By Stephanie Campbell

Obtained from Google Images

Webster’s College Dictionary lists 8 definitions for the word, color. The definition that serves our purpose is listed first:

Color, /kul-ǝr/, noun. the quality of an object or substance with respect to light reflected by the object, usually determined visually by measurement of hue, saturation, and brightness of the reflected light; saturation or chroma; hue.

Alessi and Trollip (2001) assert that although color does not seem to be as powerful as graphics and animation, it does augment learning and motivation. Color can attract attention, thus should be used to attract attention to "important" information. Color can, however, be overdone. Certain color combinations and designs can prove to be overwhelming, ineffective, and even garish. Color can also distinguish lines, like in a graph, and associate information in a legend/key. However, if too many variations of color are used together, the effect of the visual can result in the opposite of what was originally intended.

Personal preferences do vary, but which color combination do your eyes prefer?

Alessi and Trollip (2001) recommend that colors towards the middle of the visible spectrum are "easier to perceive than others" (p. 76). Also, certain color combinations are better than others. Alessi and Trollip (2001) also suggest that the following combinations be avoided: red with green, red with blue, blue with yellow, and blue with green. Pellone (1995) states "the combinations of colours should have enough contrast but should not 'shout'" (p. 78). Other suggestions offered by Alessi and Trollip (2001, p. 77) are as follows:
  • Use color for emphasis and for indicating differences.
  • Ensure good contrast between foreground and background colors, especially for text.
  • Use only a few colors for color coding.
  • Allow learner control of color coding.
  • Use colors in accordance with social conventions.
  • Be consistent in the use of color.
  • Test programs on noncolor displays to assess their effect on persons with color vision deficiency or with older equipment.
  • Balance learner affect and learning effectiveness when using color.

As you view this YouTube video, pay special attention to the use of solid, primary colors and rich hues. The video uses a myriad of colors to attract the learner, however the complimentary colors keep it from being too visually overwhelming.

In designing educational software, color "is an effective means of grabbing and holding student attention and many computers allow the use of many colour combinations" (Pellone, 1995, p. 78). Williams and Tollett (2000) review a couple of color models designers use when creating images for printing as well as for websites for the World Wide Web.

The CMYK color model is widely used among designers. (C stands for cyan, M stands for magenta, Y for yellow, and K for black.) In this "four-color process", images are separated into color values of little dots. As these dots of primary colors lay over each other, various other colors are expressed. For example, a yellow colored dot printed on top of a cyan colored dot will show green.

The RGB color model includes red, green, and blue. Red, green, and blue light are emitted from monitors, like TV screens, computer and video monitors. As the colored lights overlap each other, they display a myriad of color combinations. Since these lights are directly emitted into our eyes, red combined with green makes yellow. Strange, but it's true. Each color is a mixture of different red, green, and blue values, called intensity. For example, the color yellow consists of red light at an intensity of 255, green at intensity at 255, and blue at intensity 76. As web pages are viewed on a monitor, images are saved in RGB color model mode.

Bit depth, also known as pixel depth or bit resolution, referes to "the smallest unit of information that a computer understands" (Williams & Tollett, 2000, p. 162). Depending on how many bits a particular monitor can handle will result in images with more or less detail and definition. Depending on bit depth, color combinations can really stand out or can create unclear images.

8-bit graphic (looks "box-y")
24-bit graphic (shows more definition)

When designing visuals for students, definitely include colors to catch students' attention! Just keep in mind simple, complimentary colors. Like they say, sometimes less is more!

Alessi, S., & Trollip, S. (2001). Multimedia for Learning Methods and Development. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Random House Webster's College Dictionary. (2001). New York: Random House, Inc.

Pellone, G. (1995). Educational software design: A literature review. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 11 (1), 68-84.

SchoolZonePublishing. "Flash Action Colors, Shapes, & More!." Video. 23 November 2009. YouTube. 27 March 2010.

Williams, R., & Tollett, J. (2000). The Non-Designer's Web Book: 2nd Edition. California: Peachpit Press.

Some images obtained from Google Images search.