I’m going to let you in on a secret. I’ve got a touch of red/green color deficiency. This means that I can struggle to differentiate between certain shades and combinations of red, green, brown, and orange. Have you ever played around with one of the Ishihara color deficiency tests? These are pretty much my worst nightmare. I do fine with most of the color combinations, but when I try to differentiate the red/green pages, I see very little difference.
Most of the time, it goes unnoticed. But, every once in a while (can you say paint color!), I run into problems. To cope, I’ve developed a series of workarounds. So, without further ado…The Expert Amateur Guide to Color.
Know the Basics
If you want to add a specific shade to a digital design, you need to use the HEX or RGB code for that particular color. Finding the codes is fairly painless.
RGB stands for red, green, and blue. Shades are created by combining different values of each color until the desired shade is achieved. With RGB codes, 0 indicates no color and 255 indicates full color. Hex codes are basically a shorthand variant of RGB codes containing a hashtag followed by a 6 digit mixture of letters and numbers. If you change a number, you change the color. Many computer applications offer tools that will allow you to enter these codes directly. The Microsoft Powerpoint color picker (shown below) is one example.
Find Your Inspiration
One of my favorite workarounds is to choose a color from something I already have. This works really well if I need to design something that matches a company logo.
I recently collaborated with some friends to create an elearning module for my child’s teacher. She needed help integrating Kahoot! and Zoom. Our entire color scheme was based on a color we grabbed from the Kahoot logo.
Grabbing colors from existing images is easy. Many software applications offer an eyedropper tool that will snag the color code from a specific source image. There is also a chrome extension with this functionality.
Once you’ve got the code, you can use a color scheme generator (such as this one) to find complementary colors to complete your palette. I highly recommend these online generators. They do a great job of eliminating guesswork.
Borrow from a Pro
I was once told that great educators always borrow from the experts. This is especially true for choosing colors—color deficient or not. The internet is full of great resources for color schemes that have already been created by talented designers. In building my website, I used a palette from this blog post. The author shares 50 color schemes from well-designed websites complete with hex codes. I love that I was able to see a finished product and then adapt the color scheme to suit my needs.
Stay in Safe Territory
If choosing colors isn’t one of your specialties, don’t be overly ambitious. Keep it simple, choose one to three coordinating colors and use them systematically across your design. A little color when used consistently can make a world of difference.
There is so much to learn about color. Enough to warrant a deep dive into true expert territory. However, for us expert amateurs out there—a little bit can go a long way. Do you have workarounds for using color to design beautiful digital products? I’d love to hear about it…
Thanks for Reading