Brainstorms and Raves

Notes on Web Design, Development, Standards, Typography, Music, and More

Color Books

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Many books on color aren't specific only to Web site design colors but they're immensely helpful, insightful, and inspirational. They've each been chosen for this list because they can help with learning more about color and how to use color effectively for Web sites. I personally own most of these beautiful and helpful color books, and the rest of the recommended books on color are top-selling books that are highly praised by other professionals.

  • The Big Book of Color in Design
    Book cover: The Big Book of Color in Design, by David E. Carter By David E. Carter. Published by Collins Design (November 9, 2004). Best-selling author, David E. Carter, has another winner with his Big Book of Color in Design. A prolific writer, Carter has produced over 100 books to date.

    As reviewer David C. Parker states,

    David Carter's Big Book of Color in Design is an important resource for both the design community as well as anyone interested in making the most of their marketing dollars. Although there are hundreds of graphic design books on the market, and only a rare few really are genuinely useful and worth the cost of acquiring them.

    The Big Book of Color in Design is different from similar volumes in that it not only offers numerous palettes (or combinations of colors that 'work' together to project a desired image, but the palettes are accompanied by large and easy to learn from illustrations of completed projects created with the palettes.

    Because of the book's tight editing, large size, and quality reproduction, you can see at a glance how colors relate to image in theory as well as practice.

    There's no 'theory' here; just genuinely useful examples. Carter's formula works better than many 'palette books' because often only the palettes are shown, not projects completed within them. Carter's mastery of color also comes through in his choices which are both restrained and appropriate.

    A single book can never compensate for the lack of a design education, but Carter's book comes as close as any book can - and closer than most color books.

    Author's websites with more about his books:,, The David E. Carter Creativity Center & Museum.
  • Color Design Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Using Color in Graphic Design
    Cover: Color Design Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Using Color in Graphic Design. By Noreen Morioka, Terry Stone, Sean Adams. By Noreen Morioka, Terry Stone, Sean Adams. Rockport Publishers (January 1, 2006). Rave reviews, beautifully done book on color. Illustrates color fundamentals from a real-world perspective, uses plenty of case studies, and is packed with expert insight and experience from these talented authors. Reviewer MMB via states,
    This book offers a great overview of color w/ practical uses in design. It covers consisely and clearly basic color concepts,theory, color meaning, and other useful advice and knowledge. It offers practical ways of looking at color through graphic design w/ case studies and showing lots of different work. The layout is fun, colorful and organized. This book should be recommeded on any design students reading list.

    Chapters include:

    • Chapter 1: What is Color?
    • Chapter 2: Color Theory
    • Chapter 3: Color Meanings
    • Chapter 4: Ten Rules of Color
    • Chapter 5: Color Systems
    • Chapter 6: Color Talk
    • Chapter 7: Case Studies
  • Color Harmony Workbook: A Workbook and Guide to Creative Color Combinations
     Color Harmony Workbook: A Workbook and Guide to Creative Color Combinations, by Lisa Sawahata  By Lisa Sawahata. Rockport Publishers (September 1, 2001). Rave reviews and continued good press on this book on color by Lisa Sawahata. Highly recommended. Chapters cover working with the color wheel, the facets of color, basic color schemes, creative color combinations, and color conversions. Also included are large, tear-out swatches, 1400 color combinations, and a color conversion chart for process colors.

    From the book's publisher:

    This workbook is a practical, visual guide that takes the guesswork out of choosing and using color combinations. Colors and color schemes are matched to specific moods, to help you select the best color combination for any design project, whether graphic design, interior design, crafts, or fine art. Large, tear-out swatches of each color combination let you mix, match, and test different hues in your designs. An essential tool for all who design with colors.
  • The Complete Color Harmony: Expert Color Information for Professional Color Results
     The Complete Color Harmony: Expert Color Information for Professional Color Results, by Tina Sutton, Bride M Whelan  By Tina Sutton, Bride M Whelan. Rockport Publishers (February 1, 2004). This book helps build a solid foundation about color. Chapters cover the color wheel, how to use color, color charts, the process of choosing colors (clearly define the results you want to achieve, choose a main color, select a color scheme based on that main color, refine your choices). Other chapters cover basic cover schemes, special effects (metallic, fluorescent, and more), and moods and color (color psychology). Using this book you'll learn how to select and work with color, gain insight and understanding about color, and how to use it effectively. Highly recommended.

    From the book's publisher:

    This book expands upon the two previous editions for the most comprehensive color reference to date. Along with some basic color theory, the book provides hundreds of one, two, and three-color combinations selected to reflect a range of moods and adjectives.

    This edition includes information on creating special effects using metallic and fluorescent color palettes, as well as an entirely new section devoted to the psychology of color. In What's Your Color, authors Tina Sutton and Bride M. Whelan help readers determine their best colors and suggests why some colors may inspire their creativity while others don't.

    The book also includes two new color palette sections reflecting black and white as the color base, along with an expanded and updated Color Trends section that discusses not only trends and how they are predicted but gives advice on how to be a trend spotter.
  • The Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color
    book cover: The Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color By Leatrice Eiseman. Published by North Light Books, September, 2000. This best-selling, beautiful, full-color, popular, and highly recommended book gives some basics on color theory; however, it also covers the meaning and psychology of colors and color combinations with plenty of examples. You'll find hundreds of pantone color combinations to consider using or to help with your inspiration. Great book for color ideas, inspiration, and as a color resource. The author's Web site: Leatrice Eiseman.
  • The Color Answer Book: From the World's Leading Color Expert 100+ Frequently Asked Color Questions for Home, and Happiness
    book cover: The Color Answer Book, by Leatrice Eiseman By Leatrice Eiseman. Published by Capital Books (VA), December, 2003. More than one hundred common questions are directly addressed, covering the best colors to wear, color and health, color in the workplace, garden, and much more. This beautifully done book with rich color photos and illustrations also explains the basics of color, human responses to color, and much more. You can learn a lot from this book about color to then apply to your color considerations for Web sites. The author's Web site: Leatrice Eiseman.
  • ColorSmart: How to use Color to Enhance Your Business and Personal Life
     Cover: ColorSmart: How to use Color to Enhance Your Business and Personal Life, by Mimi Cooper, with Arlene Matthews By Mimi Cooper, with Arlene Matthews. Published by Pocket Books, July 1, 2000. ColorSmart explains in down-to-earth, easy-to-understand language how color impacts all of us and shows you how to use that information. It explains our unconscious reactions to color and goes into a good amount of detail about color meanings and responses to them (whether conscious or subconscious). You'll also learn about what colors to use for business presentations to create enthusiasm for your ideas, how to use color to sell a house at the best price, where the most popular colors of the moment really come from. This book can be helpful for considering colors for your Web site, including logo colors, upon which a Web site's colors are typically based. It's a fairly small paperback book, about 145 pages. While you won't find full color photos and illustrations like some of the other books on color, the content is packed with valuably helpful information and insight and is well worth checking out.
  • The Color Star
    Cover - The Color Star, by Johannes Itten. By Johannes Itten. Published by Wiley, October 1, 1986. Another masterful book on color by Johannes Itten. Although it stands well on its own, it's especially valuable when used in conjunction with other books by Itten.

    From the book:

    Consisting of eight stencil-like disks that can be placed over ltten's color wheel to compare cool and warm values, complementary colors, and different hues and intensities, this useful and innovative tool helps designers explore a myriad of harmonious color.
  • The Elements of Color
     Cover - The Elements of Color, by Johannes Itten. Pub: Wiley (January 31, 1970)  By Johannes Itten. Published by Wiley, January 31, 1970. One of the classics on color and popular literally throughout the entire world over thirty-five years after its initial publication date. Still sought after, still used in classrooms, too. Highly regarded book on color.

    As reviewer Jim Kelley states,

    Itten's analysis and application of color is thoughtful and scientific. As a practicing art director, I have successfully used the theories and methods explained in Elements of Color for over twenty years. I also teach them to my design classes. Whether you use a paintbrush or a mouse, his 'seven color contrasts' will prove invaluable.
  • Real World Color Management, 2nd Edition
    Cover: Real World Color Management, 2nd Ed. Bruce Fraser, Chris Murphy, and Fred Bunting  by Bruce Fraser, Chris Murphy, and Fred Bunting. Published by Peachpit Press; 2nd edition (September, 2004). Popular, highly regarded book on managing color. Easy to understand, incredibly thorough, and considered a must have reference.

    From the publisher:

    Every graphics professional worth his or her salt knows the importance of color management. No matter how much thought artist and client put into the color scheme for a given project, all of that work is for naught if you can't get your results to match your expectations. Enter Real World Color Management, Second Edition. In this thoroughly updated under-the-hood reference, authors Bruce Fraser, Chris Murphy, and Fred Bunting draw on their years of professional experience to show you everything you need to know about color management. Whether your final destination is print, Web, or film, Real World Color Management, Second Edition takes the mystery out of color management, covering everything from color theory and color models to understanding how devices interpret and display color. You'll find expert advice for building and fine-tuning color profiles for input and output devices (digital cameras and scanners, displays, printers, and more), selecting the right color management workflow, and managing color within and across major design applications. Get Real World Color Management, Second Edition—and get ready to dazzle!

    See also the official Real World Color Management, Second Edition companion website.

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Note: This is just a small sampling of the book recommendations that you'll find at my other site, Be sure to check out the larger Recommended Books, too!

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