How to Choose Website Color Schemes

Rules and examples for making an effective and eye-catching website design

 

Dale McManus

Co-Founder & Web Developer

Jan. 27, 2020

 

Hey, my name is Dale! My partner Alex and I have helped tens of thousands of people build beautiful websites around the world. In this fully-packed, step-by-step guide, you’ll learn How To Choose A Website Color Scheme and we’ll compare different sites and color schemes to inspire your search. Let’s dive in!

  • Level of Expertise:
    Beginner
  • Time To Complete:
    30 Minutes
  • What You Get:
    Working Knowledge

For the record: It’s super important for us to keep this site 100% free for you and 100% high quality. To help us do that, we’ve partnered with some of the products we recommend and earn a commission if you buy through our links. Read our full disclosure and partners list here.

There are a ton of ways you can make your pro site stand out online, but your website color scheme is one of the most important.

It’s one of the first things people notice – and when your visitors have an average attention span of (at most) 8.25, the color palette you use to shade all the buttons, text, and backgrounds of your site is super critical for getting people to stick around.

So how the heck do you go about choosing your website color scheme?

Well, it all starts with this here post…

website color schemes color swatch example

What is a color scheme?

First a quick definition from our friends at Wikipedia (well, we like them; they probably don’t know we exist tbh):

“In color theory, a color scheme is the choice of colors used in design for a range of media.”

In less formal, wiki-style terms: a color scheme (or color palette) is the set of colors you use on your site to create your own unique style and appeal to your visitors.

Types of color schemes

Technically, a color scheme could be any number of colors in any combination – just two shades of blue to every color of the rainbow (heart eyes emoji).

But because some colors look amazing together and others are very wtf, you’ll typically find a website’s color scheme follows one of a few “color harmony” rules.

Analogous

website color schemes analogous wheel

Analogous color schemes use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel (that thing we all learned about in 1st-grade art class – thanks Ms. Zelwiger, hope you finally found a husband!).

Because the colors are all pretty close to one another, websites with Analogous color schemes are versatile and comfortable – but you’ll want to make sure you have enough contrast between different website elements so that things don’t turn into a jumbled mess.

How do you do that?

Use one color as your primary, dominant color used for more important pieces of your site, another color as your main support, and the third, fourth, fifth colors just as accents on smaller pieces.

Monochromatic

website color schemes monochromatic wheel

If you’re active enough on Insta, or you’re really into grammar/Latin, you probably know that “monochrome” means “one color” – usually black and white.

BUT monochrome color schemes can technically be based on any one hue (red/blue/yellow/etc) in combination with 2 or more shades, tones, and tints.

On the plus side, websites that use a monochrome color palette have a simple feel and are hard to mess up by using clashing color combinations.

But using one color for your whole site can make it harder to evoke an emotional response in your visitors that gets and keeps them interested.

And you can have problems with elements like text, buttons, etc. blending together.

So you’ll have to be careful about your use of other website design elements like layout and typography to keep things interesting and understandable.

Triadic

website color schemes triadic wheel

Triadic website color schemes use 3 colors (which you grammar nerds will know because the Latin prefix “tri-” means “three”) that are evenly spaced around the color wheel.

This means your colors will have a good amount of contrast with each other, but not quite as much as a complementary color palette – so you can use these to make a website that pops but not too much.

Complementary

website color schemes complementary wheel

This is the one we all remember from grade school – complementary color schemes use colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel.

Using a complementary color palette on your website can make for a site that really stands out because of the color contrast, but you’ll want to be careful with how you use your colors.

If you go too crazy with them, your site can quickly become super stressful to look at (for example, don’t use green text on a red background; no one loves Christmas that much).

Compound

website color schemes compound wheel

Compound or “split-complementary” color schemes as some design geeks call them use two colors adjacent to your primary color’s complementary color.

It’s a solid choice for beginner web designers because you can get the same kind of visual contrast and interest, but there’s less tension between the colors so it’s harder to make a site that wigs visitors out.

Why are website color schemes important?

Whether you notice it as you’re scrolling through Insta, searching through Amazon, or endlessly clicking the next video in Youtube recommends, colors have a major impact on how we feel – on the web and in the real world.

Example: science has shown red and yellow increase heart rate.

So choosing the perfect color palette for your website color scheme is more than just an “I like blue” or “looks good enough for me” kinda thing.

But before we dive into how to choose the best color combination for your site, let’s look at a few reasons why all that work is important in the first place.

#1: Color helps boost brand recognition (and that’s important)

If you were to picture Starbucks, what do you see?

Those Trenta Triple Caramel Macchiato you “occasionally” drink too late at night might be it.

But it’s more likely you saw the iconic green circle with the fancy fish lady in it.

green color palette starbucks logo
Source: Pixabay

It’s hard to imagine Starbucks without seeing “Starbucks Green,” and that’s the point!

That color serves two purposes for the coffee giant:

  1. It’s a simple, distinctive color that helps them stand out from the crowd and helps you remember them
  2. The color itself is calming and associates them with health and wellness (even though we all know mainlining their coffee as we do is not doctor recommended).

Picking a website color palette is about more than just looking cool – it’s a key part of creating your brand and selling any products or services you’ll offer through your site.

According to research by online marketing master Neil Patel:

  • 85% of shoppers say color is a primary reason they buy products.
  • Color increases brand recognition by 80% (and people are more likely to trust and visit sites with brands they trust).
color palettes in marketing and branding infographic
Source: Neil Patel

And according to a study from Northumbria and Sheffield Universities (they’re in the old UK so they must be solid… always trust a British accent/research we always say!), website first impressions are 94% design-related.

And color is obviously a huge part of web design (which is why we’re talking about it!).

It’s 100% essential that your site makes a solid first impression with people, one that’s memorable enough that they return to your site whether you want to sell them something helpful or just share more interesting and valuable insights (kind of like we do here!).

That’s key reason numero uno it’s important to have a mind-blowingly awesome website color scheme.

#2: Color affects how people feel about your site

Research from the University of Winnipeg (that’s in Canada for those keeping track of our research world tour) found two important things related to website color schemes:

  1. People make their initial judgments of a website/business/product within the first 90 seconds of their first interaction.
  2. 62-90% of that initial judgment is based on color.

Which makes sense: color is one of the easiest pieces of information to “understand.”

Your brain can sense and evaluate things based on color almost instantly, while things like images, words, and ease of interaction take more time and clicking/scrolling around to process.

So how do you use color to your advantage to make people more likely to come back to your site again and again?

By leveraging the power of (echoey voice) “The Psychology of Color.”

What do colors mean?

That’s right kids, there’s a whole field of science dedicated to studying how colors affect our behavior.

Through loads of not-so-top-secret experiments and research, it’s been proven that colors do, in fact, make us feel things.

And when it comes to creating pro websites, that means you’d best pick a website color palette that makes them feel the kind of feels you want them to feel based on your site’s purpose.

But how in the holy heck do you do that?

Well, it starts with knowing what feelings each color makes feelers feel (we’ll stop after this, promise).

Here’s the low-down:

Black
example dark color palette black website
Source: Bornfight

To get it out of the way for those of you who remember 1st-grade art class: yes, black is a color; no, black is not a color.

For our purposes here, though, it’s lumped in the “color” section of the website design tools and that’s good enough for us.

Black is the strongest neutral color (which also includes gray, white, and brown) and represents power, sophistication, luxury, and formality.

Because it’s both neutral and powerful, the impression black can make varies a lot depending on how you use it on your site.

When used as more than just an accent or text color, it can lend a sense of elegance or edginess to your website design.

Depending on the other colors you combine it with, it can also give your site a conservative/traditional or unconventional/modern feeling, as well as senses of sophistication and mystery.

Gray
vintage color palette gray example website
Source: Frames

Gray is another neutral color, which gives sites that use gray a sense of seriousness, precision, control and lack of emotion…

Which can be a good thing on sites meant for technology, banking, legal services, etc.

Gray can also lend a sense of sophistication to your site when you substitute dark grays for places you would otherwise use black, or light grays in places you would have used white.

White
color themes white website example
Source: Miriam Peters

White is the color of purity, cleanliness, newness, and simplicity, which makes it great for healthcare, charity, and technology sites in particular.

Though obviously it’s kind of a default background color for a ton of other kinds of sites on the web because it works well with just about any other color(s).

Brown
types of color schemes for websites brown example
Source: Keepers of the River

Brown is obviously a natural color (dirt and trees and stones and such).

Because of that, it’s typically associated with dependability, earthiness, and reliability.

When used as a replacement for black, white, or gray in backgrounds, it brings a feeling of warmth and wholesomeness to your web designs.

Blue
blue color palette website example
Source: Plink

Blue is a super flexible color – how light or dark the blue you use can change its meaning a good bit.

Dark blues are considered strong and reliable, while light blues are calming and friendly, and really bright blues are refreshing and energizing.

Whatever shades of blue you use, it’s a color that’s great for backgrounds and accents, though it shouldn’t be used for text as it’s hard to read.

Green
green color palette website example
Source: Eslam said

Green can represent a lot of things: new beginnings, growth, wealth, stability, and nature.

In general, greens are calming like blues are but has a bit of the energy of yellow as well, and can help balance out your website designs.

The shade matters here too: Olive greens represent nature, while dark greens tend to represent wealth and bright greens are more energizing.

Yellow
bright color palette website example
Source: Spread Systems Inc.

Yellow is the color of sunshine and happiness and hope that the future is a bright one!

Bright yellows are particularly cheerful and good for sites aimed at kids (or parents).

Light yellows are a bit calmer than the brightest yellows, and dark/gold yellows create an antique, “old money” kind of look.

Be careful with this one though: bright yellows, in particular, can be anxiety-provoking and are exhausting to the eyes – so in general, they should only be used as an accent color.

Orange
modern color palette website example
Source: Emotive Feels

Oranges are typically associated with energy and creativity as well as fall/the changing seasons/movement in general.

They’re also associated with health because orange is a fruit and doctors like it when you eat fruit.

Orange is bright yet easy on the eyes and more subdued than red, which makes it fairly flexible in web designs.

You can use it as a primary color for backgrounds or as an accent that gets attention without feeling overpowering.

Red
red color palette website example
Source: MOHAB

Red is one of the most powerful colors, in part because it’s associated with war and violence as well as love and passion.

Those opposing associations create a lot of emotional tension (see “red can raise your heart rate” above).

Brighter reds give a website color scheme an energetic feeling, while darker ones feel more powerful and elegant.

#PowerfulColorRed can be pretty overwhelming if you use it too much, so in general, we’d recommend you only use it as an accent color when you’re starting out.

Purple
cool color palette purple website example
Source: Purple Bunny

Purple is associated with wealth and royalty because, fun fact/short history lesson, in times past purple dyes for clothes were hard to come by.

Thus, only wealthy, royal people could afford purple-colored stuff (and now it’s the color of a bunch of Pokemon and a Teletubby lol).

In modern times of purple abundance, purple is also associated with creativity and imagination, with darker purples taking on the old wealth/luxury meaning and lighter ones lending a soft, sometimes romantic touch.

How do people respond to color based on gender and age?

Beyond the emotional responses each color makes, color can also affect who finds your site attractive and who doesn’t along on gender and age lines.

Neil Patel also compiled a bunch of data on color preferences by gender and created a super handy color preferences by gender infographic.

Let’s take a look at the highlights:

Favorite and least favorite colors by gender
good color combinations gender preferences infographic
Source: Neil Patel

A couple of key takeaways from that:

  • Everyone loves blue, so if that color communicates the information/feelings your site’s aiming for, go wild. Green, red, and black.
  • Everyone hates orange and brown, which are also associated with being cheap, so use them more sparingly (in general; if you really love orange go for it; if you really love brown we suggest you rethink your life).
  • Women love purple, men not so much (it was 23% of women’s favorite color while no men said it was theirs).

And we can add some layers to that with another piece of that same infographic:

best color combinations gender preferences infographic
Source: Neil Patel

Which shows us:

  • Men are way cooler with neutral colors.
  • Men prefer darker shades while women prefer lighter tints.
  • Men prefer brighter colors while women prefer softer colors.

What about age?

Well we had to dig a bit further on this one, eventually finding that study done by Joe Hallock from back in 2003 (aka “the good old days” aka “the reason why the graphics look so old”).

Favorite and least favorite colors by age
good color schemes by age
Source: Joe Hallock
color scheme ideas least favorite color by age
Source: Joe Hallock

The takeaways:

  • Everybody still loves blue.
  • Everybody still hates orange and brown.
  • Purple seems to become more popular as people get older, while green becomes less.

#3: A good website color palette makes your site feel organized

Choosing the right colors for your website and using them in the right places can also help your website feel more organized (aka “these guys know what they’re doing” aka “this site is really easy to use/understand”).

This happens in two ways:

Establishing visual hierarchy

Visual hierarchy helps people figure out what’s most important, the first thing they should look at on your site.

This can be done in a few ways (99Designs has a great post covering these) and as we know smart cookies like you have guessed, color is one of them.

How does this work?

Well, it all comes back to the emotions and our good old eyeballs.

Bold, bright colors like reds, oranges, and yellows are easy for our eyes to see and that makes them great for things like buttons or sections that have particularly important information.

At the same time, grays, blacks, and colors like blue and purple are emotionally less charged and take our eyes/brains more time to process, so these colors are better for elements like the background that are meant to blend in more or make other elements pop.

Contrast between elements is also important thanks to the Isolation Effect, which is a design psychology principle that says the more an item stands out, the more likely it is to be noticed and remembered.

The use of the Isolation Effect has also been shown in a couple of color studies (this one from U of Berkley and this one from the Journal of Consumer Psychology) to actually be something people prefer in color schemes.

The takeaway: using a website color schemes that include a high-contrast, attention-grabbing color is great for both drawing attention to certain elements and creating a website design people love.

Creating a sense of coherence

A good website color scheme also creates order through coherence. 

For example, if you use fire engine red for your “contact us” button on one page, you should use that same color for all the “contact us” buttons on your site.

Or, if you use a blue grid background behind all of your H2 headers (like this post here!), you should use that same color background for all the H2 headers on your site.

A sense of order/coherence is also a factor of the color harmonies/types of color schemes we talked about above.

In this case, using any one of them to choose the set of colors you use in your palette (analogous, monochromatic, complementary, etc), instead of a random mess of colors you like will help your site subconsciously communicate “everything’s organized and tip-top around these parts.”

#4: Choosing a website color scheme makes designing easier

Last on this list but first in our hearts, this is!

Whether you’re building one website and evolving it over time, or you want to build a bunch of sites for yourself or other people (who pay you money!), the less time you spend on basic tasks, the better.

On the color front, you can save yourself a lot of “what color should I use here” time by establishing your website’s color scheme upfront, then applying it anywhere and everywhere you need to.

Especially if you make it into a fancy document like Mailchimp did:

mailchimp color schemes guide
Source: Mailchimp

Now, they’ve got a ton of colors in their palette because they have a super complex website/app.

For most of the sites you’ll create, though, we recommend you stick to just 3-5:

  • 1 primary color that’s used on the most important elements of your site.
  • 1-2 secondary/accent colors that use a little less space on your site and/or are only used on a few elements.
  • 1-2 background colors that make your primary and secondary colors really pop.

This way, you’ve only got a few options any time you’ve got to add a page or element to your site.

But how do you choose that top 3-5?

Glad you asked!

How to choose your website color scheme

website color schemes mock website

A good website color scheme is one that finds the perfect balance between two things:

  1. The brand/business’ values and purpose.
  2. What your visitors like and want.

Easy enough to say, how the heck is it done?

4. Easy. Steps.

1. Know your website’s purpose and audience

Knowing what color palette you should use for your website color scheme will in part come from your instincts and preferences.

But a “pro” website color scheme will start with what the website is all about and who it’s for.

Because that’s how you take the color psychology info we dropped on you above and use it to make the best decisions for your website design!

How do you figure out your site’s purpose?

We’ve got a good bit of info on that in our How to Design a Website guide.

Your goals here: 

  • Determine what industry your site falls into.
  • Determine the values or “personality” you want your site to communicate.

That first part should be relatively simple with a bit of thought:

  • Want to sell fitness courses? You’re in the health industry.
  • Want to offer the website design skills you’re learning here to clients who will pay? You’re in the marketing industry.
  • Want to share stories from your personal travel adventures? You’re in the travel industry.

Etc.

For the second part, let’s use some research to help you pick 1-2 “personalities” you’re aiming to communicate through your site.

Stanford psychology professor Jennifer Aaker’s our go-to for that.

She found that brand personalities fall into one of five core dimensions:

website color palettes brand personality study
Source: Pinterest

You can maybe mix 2-3 of these types of personality, but it’s best to choose just one to start.

Looking to sell watches on an ecommerce site? Go for “sophistication.”

Want to share tips on camping, hiking, hunting, etc? “Ruggedness” it is!

Maybe you’re sharing your knowledge of a hobby like playing guitar. “Sincerity” might be right for you (could be “EXCITEMENT” too).

The brand personality you go with then ties into the color psychology we discussed above: red could be a good primary color for excitement, black for sophistication, or 

How do you figure out your target audience?

Well, if you’re really diligent, you’ll want to do some market research!

A few good resources on that:

To not spend a ton of time learning how to do market research (and actually doing it), you can also just ask yourself a few questions to get started:

  • Are you trying to attract younger or older visitors?
  • Is your site mostly for men or women?
  • What products are services are you selling? Do those attract people who like certain colors or have certain values like sophistication or friendliness?

What colors typically work best for your industry?

A solid shortcut/starting place for choosing the colors in your website’s palette is to look at what other websites with similar goals (aka “in your industry”) usually use.

Because companies offering similar things to the website you’re building are trying to evoke the same kinds of emotions and associations you are, going with their flow is a good place to start.

Lots of visuals from some great research done by other folks here!

First up, an infographic from research done by Towergate Insurance on the most popular brand colors in each industry:

popular color palettes by industry
Source: Towergate Insurance

In their study, Towergate analyzed 520 logos in a bunch of industries to figure out which colors each industry favors.

Here we can see blue, red, and green are solid for just about any type of brand/company website.

Now, with industries like “Courier” and “Specialized Chemicals” on this list, you might not find the exact industry your website will be in.

BUT if you think about what those industries are trying to offer and who they’re trying to communicate with, you can probably figure out where there are overlaps with your goals and theirs.

To help you out, though, we’ve got another similar infographic from marketing software company Marketo:

color palette ideas infographic
Source: Marketo

Loads of good info in there so take some time to digest it!

Finally, here’s another helpful snippet from a Neil Patel infographic on how colors affect particular kinds of buyers:

best colors for website by type of consumer infographic
Source: Neil Patel

Now there aren’t many colors on that chart and we’re not saying you should use those exactly.

Instead, here’s what it tells us:

  • If you’re planning to sell relatively cheap, easy to say yes to products on your site, darker colors, reds, oranges, blues, and blacks are good choices.
  • If you’re looking to appeal to budget-conscious shoppers, blues and greens are good.
  • If you’re looking to get sales from “traditional” (aka “older”) people, lighter tints like pink and sky blue work well.

Now you’re probably wondering: “if I use the same colors as other companies/websites like mine, won’t it be impossible to stand out?”

Well, that’s where choosing particular colors (like seafoam green in the “green” family) and putting together a unique color palette comes in.

Which leads us nicely into…

2. Choose your primary/dominant color

The primary or dominant color in your website color palette is the anchor for your brand, evoking the main emotions and ideas that you want your website to communicate.

Think “red” and Coca-Cola, “green” and Starbucks, “yellow” and McDonald’s.

If you’ve already made a logo, the color that stands out the most is probably the primary color for your website – so this part’s done!

If you don’t already have a logo or don’t have a dominant color in mind, a good place to start is this handy quiz from Grasshopper, which will help you learn whether blue, red, orange, etc is the best part of the color spectrum for you to choose your primary color from.

If the color that bad boy spits out jives with your preferences and all the color psychology we shared above, awesome.

Look for that color using the two options we’ve got for you below.

If you don’t agree with the quiz results, then sorry we wasted your 2 minutes lol.

Option 1: Get some inspiration

The first method for finding the primary color in your website color palette is to spend some time looking at examples of sites and color schemes you like.

Just visit the sites below to find color scheme examples you like:

When you find a color you really love, you’ll just need to grab and save its hex code, which you can do using the ColorZilla Chrome extension/Firefox addon to snag it.

You’ll need that hex code to use in website builders or WordPress to color different elements.

Option 2: Use a photo

You can also use Adobe Color to extract colors from an image (which could be a photo of something in the real world, a graphic you found online, or a screenshot of a website you like).

Simply upload a photo to their tool under the “Extract from an image” tab, then you can choose different color palettes based on various moods using the left sidebar.

When you find the set you like best, click back over to the “Color Wheel” tab to copy one of the color codes to use as your primary color.

Or you could just use the complete set as your entire website color scheme!

How to use your primary color on your site

Once you’ve chosen your primary color, where the heck do you put it?

Definitely not all over your site; it’ll make your design overwhelming.

Generally, you’ll want to use your dominant color in the key places you want to draw attention to (like contact us buttons, key information, and your logo):

website color schemes primary color example annotated
Source: Our Wix Demo Site

3. Choose your secondary/accent colors

Once you’ve got your primary color picked, figuring out your website color scheme is a downhill trip.

The next step is to pick your secondary and/or accent colors, which we’ll base off the first.

As we mentioned above, some sites like MailChimp have a ton of colors in their website palette because they make a very complicated web app.

For the rest of us, one primary color plus 1-2 secondary colors is plenty.

How the heck do you figure those out?

By using the color theory harmony rules we mentioned above!

No need to whip out your own color wheel and protractor (to figure out the right angles), Adobe Color once again has our backs.

How to choose your secondary colors using Adobe Color

First, pop on over to their site using this link, then paste the hex code of your primary color in the first box.

By default, Adobe’s gonna show you other colors using the “analogous” harmony method.

For our website design purposes, though, we recommend you choose either Triad, Complementary, or Compound using the sidebar, as these will give you a set of colors that are the easiest to use on a website (aka “it’s harder to f*ck up your web design when you’re still a beginner”).

Note: when you pick a new color harmony rule, you’ll have to re-enter your primary color’s hex code.

As you’re looking at the various options, you can also play with the little circles on the wheel, dragging any of your colors in and out, side to side to change the hue and brightness/darkness.

You can do the same with the sliders under each color.

And you can click the color boxes to change which is your “base” aka “primary” color.

No worries about messing things up doing this: Adobe will make sure it still applies the color harmony to any changes you make, though it will change the primary color/hex code for the primary color.

If you like the new color, though, go with that instead of your original!

As you’re playing around, you’ll be given 4 potential secondary colors (in addition to your base/primary).

You can use all of them if you like, but if you’re going to stick to our “keep it simple with 1-2 accent colors” rule, you’ll want to do this: make sure your base color is in the far left box (you can drag it over there if it’s not), then use that, the middle/3rd color, and the last/5th color.

The 2nd and 4th colors are generally for more complicated designs.

With your secondary colors found, be sure to copy those hex codes to the same place you have your primary color for use on your website.

Speaking of which…

How to use your secondary color(s) on your site

You’ll want to use your secondary/accent colors to highlight less important information/elements like subheadings, active menu items, and content that’s only useful for some of your users.

Aka “things you want to stand out but not too much.”

Here’s how accent colors are used in our website color palette example:

website color schemes secondary color example annotated
Source: Our Wix Demo Site

4. Choose your background colors

Your background colors are going to fill in the spaces where you don’t want to use your primary/secondary colors, like text, the background of blog posts, etc.

Now, typically the safe bet is to just use black/white/gray for these, as they’ll help keep people focused on places you’ve used your other colors and won’t break the color harmony we worked so hard to get playing around with Adobe’s tool.

If you want to just use neutrals, head back to the Color tool, chose the “shades” color harmony, then type “FFFFFF” into the first box (which is the hex code for pure white).

You can then drag the very bottom slider under that box around to use a slightly gray version of white as your base or click one of the other colors to make it your base to play around until you get a “basically white,” “basically gray,” and “basically black” set of colors to use in your backgrounds.

Depending on your site’s purpose, though, you might want to get a bit fancier than that…

Ecommerce or content-heavy site? Stick with neutrals

Sites that sell a lot of products (aka Amazon) or are mostly about sharing information and ideas (aka blogs like this ‘un ‘ere) want to put as much focus on those products/words as possible.

So it’s best to use neutral color backgrounds so that these pop as much as possible.

best background color for website ecommerce example
Source: Carbon

Business-focused website? You could use shades of your primary color

Because color is an important part of branding (like we talked about above), if your website is primarily about sharing background info on a business or charity (while maybe sharing information about services clients can pay for), you can use shades of your primary color for backgrounds.

This will really help plant your brand color into your visitors’ minds to make it more recognizable/memorable.

Neutrals are always the safest, but if you want to have a more colorful set of background colors, use the “Shade” harmony in the Adobe Color tool, put your primary color in, and you’ll get a set of background colors you can use that should look good together.

Just be sure to use more subdued shades, nothing too bright or bold, as you’ll still want people to mostly focus on your content/sections where you use your primary and secondary colors.

good background colors business website example
Source: Critical Software

Going for super stylish? You can use some graphics/images too

If you’re building a site in the restaurant, fashion, beauty, or creative industries, using a lot of images or graphics in your backgrounds can create a super-premium, very stylish feel.

Just be sure of two things:

  1. That your text is still readable.
  2. That your design doesn’t feel like there’s too much to look at because of all the details in your backgrounds.

Part of that will come from choosing images/graphics that don’t have too many elements in them.

But you can also use the “Shades” harmony in Adobe color to find either neutral color shades or shades of your primary color to overlay on your images and make them more subdued (you can either add overlays to the images themselves in Photoshop or in your website builder/Wordpress).

website background colors image example
Source: Maman Corp

Website color scheme examples

When you’re starting out, it can be tough to come up with design ideas on your own.

Which is where a little inspiration from great designs comes in!

So to help you get started with a few ideas for your own website color scheme, here are a few great schemes and designs from around the web.

1. Fun and Playful

Flatiron Collective website color schemes examples
Source: Flatiron Collective

#b200f8
#ff4247
#ffdb6c
#00545a
#002835

Somewhere between a softer and brighter palette, Flatiron showcases a diverse color combination that creates a fun and playful vibe. The colors are featured in animations and used as font colors, in icons and graphics and other creative ways.

2. Strong and Sleek

Martell website color schemes examples
Source: Martell

#8a211b
#b3925f
#f0cd95
#001446
#eaeae2

Featuring a bold, darker tone throughout its site with a midnight blue background, Martell breaks away from the traditional, cookie-cutter designs you see so often on the market. Shades of gold and dark red accent colors provide a stunning contrast to the prominently dark color palette.

3. Corporate and Creative

NetNatio website color schemes examples
Source: NetNation

#e9467d
#113b77
#2565c7
#4bb3f0
#e9e9f3

NetNation introduces a corporate-style website design that uses multiple shades of blue, a color that emits trust and professionalism to its viewers. The magenta color you see used in icons adds a pop of playfulness to the very corporate design. 

And other graphical elements create a contrast that breaks up the mostly blue palette.

4. Natural and Enchanting 

New york times website color schemes examples
 Source: New York Times

#fdc3b7
#f3d982
#a7dac9
#5178b1
#e7f4fd

Pastel, earthy colors produce a playful, natural, and somewhat enchanting look that directly correlates with the company’s core mission. A featured landing page on the New York Times website, this company uses their brand colors in pretty creative ways throughout the page.

5. Vibrant and Energetic

open website color schemes examples
Source: Open

#eeeeee
#cc5245
#58a9a5
#f3d33b
#231f20

This co-working space and start-up incubator, located in Canada, uses lively colors that are intentionally vibrant and meant to evoke creativity and inspire the viewer. Overall, they do a great job using four or five distinct colors in different ways throughout their site.

6. Powerful and Poised

slack website color schemes examples
Source: Slack

#4A174B
#5BB77E
#56C6F0
#E1405A
#ECB230

Slack is a leading enterprise chat app used by millions of people. They’ve invested millions of dollars into perfecting their branding and it shows. 

Their bold-and-bright color palette uses dark plum as its base color, which draws the user in and exudes power and independence.

With energetic accent colors, Slack does a great job pulling in the viewer using color theory.

7. Bold and Happy

the happy hero website color schemes examples
Source: The Happy Hero

#FFFFFF
#000000
#E93F33
#FEE533
#4F5CD6

With a strong 1950’s comic book-style design, The Happy Hero chose bold colors for their website including sunflower yellow, fire engine red, and pacific blue. Their goal is to spread happiness and their design reflects this mission well.

8. Calming and Earthy

titya ravy website color schemes examples
Source: Titya Ravy

#BEBDAA
#F6EEE2
#D4D8CE
#B29578
#000000

Topes, browns, and soft green colors are featured in the design for Titya Ravy’s website. A fine jewelry maker, Titya chose a very non-traditional color palette to showcase her brand.

The earth tones she uses are reminiscent of the natural materials she uses in her jewelry designs.

9. Clean and Bubbly

UMAN website color schemes examples
Source: UMAN

#E94734
#334F6E
#FFFFFF
#F8F8F8
#F9DFDB

The UMAN website may seem to feature a less sophisticated color palette compared to other examples we’ve seen so far, but sometimes, simple is better. 

A professional services company offering retirement and life planning services, Uman’s clean and simple design uses a combination of mid-tone blues, salmon, and red to exude professionalism and urgency.

10. Bright and Playful

whoa mama website color schemes examples
Source: Whoa Mama

#7a00f8
#ff003e
#f39190
#f3e513
#00bfd2

Whoa, Mama is a suitable title for the color palette featured on this website. Bright and playful with tons of 90’s digital art infusions, Whoa Mama is a gleeful example of branding done right.

Purple, red, yellow, and teal are paired perfectly with each other and featured prominently throughout this epic design.

11. Inviting & Trusting

nu website color schemes examples
Source: NU

#56909a
#b3d2d7
#aeaf71
#717b44
#df8956

NU is a unique project with a unique goal and uses an equally unique color palette on its website. Many purpose-driven projects use a softer color palette to appear inviting and mission-oriented, and NU is no different.

This compound color palette consists of deep-sea blue, summer sky blue, olive green, soft green, and sunburnt orange.

12. Creative & Professional

raiseyourwebsite website color schemes examples
Source: #raiseyourwebsite

#455799
#5f7add
#af6ac6
#f09686
#f7be3e

Raise Your Website is an online website testing tool and its website features a creative color palette that uses a unique combination of two complementary blues, along with magenta, peachy orange, and sunset yellow.

This compound color palette brings out a creative yet professional aesthetic that can easily be replicated on your website.

13. Professional & Inviting

access is website color schemes examples
Source: Access IS

#155799
#1d76d1
#0f7ce0
#53c3f6
#e9f2fe

The Access IS site uses a range of blues in their web design color palette, creating an intentionally corporate feel to their site that is inviting and professional.

With tons of custom illustrations that feature the four-tone color palette, Access IS shows us that a monochromatic color palette is not only doable but can work out quite well in website design.

14. Energetic & Playful

spotify website color schemes examples
Source: Spotify

#e85db6
#ea5467
#f2af37
#cdf564
#6fd862

As a leader in the music streaming space, Spotify’s bold branding speaks loudly throughout its website design. Spotify has been known to push the boundaries of web design.

This landing page uses 1990’s inspired neon pink, orange, and green color tones splashed throughout its site to create an energetic yet playful color palette that inspires users to download their app.

15. Wise & Illuminating

the ronin society website color schemes examples
Source: The Ronin Society

#ead6b7
#cba978
#9ea3a9
#14222d
#e34234

As a financial advisory service, The Ronin Society stands out from other players in the industry with unique sepia-style web design concepts used to create a trusting, professional brand appearance.

Royal gold, navy blue, and fire engine red are used in perfect harmony on Ronin’s site and, together, add a feeling of illumination and wisdom.

16. Familiar & Futuristic

psych x86 website color schemes examples
Source: Psych X86

#050c3f
#6474b9
#4a2c96
#9b75c5
#70edf0

“Psych” is a digital solutions company, so their futuristic color palette is a good choice, with deep blues and purples featured throughout the site. A bright turquoise accent color breaks up the mostly dark color tones creating a futuristic vibe that’s somewhat familiar.

Purple was a popular web design color in the late 2010’s and will likely continue to be used in many site designs.

17. Earthy & Complementary

care website color schemes examples
Source: Care

#333333
#a5502f
#e36f30
#f2bf20
#4b7803

Care is on a mission to combat climate change and its branding and color palette is a perfect representation of their social impact.

With an intentionally earthy color palette filled with oranges, yellows, and complementary colors including mid-tone green and dark brown, this is a perfect example of a complementary color palette done right.

18. Calm & Collected

slumber website color schemes examples
Source: Slumber

#deba93
#081521
#001f33
#23628b
#53b5c1

This website is calm, cool, and collected. With a dark overtone using several dark blues against a mid-tone aqua color, Slumber’s website breaks from the standard “minimalist” design approach and uses warm illustrations to elevate its branding and showcase their inspiring, analogous color palette.

19. Edgy & Vintage

mountain man website color schemes examples
Source: Mountain Man

#e3d279
#9faf8b
#efb48d
#c96346
#414042

Indie pop group Mountain Man wastes no time showing the world exactly who they are.

With a naturally-edgy and vintage vibe, this music group’s website uses peachy pink lettering against a yellow-filtered background with other complementary colors such as sage green to create a stunning, dusty, earthy tone on its website.

20. Warm & Comforting

cowboy website color schemes examples
Source: Cowboy

#fffafd
#fcf3f7
#f8dbe3
#e94363
#131414

Cowboy is an e-commerce brand and its website design uses four different shades of pink. The monochromatic, all-pink color palette is a bold choice, but one that sells its products with confidence.

Pink is a warm and comforting color that can relay a feeling of hope and alleviates feelings of stress or anger — making it a great option for web design.

More website creation resources

And that, folks, is what we have for you today.

The full low down, the full monty, the whole shebang on website color schemes.

On a hot streak with learning about all this website design stuff?

We’ve got you fam!

Here are a few more super sweet posts we’ve created re:web design.

And we’ve got plenty more over on our Youtube Channel if you still want to get after it but are just about done with reading for the day.

We’ll see you over there kids!

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