Friday, 13 January 2017

Colours: Text on Background

When evaluating magazine colour palettes it is important to know which colours work with others. Below is a definitive guide to this.
Black on white is still the easiest way to present type and to read it and you change that colour at your peril. Using coloured paper, coloured type or a heavy type patch often reduces legibility. In tests carried out by Karl Borgrgrafe (cited in Favre and November 1979) to see which colours worked best together, the following taxonomy of colour mixes was discovered, starting with the most legible, and working through to the least legible.

Black on yellow
Yellow on black
Green on white
Red on white
Black on white
White on blue
Blue on yellow
Blue on white
White on black
Green on yellow
Black on orange
Red on yellow
Orange on black
Yellow on blue
White on green
Black on red
Blue on orange
Yellow on green
Blue on red
Yellow on red
White on red
Red on black
White on orange
Black on green
Orange on white
Orange on blue
Yellow on orange
Red on orange
Red on green
Green on orange

As you can see, black and white comes pretty near the top although the list suggests that a yellow panel behind the black type would improve legibility (which is why important warning signs of danger are usually printed black on yellow.)

From: Designing for Newspapers and Magazines, by Chris Frost, Routledge, 2003

Note: though black on yellow may be more striking than black on white, it is unlikely to be more pleasing in large quantities. Magazine designers have to strike a balance between legibility, impact, and reader satisfaction.
Between getting attention, and not being annoying.

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