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Using color contrast for accessibility

Renée Meloche
Renée Meloche
  • Updated

Contrast and color play an important part in whether your design will meet accessibility standards.

Sure, you want to choose colors for your design that look good together and create visual interest, but you also want to make sure that readers with visual impairments or disabilities can see and understand your design.

How do I pick the right colors?

When choosing colors for your design, you want to make sure they

  • Complement each other

  • Tell a visual story that connects with your data

  • Use colors that contrast enough to ensure accessibility

There are plenty of resources to help you get started with choosing colors for your design, including basic color wheels like the one below, as well as ones that show monochromatic, analogous, complementary and contrasting colors:

A set of three color wheels. The first, labelled 'Primary', shows the colors red, blue, and yellow in their respective positions on the wheel. The second wheel, labelled 'Secondary', shows the colors purple, orange and green. The third wheel, 'Tertiary', shows the colors magenta, vermillion, amber, chartreuse, teal and violet.
 

How do I create designs with accessible contrast?

Contrast is determined by the brightness or vibrancy of a color or element when compared to another element.

Black text on a white background is high-contrast. That same text on a white background is much harder to see if it's a lighter color, like yellow, making it low-contrast.

Two samples of text on a white background; each says 'Example text' in the same serif font face, size and weight. On the left, the text is black and easy to read. On the right, the text is a light yellow and difficult to see against the white background.

Low-contrast elements can be hard to see, and low-contrast text can be hard to read. A high contrast ratio ensures that text is readable and that non-text elements are perceivable.

Readers with visibility impairment will have an especially hard time reading or seeing low-contrast elements, but it affects the readability for others, too.

Tips for creating contrast

  • Use dark colors on a light background, or light colors on dark background

  • Use solid patterns in the background, to make any elements layered over it more visible

  • Run Venngage's Accessibility Checker to check for contrast ratios and see suggestions

Which tools in the Venngage Editor can help me adjust contrast?

Available on the following Venngage subscription plans: Free, Premium, Business and Enterprise.

Venngage's Accessibility Checker is the quickest way to check contrast ratios in your design and see how to adjust them to make them clearer.

Select "File" from the top navigation menu (above the top toolbar), then select "Check Accessibility" to open the Accessibility panel.

Elements in your design that don't meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) contrast requirements are listed under the "Color Contrast" header.

The right-panel view of Venngage's Accessibility Checker, with the 'Color Contrast' section uncollapsed. Text in the design (not pictured) is highlighted as having insufficient color contrast, and a refresh button to re-scan the document when the user has edited the colors to adjust the contrast.

Select an individual element in your design, like an icon or text box, to check whether it meets contrast requirements.

 

The feature(s) discussed in this article is available on the following Venngage subscription plans: Free, Premium, Business and Enterprise.

Curious about upgrading? Compare our plan features side by side.

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