the twelve basic hues.

In web design it is highly recommended to stick to one of the following colour schemes for your web design. To venture outside them causes colour "clash" and will spoil the overall impression of your page. Do remember however blacks and whites are neutral and (if used correctly) complement any of these schemes well.


The monochromatic colour scheme is exactly what is sounds like, a simple theme that use differences in saturation and light/darkness in a single colour to give a design that's "easy on the eye". It can be very soothing to use and looks good in blue or green. Monochromatic is fantastic for simple web pages such as blogs as it prevents design elements drawing attention away from information.

Analogous Colour Scheme

This colour scheme centres around one main colour being gently supported by the two colours adjacent to it on the colour wheel. Like monochromatic it is a gentle colour scheme that is best applied to achieve calming effect. Blogs and certain online shops would be best to use this scheme.

Complementary Colour Scheme

The complementary colour scheme is made up of two colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel. This should always be achieved by picking your main colour then tracing a 180 degree line across the wheel to find its exact opposite. Some complementary sets do not suit web design as they are so high in contrast. While a complementary colour scheme can achieve great effects in highlighting areas for websites such as online shops I do not recommend it is sued heavily as it strains reader's eyes after a while.

Split Complementary Colour Scheme

The split complementary scheme is used a little more often than its standard complementary brother in web design. It uses a combination of three colours which means you can create softer contrasts. It is done by picking one colour on the colour wheel and find the two colours that are adjacent to its complementary.

Triadic Colour Scheme

The triadic colour scheme is my personal favourite for web design. It uses a combination of 3 three colours that are equally spaced around the wheel. Its major advantage is that is strikes a great balance between harmony and contract. It looks especially good on online shops as it give you the ability to define several sections with different colours without creating a offensive contrast.

Tetradic Colour Scheme

The tetradic colour scheme is the most complex and varied stand colour wheel scheme. It is sometimes referred to as the double complementary as http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifit uses two sets of complementary colours. Although there is no standard for defining which it is a good idea to ensure they are evenly spaced. While this scheme can be successfully applies to make a website look varied and colourful it is especially hard to balance.

I hope this article has been at least a small help to you in your search for additional information about web design and the use of colour. While I have written this article with web design in mind the colour wheel theory can be applied to almost any form of graphic design or art.

Frank Woodford conducts extensive research when writing new articles for friends and businesses partners and aims to produce quality content that address the purpose of the article currently. He is currently helping to write content for Soula .


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