Should we stop using #000000 on the web?

Before setting my sights on design I took a couple years of junior college and studied fine art. It was a time of not knowing what the hell I wanted to do with my life, and art was something I loved. Those dozen or so classes I took ended up being invaluable to how I look at the world. Being able to sense the depth and volume of objects, properly determine color, and translate what I see on to the page are skills that I treasure. So when I came across this post by Ian Storm Taylor on the color black, it brought back a lot of those memories.

When you put pure black next to a set of meticulously picked colors, the black overpowers everything else. It stands out because it’s not natural. All of the “black” everyday objects around you have some amount of light bouncing off of them, which means they aren’t black, they’re dark gray. And that light probably has a tint to it, so they’re not even dark gray, they’re colored-dark gray.

Lots of the apps we use on a daily basis have blacks that aren’t really blacks, but dark grays. Twitter’s sidebar, Sublime Text 2’s sidebar if you have Soda Dark installed (which you should!), new Photoshop’s background, the calendar widget. Even Twitter Bootstrap. They all use colors close to black, but slightly muted so they don’t overpower the rest of the elements on the screen.

I’ve certainly started rethinking my color choices now. Blueish grays are now taking over my designs. It’s a subtle difference, of course, but there’s definitely a difference when you’re trying to produce a “cool” black versus a “warm” black. I also love that Ian mentions Wayne Thibaud, who is hands down a master of color.

Perhaps I should rename the site, “The Fox Is #191b1c.”

August 13, 2012