How Much Color is Too Much Color?

Too Much ColorWhen building a website or designing a print ad, it’s easy for novice graphic designers to fall victim to color overkill. Splash a little here and a little there, and pretty soon your page becomes a carnival of color, giving your readers – your customers! – nothing on which to focus their eyes.

To keep your use of color under control, the simple rule is: don’t use more than three colors. That alone won’t guarantee that your use of color is perfect, but it’s a start. Begin by identifying the colors in your logo, which should be used to reinforce your brand. Need proof? Think of a retailer such as The Home Depot, and consider the use of orange in their ads and on their website.

By limiting your palette of colors to three, you’re forcing yourself to identify which features on a particular page you most want to draw attention to. Consider your website’s home page, and the many different items you’re presenting to its visitors. From copy blocks and photos, to “click here” buttons and a navigation bar, there’s a lot to digest. By using color to your advantage, you can ensure that visitors don’t skip past the areas that are of most importance to you.

To make that happen, keep these strategies in mind as you do your design work.

Don’t be afraid of white space

One of the biggest mistakes that inexperienced designers make is pouring color on every feature of a web page or ad. By putting your color on everything, you are essentially calling attention to nothing. Instead, use areas of “white space” to accentuate a colorful “click here” button or an important block of copy.

Today’s design programs, whether for print or the web, offer an endless palette of color choices, and too many designers jump around the color selector simply because they can. Again, before you start, build your own palette of three colors and resist the temptation to splash color on every feature.

Reinforce your brand identity

As previously mentioned, color is one of most identifiable aspects of your company’s branding efforts. It’s likely your logo includes no more than two predominant colors, with potentially a third and fourth used as a highlight. Build your company identity by using those same colors on materials that serve as a conduit between the public and you. Chiefly, focus on your use of color in print and digital ads, direct mail pieces, and on your company website.

Keep the body copy black

Few things scream “unsophisticated” like a bright-blue block of text on your website or print ad. If the background is white, or any lighter color, keep the body copy black to maintain a cleaner look. Larger-type content, such as headlines, can be dressed up with smartly used color, but smaller copy blocks are easier to read if presented in black type.

Use color to downplay less important text

If you want someone to read it, make it readable. If you want to hide or downplay it, use low contrast colors and small type. One nameless company offering free credit reports that aren’t actually free, manages to get around legal loopholes by using color to hide that information in plain sight. On a medium blue block of color, the fine print appears in a lighter shade of blue. Only by discerning this tiny type from the blue background can you see the actual cost. What happens is exactly what they are counting on – your eye flows right over to the big, shiny red FREE button. You probably won’t be presenting information that you wish to hide, but this technique can also work to downplay less important text in favor of the main idea you need to get across.

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