Colorblind-Friendly Palettes to Use in Your Web Designs

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Colorblind-Friendly Palettes to Use in Your Web Designs

Posted April 18, 2024


Posted April 18, 2024

Four paint swatches with different color schemes fanned out next to an accessibility symbol.
Four paint swatches with different color schemes fanned out next to an accessibility symbol.

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A colorblind-friendly palette is a color scheme designed for individuals with color blindness. Discover how to create an accessible palette and incorporate it across your digital content.

Color plays a huge role in web design. It’s what captures attention and makes content visually appealing. Yet, for colorblind people, the use of color has a massive impact on their overall experience. The right color pairings ensure individuals who are colorblind (or who have other visual impairments) can understand digital content and navigate it with ease. The wrong color combo leaves a site hard to visualize and unusable, which can lead to lost customers and revenue.

When designing for color blindness, you don’t have to forgo color entirely. Creating and using colorblind palettes ensures that colorblind people and those with visual impairments can understand and use your digital content.

Below, we’ll discuss how to create a colorblind-friendly palette and use color effectively in your web designs. 

Before we dive in, here’s a quick review of color blindness.

Types of Color Blindness

Contrary to popular belief, color-deficient people can see colors and pigmentation. However, they do have trouble distinguishing between specific colors.

There are three different types of color blindness:

Red-green color blindness: This is the most common type of color blindness with individuals struggling to distinguish between red and green. There are three types of red-green color blindness:

  • Deuteranomaly: This is where green looks red.
  • Protanomaly: This is where red looks green and dull.
  • Protanopia/Deuteranopia: This is when individuals can’t distinguish between red and green at all.

Blue-yellow color blindness: This color blindness is less common than red-green colorblindness and causes individuals to confuse blue and yellow. There are two different types of blue-yellow color blindness:

  • Tritanomaly: Individuals struggle to distinguish between yellow and red or blue and green.
  • Tritanopia: Individuals struggle to distinguish between blue and green, yellow and pink, or purple and red. Colors also look less bright.

Monochromacy: This is a “true” form of color blindness where individuals cannot see colors at all. It’s an extremely rare type of color blindness, with roughly 1 in 33,000 people having the condition. 

Regardless of which form of color blindness individuals have, each one impacts the user experience. For example, users with red-green color blindness may be unable to see links or error messages. Additionally, users may not be able to understand graphics, maps, or data visualizations if certain color combinations are used. These issues negatively affect the user experience and make it more difficult for users to complete tasks or find information.

How to Create Colorblind-Friendly Color Palettes

Colorblind-friendly palettes typically consist of two primary colors: blue and red. These colors are colorblind-friendly color combos. Other color combinations should be made from these two hues, which you can create by adjusting the lightness or saturation of the primary color.

To check whether color schemes are colorblind-friendly, use a color contrast checker. These tools measure the contrast between a foreground and background color to test for accessibility. Essentially, the tool ensures that text or various web elements have enough contrast to be readable by colorblind people or those with visual impairments.

Aim for a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, as this ensures text is still readable to individuals with color deficiencies. The recommended contrast ratio is included in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is considered the gold standard for accessibility.

Color Combinations to Avoid and Why

When creating an accessible color palette, there are a number of colors you’ll want to avoid.

Red-green color combinations are challenging for colorblind people to understand as they frequently get confused with each other. In addition to red and green color combinations, you’ll want to avoid the following color schemes:

  • Green/blue
  • Green/black
  • Green/brown
  • Green/gray
  • Light green/yellow
  • Blue/purple
  • Blue/gray

If you use any of the color combinations mentioned above, provide additional methods for conveying information—like focus elements or labels. This ensures that people with a color vision deficiency can still complete tasks and find the information they need.

A pair of eyeglasses with random letters in the lenses. The left side of the image is black and white, while the right side of the image is a rainbow of colors.

How to Use a Colorblind-Friendly Palette in Your Design

Designing for people with color deficiencies doesn’t mean your web designs must be dull and color-free. It’s all about strategically working accessible colors into your design. 

Let’s delve into a few ways you can do this.

Ensure You Have the Right Contrast in Your Color Schemes

As mentioned above, high color contrast ratios ensure that individuals with color blindness or other visual impairments can distinguish between web elements and the background. A color contrast checker (or a colorblind simulator) can help you test various color combinations; remember to shoot for a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 or higher.

Use Simple Color Schemes

While you might want to use bold, bright, or vivid colors across your digital content, keep things as simple as possible. Avoid overusing bright colors like magenta or orange, as this can negatively impact your design and decrease user readability. 

Additionally, more complex color combinations can create an “afterimage” effect. This is when colors disrupt other colors around them and create a “visual vibration,” an illusion that looks like two colors are moving. Simple color combinations increase readability and overall usability.

Enhance Images and Graphics

When designing for people with color blindness, you’ll want to enhance the appearance of images, infographics, charts, maps, buttons, and other visual elements. For example, make sure your infographics have a high contrast ratio. Consider incorporating patterns in your graphs, charts, and maps to help distinguish information and make it easier for your audience to understand.

Benefits of Using an Accessible Color Palette

Creating a colorblind-friendly website benefits your business as well as all users.

First, to conform with WCAG recommendations, your digital content needs to have a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1. Meeting this recommendation helps you comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. 

Second, colorblind-friendly digital content helps you create a more accessible, inclusive online experience for users. Even users who are not colorblind or who don’t have visual impairments benefit from a colorblind-friendly site, as it’s typically cleaner, more aesthetically pleasing, and easier to read and navigate. 

Third, a colorblind-friendly website expands the reach of your audience. Not only are you better positioned to serve a portion of the disability community, but you’re also better positioned to serve individuals with situational disabilities. For example, people using their phone in bright light may be unable to distinguish between certain colors due to glare if the site doesn’t use a colorblind-friendly palette. A colorblind-friendly website ensures a website or mobile app can be used by everyone in whatever situation. 

Finally—and most importantly—a colorblind-friendly website is the right thing to do. Regardless of their abilities, everyone deserves equal and easy access to online content. A colorblind-friendly website is one of many ways you can provide a more inclusive, accessible experience to users.

Create Colorblind-Friendly Palettes with AudioEye

Using colorblind-friendly palettes in your web design helps individuals who are colorblind comfortably and confidently navigate your website or mobile app. It also helps you comply with accessibility standards and avoid potential legal action, including lawsuits and demand letters.

With AudioEye’s Color Contrast Checker, you can easily test different color combinations and contrast ratios for all your digital content. The results help you create more accessible and usable color combinations that can be used by colorblind people or those with visual impairments across your digital content. It also creates a colorblind-friendly website that is aesthetically pleasing and accessible for all users.

Ready to get started? Check your color contrast levels now.

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