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Easy Guide to Accessible Colors

Get color contrast right for content, large text, and interface elements

This one-page guide is easy to understand and reference as your go-to "cheat sheet" for color contrast and accessible color usage. Keep handy for every design and accessibility review.

What's Inside

  • Color contrast for most text and content
  • Color contrast for large text
  • Why color alone can't be used to convey information
  • WCAG checkpoints for color
  • Color contrast for user interface (UI) elements
  • And much more!

Color contrast is a critical aspect of digital accessibility

When you use sufficiently-contrasting colors, content's visibility is stark enough to distinguish by most people.

Meeting the minimum contrast ratios defined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is therefore critically important. While most users appreciate text that they don't have to strain to read, for many viewers with low vision, low contrast vision, or color vision deficiency, the colors you choose can be the difference between legible and inaccessible material.

Colors usually are not difficult to update

Digital colors are usually created and updated using unique color codes.

From a technical perspective, updating colors to meet minimum contrast ratios is usually as easy as changing the codes generating the colors. This makes color updates relatively quick and easy to fix with a big impact on users.

This one-page guide will help you easily understand the rules around accessible color usage, getting you one step closer to improving this important aspect of accessibility.

Color can’t be used to tell the whole story

Some colors have broadly-understood meaning, such as red indicating an error. Sometimes, we attach meaning to colors, like when we create a legend assigning colors to different elements in a chart of graph.

Using color, therefore, can be an important part of conveying information quickly — an important part of the story. But it can’t be used to tell the whole story.

Why? Not everyone detects color or perceives it in the same way. While there is nothing wrong with using color, an important design element, it cannot be the only visual cue used to convey meaning.

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