The world of e-learning graphic designers is unique…… you often hear them using terms like #f08080, #b22234, “hey use contrast”, “increase the saturation” etc. For somebody not belonging to the creative world of graphics or motion graphics it may be difficult to understand and relate to what they mean. But as an e-learning designer wanting to explore more about the significance of colors in e-learning, I invite you to read my blog. Needless to say the usage of colors in e-learning can turn any run of the mill e-learning into a captivating visual powerhouse.

Before we dig a little deeper into the usage of colors in e-learning, let us understand why so much significance is attached to the colors in e-learning. Colors in e-learning can impact:


•Retention of the learning topics

•Learning Experiences

 I will elaborate on each of the points a little further down in the post but before we start, let us have a very basic understanding of the common color lingo.

  • Hue: Hue is the color itself—red, green, blue.
  • Intensity or saturation: This refers to the purity of a color, where it falls in a range from 100 percent (pure), a vivid color, to neutral or gray, which would be 0 percent saturated.
  • Value: A color might be described as “light blue” or “dark blue”; the relative lightness is the color’s value.
  • The RGB color model: Web colors are often defined using the RGB color model, which describes the mix of red, green, and blue light that forms the color.

I recommend you to read my blog to further understand about color theory and other fundamental aspects like color wheel.

So let us now understand how colors can influence the learning process. Let us look at some important markers here:

1.Reduce The Cognitive Load

A well-chosen color scheme can reduce the effort, the learners spend to access and understand the content thus resulting in lesser cognitive load. For example, use of very bright colors frequently in the e-learning module can make the learners feel stressed out. On the other hand usage of cool colors and a proper contrast can help the learners to focus on the information/content on screen and create a positive impact on them.

2.Increase Memory Retention 

The Institute for Color Research confirmed that colors can improve learning from 55 percent to 78 percent. Colors help us in memorizing certain information by increasing our attention level to it. Warm colors like yellow, red and orange are found to have a greater effect on attention among the learners. 

3.Direct Attention

Colors have the power to direct the attention of the viewers. Ever wondered why brands like McDonald and KFC  widely use warm colors like red and yellow. It is to ensure that the customers recollect their brands and products. The same principle can be applied to the world of e-learning to guide the attention of the learners to certain areas like dos, dont’s, examples, illustrations, statistics.  However ensure a light to moderate usage of warm colors as excessive usage can lead to loosing learner’s attention.

4.Improve Readability

Colors have the power to increase the readability of the content on the screen. For example, a contrasting use of colors can give more clarity to the content on the screen which improves the readability of the content. Studies suggest that color can enhance clarity and readability in the text by as much as 40 percent

5. Evoke Emotions

When human eyes perceive a color, our brain gives signals to the endocrine system releasing hormones responsible for the mood and emotions. Colors are known to evoke emotions….. earth colors like brown and moss green can give a very soothing feeling and cool colors like blue, cyan etc have a calming effect. Similarly warm colors  like red, yellow and orange are known to excite and stimulate. Learners can better connect to the e-learning if it has the power to invoke the right emotions. For example a sales e-learning course should be able to induce the desire to close a deal or achieve better amongst the learners by the right usage of colors.

How to choose the right color combination?

Now that you know how colors can impact the e-learning experience, how do you choose the right color scheme for you next e-learning course?

  1. Start with the brand guidelines
  2. If no brand guidelines are there refer to the website, social media pages of the client
  3. Choose a color scheme based on the basis of the above mentioned points
  4. Create a mock up with the chosen color scheme and get the approval from the client
  5.  For use of colors, you can use some basic pointers mentioned below:
  • Warm colors can induce energy and actions, learning modules on fitness and sports can use bright colors like red, yellow and orange. Further modules which are designed for sales e-learning and product trainings can also include touches of warm and bright colors
  • Cool colors: Cool colors like blue, green and purple have a calm and soothing experience.These colors are considered to be formal type and are a part of brand logo for most of the organizations and can be used safely for workplace learning.. Compliance e-learning , soft skills e-learning extensively use cool color schemes for their e-learning design.  
  • Neutral colors : Neutral colors include black, white, grey, brown and tans. These colors are popularly called earthly colors and are generally calming and soothing. They are preferably used as backgrounds for elearning modules. A word of caution here as the neutral colors should be carefully used as overusing them can sometime make the module dull and disengaging.

I am sure you will find these points useful to understand the impact and significance of colors in e-learning. For more information on colors in e-learning and tools to choose colors you may read my other blogs.