Want to know how you can choose the right colours for your online course to ensure you don’t distract your students and maximise their learning? And does colour really matter when it comes to online course design?

Well, it does actually.

Not all colours are suited for the online learning environment. A lot of you probably couldn’t care but did you know?

Colour affects the way we think and feel.

Have you ever wondered why so many famous business logo’s are blue?

And in case you didn’t know, there’s an entire field of study dedicated to colour theory and psychology.

But I won’t go into all of that today!

I’m going to briefly explain how you can use the colour wheel to select the best colours for learning and why you should be using colour in your online courses.

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The colour wheel

The three primary colours are red, blue and yellow.

As kids you probably mixed two colours together and made what we call the secondary colours; purple, green and orange. Then by further mixing, we get what we call tertiary colours.

And as a result we have the colour wheel which has 12 colours!

So how does the colour wheel work?

Complimentary colours

When looking at the colour wheel, the colours directly opposite each other are complimentary. The strong contrast in colour makes them work well together.

Monochromatic colours

You can choose one colour from the colour wheel and repeat this throughout your course using different shades, tints and hues.

Analogous colours

These are colours that sit directly next to each other on the colour wheel and match quite well together. There are all sorts of colour combinations that are said to work well. I’ve just listed a few here to get you thinking. If you’re stuck, I suggest using a colour picking tool such as adobecolour.

You can easily select colour combinations, palettes or even generate your own palettes with this tool, so go check it out!

how many colours are enough?

For an e-learning palette, it’s best to stick to a maximum of three colours. Follow the 60/30/10 rule, use 60 percent of one colour, 30 percent of the next and 10 percent of the third colour. Try to avoid using equal amounts of each colour.

So if your branding colours were conducive to online learning, you could easily incorporate it using the 60/30/10 split.

Select shades or tints instead of bright colours to form a harmonious colour scheme.

Tips for choosing colours for learning

#1 If you need to keep your courses and media consistent with your branding, try tints or shades of your existing colours. Choose one of your branding colours as a primary colour and add accents of other colours if you think they’ll be too overpowering for learning.

#2 If you’re going to be creating a few online pieces of media, now’s the time to think about creating an online course style guide. This is where you document and record specific RGB codes. RGB codes are used to identify colours as seen on electronic devices.

#3 Certain colour picker software allows you to upload your images and a colour palette will be generated based on your image.  Programs such as colorhunter, pictalous and degraeve will do this for free!

#4 Use warm colours when you want to draw attention to certain on screen elements. Keep them bold not bright.

#5 Use colour when presenting dry or boring information. Colour stimulates the learner and improves readability.

The theory of colour

It’s said that using colour effectively can help to set the mood for learning. Check out the image below for different colour moods and meanings.

Do you use colour palettes and how do you decide on colours for your online courses? Leave a comment and let me know what’s worked for you in the past.

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Want to learn even more? Then download my free guide to creating online courses now.



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