I am finding various resources on what is more accepted to use a website design color scheme, complementary colors such as red/green or blue/orange or analogous colors such as green/yellow or blue/purple.

I could argue it just depends on the site and there is no global, use this color scheme always, but what I am looking for is some sort of documentation or research that has been done where it shows users prefer sites with this color A vs B. Does anyone have anything along those lines?

Most of my recent designs use Complimentary colors and there have been comments that it is hard to look at. My reasons for using that is due to the fact I am primarily developing for Government sites and I am attempting to follow ADA compliance. To me that says I am doing the correct thing, but if I am not please help to show how I should do better.

  • 2
    If all people preferred a the same particular color palette, we'd all be using the same color palette on every project. (But we're not, so you are correct, there is no "global, use this color scheme"). As for ADA, they have general contrast and color-blindness recommendations, but no one color palette suggestion, either. It's all doing to depend on so many variables.
    – DA01
    Jul 29, 2013 at 20:29
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    It doesn't have to be only those two types of colour scheme, you can choose from many as long as you implement them well. Have a look at colorschemedesigner.com, it's a great tool for finding more than just complementary colour sets, and it even has settings for you to view each colour through the perspective of many different colour blind conditions.
    – Dom
    Jul 29, 2013 at 21:16

2 Answers 2


I think contrast is more important than any color scheme. Having adequate contrast between 2 colors/shades will be more appealing to most people.

Try turning your design to greyscale, if you have a mid-tone blue mixed with mid-tone anything (red, green etc), it doesn't look very bold. Bold is attractive, which is why mixing pretty much any color with white looks great, due to the tonal variance. IMHO, along with whitespace (which means not overcrowding, not necessarily white colored areas), this is the basis of good clean modern graphic design.

Disclaimer: Ultimately this isn't a fail proof theory, but is a good starting point. Everyone has different taste, and not every graphic element will look good if the colors adhere to my contrast suggestions.


If I may coin a phrase - complementary contrasts - is the best bet: colours that are quite different like red and grey or yellow and blue but they can look great together when done correctly. Strictly complementary colours can lead to just a bunch of nuances which can look boring and unimaginative. I like kuler.adobe.com.


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