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Improving a color palette by improving contrast

From: Typography for Web Designers

Video: Improving a color palette by improving contrast

Using color takes practice. A common mistake web designers make when using color is using a too dark background with a too light text. The contrast of value, that is light to dark, is just too great and the text sparkles on the page and it's hard to focus on. Remember, people read what interests them, but if we make the text too hard to read, people won't read it, even if they're interested in it. Let's look at changing the contrast to reduce the sparkle.

Improving a color palette by improving contrast

Using color takes practice. A common mistake web designers make when using color is using a too dark background with a too light text. The contrast of value, that is light to dark, is just too great and the text sparkles on the page and it's hard to focus on. Remember, people read what interests them, but if we make the text too hard to read, people won't read it, even if they're interested in it. Let's look at changing the contrast to reduce the sparkle.

We can start by lightening up the background, but now it's too light and the text is getting lost in the background and it's hard to read. We can darken the background a little and that works better. If you want to continue working in black- and-white, this is a fine solution, but you might not want to work in black-and-white. You can replace the dark gray background with a gray brown color. A subtle shift in hue can make a big difference in how a web page feels. Let's add a color to the serif version of our bibliography.

We haven't set any color yet. You can see it's just black and white. Let's add a darkish grayish color to the background of our page. I like the dark brown gray I just showed you. I think it felt elegant and warm, so we'll add that color and we make the changes to color in our CSS file. For now, we want the whole page to have this background color. So we'll put it in the body selector. Type in body and your curly brackets and we'll type in background-color and the color we're going to use is #5c493d.

Notice I use the hash mark. This is required. If your color ever doesn't work, make sure you've included the hash mark in front of the code. The example I showed you also has white text, so we're going to add that in our universal selector so all of the text will be white. Color and six Fs for white. Since you're already familiar with HTML, you may know I could have used shorthand and typed in the white with a three character syntax and used only three fs, but when I'm teaching new concepts to my students at school, I try to avoid shorthand, because I'll have some students at lower levels and some students in more advanced levels and they don't all have the same comfort with HTML in the same class.

So I'm doing the same here and I'm trying to avoid shorthand, but if you already use it, feel free to do so. Let's save this and review it in our browser. I liked the background color in the earlier example, but I'm concerned it might not work here for the background color in this context. This happens. You won't usually get the exact effect you are looking for with your first try. I think the problem is we're trying to create an elegant feeling to the page and that's harder to do with a dark background. Dark type on a light background feels more elegant.

So we're going to flip the colors around and use the color that we're using for the background in the text and have a white background. Back in the CSS, let's copy and paste what was the background color into our text color and then we can cut the white and put that into our background color. Let's save that and check it out in our browser. That's looking better.

In fact, it's pretty darn good, but we could try a little darker just to see if it would be even better. I usually think of elegant type as crisp, sort of like the crispness of a tuxedo, and using a slightly darker color could help increase the feeling of elegance. So what we're going to do is look for a slightly darker color on Hues Hub. First we're to go back into our CSS and find the number for the color we were currently using. There it is, the 5c493d. We can copy it.

In Hues Hub we're going to search for our current color within the colors that they offer, so we need to start by going to the page we think it's on. Looking at the options, I know it won't be on the green or blue page and the purply red page just feels too cool to me. Our color is sort of a warm brownish color and so it feels closer to orange than any of the other pages, so that's the page we're going to try to find our color on. We can search for the color we're currently using by bringing up the Find bar, pasting our current color in, and we found it. There is, 5C493D.

We want a slightly darker color. I think I'm going to go ahead and try the one that's just below it, 3D3129. I can select and copy this and back in my CSS, I can paste the new syntax. I'll save this and view it again in the browser. That's nice. It's very subtle, but it makes the page feel warmer than if we just used black.

I think we found our color for the text in this bibliography. As we add color for links and maybe a background image or color, we may end up having to shift this color slightly, but for now I think we're good.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Typography for Web Designers
Typography for Web Designers

74 video lessons · 13540 viewers

Laura Franz
Author

 
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  1. 6m 18s
    1. Welcome
      1m 9s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 57s
    3. Things to consider before starting this course
      3m 12s
  2. 41m 3s
    1. Understanding how good typography promotes reading
      2m 9s
    2. Understanding legibility
      4m 41s
    3. Understanding how fonts convey meaning
      5m 19s
    4. Choosing web-safe fonts to convey meaning
      6m 13s
    5. Using font size, case, style, letter spacing, weight, and color to convey meaning
      6m 22s
    6. Choosing web fonts to convey meaning
      6m 23s
    7. Downloading web fonts
      4m 9s
    8. Applying web fonts in CSS with @font-face
      5m 47s
  3. 38m 0s
    1. Choosing a web-safe font for use in text
      4m 13s
    2. Applying the web-safe font to the text and the heading
      3m 4s
    3. Setting a class for the resource titles in the text
      3m 45s
    4. Choosing a second web-safe font for the heading
      2m 42s
    5. Applying the second font to the heading
      2m 16s
    6. Choosing a web font from the Google Font API for use in text
      5m 44s
    7. Adding and applying the Google Font API syntax
      4m 29s
    8. Choosing a second web font from the Google Font API for the heading
      2m 56s
    9. Adding and applying the second font to the heading
      4m 52s
    10. Analyzing the fonts on some professional sites
      3m 59s
  4. 55m 31s
    1. Understanding how we read
      4m 34s
    2. Finding and applying a good font size and line height
      4m 50s
    3. Finding and applying a good line length
      8m 6s
    4. Understanding ems
      6m 17s
    5. Using ems to set font size
      6m 9s
    6. Using ems to set line length
      3m 40s
    7. Understanding how color affects readability
      3m 58s
    8. Improving a color palette by improving contrast
      5m 39s
    9. Improving a color palette by reducing optical vibration
      4m 59s
    10. Analyzing text readability on the professional sites
      7m 19s
  5. 1h 11m
    1. Understanding how we "chunk" visual elements
      3m 59s
    2. Developing a system of hierarchy
      2m 17s
    3. Applying hierarchy in HTML and CSS
      7m 16s
    4. Developing a system to help chunk text for readers
      6m 1s
    5. Applying the system in the CSS
      4m 19s
    6. Changing an element by creating and applying a class
      5m 0s
    7. Using multiple columns to create hierarchy
      4m 12s
    8. Building a two-column system in HTML and CSS
      10m 56s
    9. Refining the horizontal space in a two-column layout
      6m 1s
    10. Adding rule lines to improve chunking
      5m 50s
    11. Adding emphasis within a heading
      4m 36s
    12. Analyzing the chunking on the professional sites
      11m 18s
  6. 17m 57s
    1. Understanding classic and modernist typographic pages
      7m 3s
    2. Understanding how to create rhythm and tension
      6m 0s
    3. Applying typography skills when making design decisions
      4m 54s
  7. 55m 47s
    1. Designing typographic links for the traditional page
      5m 54s
    2. Adding a list of links to the traditional page
      8m 44s
    3. Describing the link states in CSS
      6m 30s
    4. Returning links to their original "unvisited" style
      2m 38s
    5. Using different CSS for different kinds of links
      7m 28s
    6. Using CSS notation to organize syntax
      5m 34s
    7. Choosing a background color or image
      4m 0s
    8. Applying a repeating background image
      2m 58s
    9. Shaping the traditional page layout
      6m 38s
    10. Analyzing the traditional typographic elements on the professional sites
      5m 23s
  8. 43m 0s
    1. Designing typographic links for the modernist page
      6m 47s
    2. Making a list of links run across the page
      2m 14s
    3. Adding and removing space between the navigation links
      6m 50s
    4. Styling the inline links on the modernist page
      5m 33s
    5. Choosing a background color or image for the modernist bibliography
      4m 4s
    6. Applying a no-repeat background image
      4m 13s
    7. Shaping the modernist page layout
      6m 58s
    8. Analyzing the modernist typographic elements on the professional sites
      6m 21s
  9. 52m 53s
    1. Fixing quotation marks and apostrophes
      6m 59s
    2. Fixing dashes
      6m 33s
    3. Working with lining figures (numbers) and acronyms
      9m 28s
    4. Fixing characters that don't look right
      8m 19s
    5. Hanging punctuation
      2m 54s
    6. Applying typographic accents
      2m 36s
    7. Vertically centering text
      5m 18s
    8. Creating drop caps
      5m 59s
    9. Analyzing the typographic details on the professional sites
      4m 47s
  10. 3m 9s
    1. Additional resources
      3m 9s

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