Visual elements play a significant role in e-learning, and color is the most fundamental. But with so many options—hues, tints, tones, and shades—building a color palette can feel overwhelming! So how do you know where to start or which colors to include? The following tips will help you create a color palette that’s pleasing to the eye and appropriate for your audience.

Consider Existing Guidelines and Branding

The colors you select should complement the content in your course, as well as the company’s brand. It’s wise to first identify whether existing brand guidelines or design standards exist. It’s also a good idea to look at the company’s website, which can give you a lot of insight into their style, brand, and corporate look and feel.

Although design standards are helpful, you don’t have to use every color in a company’s brand guidelines or be limited to only those colors. A good practice is to select one of the brand colors to use as the foundation of your color palette and build from there.

Another caveat about creating a color palette from your brand guidelines: color tones that look beautiful on a logo may not necessarily work well for e-learning. When you’re choosing colors for your courses, keep in mind accessibility guidelines for color contrast, which refer to the difference in brightness between two colors. The higher the contrast, the easier it is for learners to view and interact with critical course elements like navigation buttons, backgrounds, and text. 

Keep Your Color Scheme Simple

Using too many colors can be visually overwhelming. Plus, the more colors you choose, the more difficult it is to make sure they all work well together. 

Many color palettes include five colors, like this one.

If that feels too challenging, don’t be afraid to start small. The 60-30-10 rule, which is generally used in interior design, also works for e-learning color palette design. The rule uses a color palette containing a primary color, a secondary color, and an accent color. You should use the primary color 60% of the time, the secondary color 30%, and the accent color 10%. This rule visually balances your project and keeps designs looking sleek and minimal.

Alternatively, try creating a monochrome palette by selecting a primary color and then using different tints of the color for variety. You can change the “transparency” level of your base color to achieve different hues or shades. This method is perfect for keeping a consistent and cohesive look.

Use Color Scheming Websites

Let technology be your guide! There are plenty of color palette generators and samples available online. Check out Coolors to quickly build your own custom palette, Canva for tons of beautiful examples, or Adobe Color for more advanced palette generation.  

Use an Image as Your Starting Point

Even with help from brand guidelines or palette generators, it can still be hard to pick that first color. Let’s say you’ve got a great logo or image you want to use in your course design. Try using the image as your starting point and pick up colors from the photo with the color-picker feature in Articulate Storyline 360. 

Or, if you want a little more guidance with your colors, websites like Colormind and iColorpalette allow you to upload an image and convert it to a color palette.

Learn about Color Theory and Design Basics

Have you ever noticed that color is more than just visual; it is also emotional? We even use colors to express how we feel, such as “I was so angry I saw red” or “I’m feeling down and blue today.” How we perceive color, both visually and emotionally, is part of color theory. One way you can improve your color-picking abilities is to learn some basics of color theory and design. To learn more about color theory, check out this article from MasterClass. To dig deeper into the psychology of color, read this article from Verywell Mind.


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