Visual elements play a significant role in e-learning, and colors are a key factor. That’s because the right color choices can help your course look polished, reinforce branding, set the tone for your topic, and sometimes even help learners process and remember information. But with so many options, how do you decide which colors to use in your e-learning projects? In this article, we share easy tips for creating a color palette that’s pleasing to the eye and positively impacts your audience.

1. Consider Branding Guidelines

Some organizations may require your online courses to use a specific set of brand colors. If that’s the case for you, then the hard work of building a color palette has been done for you. But to use those colors effectively, there are a few things to consider.  

First, you don’t have to use every color in a company’s brand guide. Using too many colors can be visually overwhelming. Many color palettes include five colors, like this one.

range of colors

Don’t be afraid to simplify the color scheme. The 60-30-10 rule—which is generally used in interior design—also works for e-learning. The rule uses a color palette containing a:

  • Primary color - used 60% of the time
  • Secondary color - used 30% of the time
  • Accent color - used 10% of the time 

This rule visually balances your project and keeps designs looking sleek and minimal.

3 of the colors from the original palette

Second, if some of the brand colors are hard to work with, try creating a monochrome palette by selecting a primary color and then using different tints of the color for variety. This method is perfect for keeping a consistent and cohesive look.

A variation of the primary color from the original palette

2. Draw Inspiration from the Subject Matter

If you have a little more design freedom, try using your subject matter to help you decide on your color theme. Colors can evoke different emotions and associations, so using your content to help you decide which colors to use can ensure you set the right tone for your audience. For example, if you were creating a course about construction safety, it might make more sense to use yellow, orange, and black as your main color palette.

Construction example

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That’s because people usually associate construction equipment with those colors. Thoughtfully choosing a color palette related to your content can help learners connect with it.

3. Get Ideas from Online Sources

Not every topic has a recognizable color theme to go with it. If your course content doesn’t lend itself well to a familiar color palette, then let technology be your guide! 

There are plenty of color palette generators and samples available online—many of which are free! Here are a few places you can go to get inspiration:

  • Coolors - make a palette or explore trending ones
  • Canva - search by color or theme word
  • Adobe Color - generate themes or search for color palettes
  • Design Seeds - use pre-created palettes made by designers

With the help of these websites, you can rest assured knowing all the colors work well together.  

4. Pull Colors from Existing Assets

Sometimes, you may already have a few high-quality course assets—like images—before you have to choose a color theme. If that’s the case, try using one of those images as your starting point. When you use the colors from your imagery to determine your color palette, it easily brings the course together because they complement one another. 

And if you’re using Storyline 360, you can use the new persistent color selector to pick up colors from the photo to create a custom color palette for your project without breaking your workflow. Such a time saver!

If you’re unsure which colors to pick from the photo, you can always upload the image to websites like Colormind or iColorpalette. They’ll automatically pull out some of the dominant colors in the image and generate a color palette for you.

Accessibility and Contrast

These are just a few ideas to help you choose an e-learning color palette. Keep in mind, just because a color palette looks good doesn’t mean it will work well in e-learning. So before you start designing your course, it’s a good idea to check if the colors you plan to use have enough contrast—the difference in brightness between two colors. 

You can use this contrast checker to ensure the colors you want to use will work in your online training. The higher the contrast, the easier it is for learners to view and interact with navigation buttons, backgrounds, text, and other critical course elements.

In Summary

And there you have it! So the next time you’re not quite sure which colors to use in your online training, just come back to this article to help you decide.

Want more tips for designing visually stunning e-learning? Check out these articles:

Do you have your own tips for creating the perfect e-learning color palette? Share your ideas in a comment below.

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Katie Evans