Go back

The Incredible Ways that You Can Use Color Theory in UI Design

Color choice is one of the most essential aspects of design. By using intentional choices of varying shades and hues in your UI design, you can find ways to get your message across and attract audiences that you may not have thought of. In this way, there are many incredible ways that you can use color theory in UI design.

In this article, we will discuss how color design can contribute to beautiful websites that display branding, appeal to the eye, and inspire visitors to spend more time on your websites. You can encourage higher click-through rates and sales conversions through great color implementation.
We will show you the basics of color theory for designers.

Table of Contents

women looking on color theory basic terms book. Important for web design
women looking on color theory basic terms book. Important for web design

What is Color Theory?

Color theory is a school of thought used to organize how color is viewed and used in the design. According to Adobe, the use of color combinations “helps us select balanced and effective color combinations.” These combinations of carefully selected colors are also known as color schemes.

There are also rules involved in color theory which necessitate the labeling of colors into groups that dictate how colors can be combined with each other. If you have taken any form of art class, you are likely familiar with the designation of primary colors (red, yellow, blue) and secondary colors (such as orange, purple, and green).

If not, primary colors are those that can be used to create other colors through mixing. For example, yellow and red make orange, blue and yellow make green, and so on.

How Can You Use Color Theory for Your Site Design?

First and foremost, color combinations can be used according to color theory in several ways—for example, monochromatic schemes, analogous schemes, complementary schemes, and others.

These schemes are built around how these colors interact within a color wheel and how the tones, tints, and shades of these colors look when compared to one another. From there, we find patterns in color usage that convey different meanings, feelings, and levels of subjective appeal.

Monochromatic Color Schemes

These color schemes are built around one color and then use different tones of that same color in various design elements.

pink abstract object showing monochromatic color schemes
Pink abstract object showing Monochromatic Color Schemes

Analogous Color Schemes

Alternatively, analogous color schemes feature three or more hues of colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.

Analogues color schemes
Analogues color schemes

Complementary Color Schemes

And finally, these color schemes consist of contrasting colors and hues that help to marry them. You will often see these color schemes showing two contrasting color wheel colors and lighter or darker shades in between.

Complementary color wheel showing complementary color schemes
Complementary color wheel

What Are Some of the Ways You Can Use Color in Your Designs?

The psychology of color is essential to understand from a design perspective. Specific colors may look gorgeous next to one another, but they can evoke emotions that might not be what you are aiming for with your design.

Let’s review some colors that can make or break your designs with unintended meanings. Learning the meanings of colors will also help you to make intentional color psychology choices in your plans. However, these color meanings are subjective and different cultures can have other associations. Use these as guidelines rather than rules.


Color associations with red might seem obvious, but there is more than meets the eye when it comes to red. Its intensity is associated with anger, passion, danger, or a need for action. In this way, the color psychology surrounding red can be pretty convincing regarding marketing.

YouTube, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola rely on red for their brand design. With this branding, your attention is immediately grabbed by their logos and their websites. Using red and its shades in your designs can help your site visitors feel excited about your website, but too much of this color could alarm your visitors.


With orange, you can use this color to also grab attention, much like red. However, orange is typically considered a “fun” color and less commanding or urgent than red. There is enthusiasm incorporated in the color which is why orange is the choice of brands that want to appeal to younger crowds.

Candy brand Reese’s and children’s television channel Nickelodeon incorporate the color orange into their designs to establish this youthful feel. When trying to avoid too alarming colors, you might want to choose orange as an alternative to red in their designs. Lighter shades of orange can signal less of a need for urgency and more of a playful feel.


Apart from red, yellow might be the following most recognizable color meaning. The color of the sun, yellow, is associated with happiness. Sunny, cheery, and joyful, the color yellow contains hope and promise for good times ahead.

From a branding perspective, the color yellow can also demand one’s attention, especially when the color is paired with darker colors or other primary colors. We can think of many examples of this in popular brandings, such as the Pokémon franchise, IKEA, and even the Superman logo. Each of these brands tries to inspire joy and happiness and sell it to you through good color design.


When discussing the color associations with green, it’s important to note that Americans, particularly, pair green with money and wealth. This association also follows with other countries, but the connection comes from nations with green currency.

Otherwise, universally green is paired with nature. For companies with marketing associated with natural products, green has a powerful connection for branding. Popular American grocery store chains Whole Foods and Publix use green in their branding to display the freshness of their food. At the same time, upscale brands Lacoste and Land Rover show off their status and wealth associations with green.


A popular color choice for branding is blue due to its correlation to trust, calmness, comfort, and, most importantly, relaxation. For this reason, blue seems to be one of the most popular color choices for branding and design.

Designers and brands use this color to instill harmony and trust without having to prove themselves to their clients. Many major tech companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Skype, use blue to establish this trust. When using this color in your designs, you can help convince your visitors of your reliability and safety when they visit your website.


Finally, on our list of primary and secondary color associations is purple. The connections between purple and psychology include luxury and royalty, and other traits include wisdom and arrogance.

For this reason, brands and designers use this color sparingly to avoid being perceived as “above” their clients. Yahoo is an example of a major brand that uses the color purple, but other high-recognition brands are more difficult to come by. Purple is a great color to use in small doses, and lighter tones can help reduce the perception of arrogance in your designs.

The Best Color Tricks for UI Design

Contrast is Helpful

Using color schemes with contrasting colors will help improve your website’s readability. With too many colors that blend into one another, you may risk your visitor feeling like they don’t know what to look at on your website. Items, logos, and fonts may blend into one another and leave your visitor confused and ready to go to another website.

Monochromatic palettes can be used in UI design but should be used carefully and tested for readability. Font colors should default to black or white if possible to help encourage this contrast in your designs. You should also consider using these neutrals to help create space in your plans not to overwhelm your viewers.

young beautiful girl sitting on floog infront of black and white wall showing a high contrast in color theory and color design
Women showing High Contrast

Use Tools to Help You Pick Colors

The untrained eye can need help choosing color palettes, and in fact, this is why some designers choose to specialize in color theory. Otherwise, designers can use tools to help them select color schemes that appeal to their audience and follow the “rules” of color theory.

One of our favorites is from Adobe; the color wheel function allows you to play with various color schemes. You can select a color from a brand’s logo and create palettes of colors that surround that primary color in varying color schemes. Very good alternative to it are Coloors and the Canva Color Palette Generator.

Many options are available to you, including analogous, monochromatic, triad, complementary, and more. Using Adobe’s color wheel feature, you can create a fully custom color palette surrounding one or more existing brand colors.


To conclude, color theory is integral to website design, and choosing the correct colors can help you to convey your brand message with an additional level of innovation. Color is challenging to master but is essential to your branding. As we mentioned, color is something that some UI designers even choose to focus their careers on entirely, and its meanings can be subjective. The meanings of the colors in this post are merely a representation of an average perception of colors.

Do you have questions about color theory and design for your next UI project? At UI Rocket, we would be happy to help you by providing our expertise in creating color palettes for UI design. Contact us about your project’s needs here.

Conrad Böhnke
Conrad Böhnke

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Download our "From Zero to UI/UX Hero" Book Preview!

We’d love to personalize your download experience a little bit and therefore need to send it to you via e-mail 😎