When I first started developing web sites choosing a color was easy. There were not that many to choose from. Of course HTML at that time supported 16 million colors but any competent web developer would limit it to web safe colors. I remember working for a small startup and had to tell the head of marketing that the logo and branding colors were not web safe. The Visibone color guide came in very handy back then.
Today picking a color scheme for a web site is not as easy because you have significantly more colors to choose from. Now I should mention that not all colors appear the same on each monitor and people see shades of color differently. Radiolab did a great podcast on how we see and experience Colors.
[iframe width=”474″ height=”54″ frameborder=”0″ src=”http://www.radiolab.org/widgets/ondemand_player/#file=%2Faudio%2Fxspf%2F211119%2F;containerClass=radiolab”%5D
When I am developing sites for work it is easy because their are color guidelines I need to be in sync with. So here is my advice for picking colors for a personal site.
Start with one color
Most WordPress themes ask you to choose a plethora of colors (background, foreground, text color, title color, link color, etc…). You want to start with one color and select other colors that complement. The next question comes down to how to pick one color. Now people spend a lot of time and money to come up with a single color. There is a whole psychology behind picking colors.
Possibly one of the simplest way to pick a color is to start with an image that represents you. I am an avid Scuba diver so I started with an underwater photo I took of a shipwreck.
Now I am not a fan of background images. Frankly they can be extremely hard to do right and can add a good amount of size to a page. So I take the image and use a service like http://www.pictaculous.com/ to find out what colors I should consider.
Of the three colors selected I chose #001C4A.
Try out different schemes
I found my notes on color from Art class in College. There are plenty of different methods on choosing complementary colors which do not always translate well for websites. Even the tried and true 30/30/60 can look odd. Frankly you end up back where we started with color doesn’t always look the same and the color of the content (pictures, embedded players, etc…) can make that color look different.
What I like to do is just try different palettes that contain my color from popular color palettes sites like Kular, ColourLovers, ColoRatate, or Color Explorer. It is very simillar to the process of picking up swatches at Home Depot and attaching them to the wall to see if they work.