Color on the web

September 25, 2007


This post is largely for me to consolidate some of the resources I’ve gathered over the years, and will exist in the hopes that it might prove beneficial to others looking for color resources.

First of all, color on the web is largely in a dismal state. Too many years of browsers only supporting 256 colors (and different ones, depending on what operating system) started us off worse than we could wish. On top of that, we have the abyss community that is MySpace, with the illegible content masked by horrible colors. To that, add the lack of knowledge of color theory that many actual designers possess, and there is a decent idea of what is happening. Often, we resort to picking colors from whatever photos we are using, and feel like we’ve done a good job (I’ve done this, and I suspect most other designers have as well).

So. I’m not attempting to fix all the above messes, but to provide some resources that can help.


One of the sites I have found most useful is Color Theory for web designers. It has several great tools, and some good information as well. Most notably are the Color Wizard, Color Wheel, and Color Contrast Analyzer. Those with art school experience will recognize Contrast as a significant part of C R A P (Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity).

Several months ago, Adobe released a color scheme tool called kuler. It can be used online in a Flash-based tool, or it can be downloaded and used with AIR.

And, one of my favorite little programs for Windows is called Pixie. Unfortunately, it does not run on Linux (or OSX, for that matter), and I have been unable to find a good equivalent. It is a tiny little box that, when it is open, shows you the pixel location where your cursor is on your monitor, and then gives you the HTML, RGB, and CMYK values for the color of that pixel.

Whether you are in a program, viewing a website, or looking at your desktop, Pixie sits on top of what you are viewing, and any color’s value is available to you. It has some nice keyboard shortcuts, as well. I use this program extensively, and will drastically miss it whenever my switch away from Windows is complete.

Also, those with a bit of a budget can try Color Schemer.


The web is full of resources about color, and some of them are very good. One is COLOURlovers, a resource that covers trends and news in the world of color.

Finally, a great starting point of an article for how to use color, and also a good source for other online resources, is Veerle‘s article on Choosing color combinations.