November 20 2012
A large rectangle and a narrow line (or type) of the same colour will seem to have different values when placed against a white background: the colour in the line will look darker than it does in the rectangle, because it’s surrounded by much brighter white space.
When two shades of the same colour, one dark and one light, are paired with each other, the darker shade will look darker and the lighter shade will appear to be lighter: a pink rose will seem to be paler against a purple background.
Larger colour spaces will affect the smaller ones: if a small square of medium yellow is surrounded by a larger area of black, the yellow square will seem to be brighter than when surrounded by white. Any colour will appear lighter against a darker colour and vice versa.
Outlining a colour in a darker shade will enhance the enclosed colour, helping to keep a colour from “spreading” into surrounding areas. On the other hand, a lighter outline will cause a colour to spread to adjacent colours, and reduce the strength of the enclosed colour.
There’s also the illusion how dark colours surrounding light ones will make the lighter area appear smaller than it is if it were the opposite (dark surrounded by light). It’s why you should always bump up the text size if you insist on using white text against a black background.
While perceptions of color are rather subjective, and have different meanings in various cultures, some colours affect us in a similar way. The human eye sees warm colours before cool hues. Cool colours appear to recede, while warm colours appear to advance, however the degree of saturation can make a difference.
DON’T be afraid to experiment with colour combinations, sometimes even the most forbidden combinations work.
Readability when combining colour with type is very important. It’s true that we mainly deal with the black type on white paper/page background, and that a black text on a light background is the easiest to read. However, it doesn’t mean that colour and type don’t mix. When used well, colour can add an emphasis to your message.
Pay attention to the relative values and saturation of colours when a background colour interacts with coloured type. The contrast between type and background diminishes when their values move closer to each other, and the type becomes less legible. The contrast between the type colour and the background colour must be considerable to ensure that the type remains visible.
When using reversed out text, it’s often advisable to make the text a little heavier, as the dark background tends to optically reduce the weight of the text.