Each year, at this time, Pantone nominates a color — or colors, in the case of 2016 — to represent humanity’s hopes and aspirations for the coming year.
At least, that is what its PR department sends out. In reality, it’s a rather obvious — if highly effective — marketing gimmick to keep the print-design company relevant to design news year-on-year. It’s an arbitrary bit of self-promotion, that does an excellent job of reinforcing Pantone’s position as an authority on color.
This year, Pantone has selected Pantone 19-4052, or “Classic Blue” to give it its colloquial name. It’s described by Pantone as: “Instilling calm, confidence, and connection, this enduring blue hue highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.”
Critically speaking, it’s one of the most mis-judged decisions in the short history of this promotion, and significantly mis-reads the zeitgeist.
At a time when the climate is approaching — or may have passed — irreversible breakdown; when global political debate is moving out of our institutions and onto the streets; when the baby-boomer generation is slowly losing its grip on the reins, and millennials are realizing they’ve reached middle-age; Classic Blue is a color that harks back to a time when we hid our head in the sand and pretended everything was fine. It’s the color of the pre-2008 crash, the color of Facebook pre-privacy scandal, the brand color of your parents’ bank. Classic Blue is about as 2020 as Helvetica.
(There’s only one color that effectively represents 2020, and that’s Cyberpunk Pink, a neon hue that is both retro and forward-looking, cross-cultural, irreverent, and even better in dark mode.)
Although it would be easy to assume that the deep black color of modern tires was simply the color that tires have always been, the earliest tires were completely opposite in color. Before the introduction of carbon black as a preservative and strengthener in the early 20th century, tire rubber was a semi-translucent white color that looked quite similar to a gum rubber eraser.
This is also why the Michelin Man, the iconic mascot of the Michelin tire company—seen here in one of his earliest iterations—was depicted in white, a color as far removed from the inky black of modern tires as you can get.
We’ve reviewed a lot of smart light bulbs here at PCMag, and while we’ve yet to find one that does it all, the Yeelight Smart LED Bulb comes pretty darn close. It’s dimmable, offers 16 million colors, and connects to your home network wirelessly, without the need for a hub or bridge. It supports Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, and Alexa, Google, and Siri voice commands, and it’s relatively affordable at $25.99. It also offers a user-friendly app that lets you configure lighting effects and create lighting schedules. All this earns it our Editors’ Choice for affordable smart bulbs.
Design and Features
The Yeelight bulb is a dimmable bulb with a 16-million color palette, a 1700K to 6500K white color temperature range, and an 800-lumen brightness rating equivalent to a 60-watt bulb. It has an E26 base and will fit any standard lamp socket. The bulb is 4.6 inches in length and 2.2 inches wide, and has an expected lifespan of 22 years (based on three hours of use per day). Inside is a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi radio that is used to connect the bulb to your home network and mobile app.
The mobile app for Android and iOS is easy to use and offers some neat lighting effect features. It opens to a Device screen with tabs for all of your Yeelight bulbs that contain their name, status (online, offline), and an On/Off button. Tapping any tab takes you to a screen where you can customize the bulb by selecting a color from the color palette, choosing a white color temperature, setting the bulb’s brightness level, and selecting Flow Mode, which runs the color gamut between yellow and blue. Flow Mode settings let you control the flow speed for rapid or gradual shifts from color to color and adjust the brightness level while in this specific mode.
The app also offers preset color scenes such as Sunrise (reddish), Night Mode (dim and warm), Movie (blue), Romance (a gradual shift from dark blue to red), and Candle Flicker (mimics a candle), and there’s a Music Flow setting that changes colors based on music and other sounds using your phone’s microphone. Additional settings allow you to create lighting schedules and set timers to have the bulb automatically turn off after a set period of time.
Back at the Device page, there are three buttons at the bottom of the screen. Tap the Scene button to create a one-touch icon to have the bulb turn on or off and change color states. Tapping the Room button lets you create rooms and control multiple bulbs in a group, and the Device button takes you back to the Device screen.
The Yeelight works with Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant voice commands, and you can make it part of your HomeKit home automation system and include it in HomeKit Scenes. It isn’t quite as versatile as Philips Hue bulbs, which work with a variety of smart home platforms including Logitech, SmartThings, Vivint, Wink, and Xfinity Home. That said, you can create IFTTT applets to have the Yeelight integrate with other IFTTT-enable smart home devices such as cameras, doorbells, and plugs.
Installation and Performance
Setting up the Yeelight is easy. I downloaded the app, created an account, and verified it via email. I tapped the Device button at the bottom of the screen, tapped Add Device, and selected the LED Bulb (Color) from the list.
Following the app instructions, I screwed the bulb into a lamp socket, tapped Next Step, selected my Wi-Fi SSID, and entered my Wi-Fi password. I then went to my phone’s Wi-Fi settings, connected to the Yeelight SSID, waited around 12 seconds for the bulb to be added to the Device list, and the installation was complete.
The Yeelight delivered rich colors and a wide range of cool blue to warm yellow shades of white light in our tests. It responded quickly to app commands to turn on and off, change colors, and dim brightness levels, and the Flow Mode, Schedules, Timer, and Music Flow features worked perfectly.
The bulb had no trouble responding to Alexa and Siri commands to turn on and off or change colors, and HomeKit scenes worked without issue. I created an IFTTT applet to have the bulb turn red when an Arlo Pro 2 camera detected motion, and it worked every time.
If you’re looking to add colorful smart lighting to your home without having to connect a hub to your router, the Yeelight Smart LED Bulb is one of the smartest bulbs out there for the money. Granted, it doesn’t offer quite as much interoperability with other smart devices as Philip Hue bulbs do, but it’s more affordable and works with the three top voice control platforms and Apple’s HomeKit (unlike our previous Editors’ Choice, the Sengled Smart Wi-Fi LED), and you can make it interact with other connected devices using IFTTT applets. That makes it our new Editors’ Choice for affordable smart bulbs.
If you’re a huge fan of fall colors like we are, you definitely want to catch them at the right time. This interactive map ensures you’ll visit your favorite forest when its colors are at their most breathtaking.
The most glorious days of fall color—known as “peak color”—are when the highest number of trees are changing their foliage from shades of green to a rich autumnal palette. The timing of peak color shifts from year to year. One year, it might be the first week of October, but the next, peak color might not appear until the week of Halloween.
So, what can you do to make sure you don’t miss it? When you try to look up random color predictions online, you usually just find outdated information (the color prediction for Colorado in 2017 won’t be much help). Instead, use the Fall Foliage Prediction Map at SmokyMountains.com. Not only is it super easy to use (just move the slider under the map to the date you plan to travel), but it’s based on new data and prediction models that are updated every year. This maximizes your chance to catch and enjoy peak color wherever you happen to be.
If the color on your display doesn’t look quite right, it might not be your eyes. Many displays need to be adjusted, which is a process called calibration. The SpyderX Pro from datacolor makes calibration easy!
Here’s What We Like
Easy to use
Gives the most accurate color the display is capable of
Works with multiple monitors and PCs
Provides before and after calibration comparisons
And What We Don’t
Operating system or graphics card calibration is usually enough for most displays
That’s Not the Right Color!
Most of us have looked at a photo on a monitor and thought, “There’s something a bit off with the color.” It’s especially frustrating when you’ve spent serious money on your monitor and expect near-perfect color reproduction.
While manufacturers have a general idea of the way its monitors display colors, your particular monitor might not conform exactly to the vendor’s profile. This can be because of manufacturing tolerances, or just because the monitor’s response changes as the display and its internal components age.
But how do you know if your monitor is displaying the colors in your file correctly? And if it isn’t, how do you fix it? I tested one solution—the SpyderX Pro calibration tool from datacolor.
Bridge the Gap
Without getting technical, there are times when the software expects the monitor to display a particular color, and the monitor misinterprets that color and displays something close to it. This makes the image appear a bit “off.” Or, the monitor might think it’s displaying the color, but because of the factors detailed above, it’s not. There’s a disconnect between the color values in the file you’re working on, and what you see on the display.
The industry became aware of this pretty early on and developed a method of tweaking the display file, so it aligned better with the actual image file. This was done under the auspices of the International Color Consortium (ICC), and the results are called ICC Profiles. An ICC Profile adjusts a graphic file to the known characteristics of a peripheral device, such as your monitor.
For most people, the ICC display profile supplied by the monitor vendor is sufficient to give you acceptable images. You might not need a more specialized device to get acceptable color.
But if you want the best color output possible from your display, you can create your own display profile. And one of the best (and easiest to use) tools for that is datacolor’s SpyderX Pro.
Another Piece of Hardware?
The SpyderX Calibration tool comes in two models—I tested the more reasonably priced Pro version. But if you really want to fine-tune your display to its absolute best, there’s a SpyderX Elite that’s about $100 more. The only difference between the two models is the software—the calibration tool is the same for both.
The Elite model is marketed toward photographers and other graphics professionals. The Pro model is more of a “prosumer” device, for the serious designer or photographer who doesn’t need all the advanced features of the Elite. It’s available for both Mac and Windows computers.
The calibrator hangs over your monitor, and the software displays test colors. The sensor in the calibrator interprets the test colors. The software then computes the difference between what the color frequency should be and what is displayed. An ICC Profile is created to make the conversion, so each of the basic primary colors (Red, Blue, Green) displays correctly. The custom profile then installs on your computer, and you’re good to go!
Perform a Calibration
After you install and launch the software, it’s time to position the calibration tool. The small, semi-triangular sensor hangs in front of the screen. It has a lens cover that—when removed—becomes a counterweight for the sensor, so it remains stationary on the screen throughout the calibration process.
The software shows you where to hang the sensor to begin the calibration process, which takes you through a series of operations.
As you get started, the software displays a flowchart on the left, which shows where you are in the process. The steps that perform the calibration are in the center, and interactive help is available on the right.
You can run a new calibration, a recalibration, or a check to see if you even need to calibrate. Once you’re familiar with it, the entire calibration process only takes about two minutes. So, you’ll probably recalibrate the monitor every time you use the SpyderX Pro.
The sensor measures the light level of the room and walks you through how to use the monitor’s controls to set the brightness. The rest of the calibration consists of a series of screens that flash different levels of the three primary colors. This is the actual process of calibration. The software measures the difference between what your monitor displays and the actual color values.
After the software flashes all its test screens, it computes and creates a new custom profile for your display in just a few seconds. The software notifies you after it completes the new profile and automatically installs it. Your display is now calibrated and produces much more accurate color.
The screenshots below show examples of colors before the calibration and after.
There’s a subtle, but noticeable, difference in the way some colors are displayed. In the uncalibrated display on the left, the reds and oranges appear muted; they’re noticeably brighter in the calibrated display.
It’s the same in the color panels in the four corners of the color matrix images. If you’ve gotten used to the slightly “off” colors, you might think the calibrated display looks oversaturated at first. It might take some time to get used to the new display response.
Once the display is calibrated, you can see a graphic of the display’s color gamut. This graph shows which colors are in the color space, and which of these the monitor can display, both before and after the calibration. Note that a more expensive ($500-plus) IPS monitor performs much better and usually has a larger color space than a cheap one from a big box store.
You can select which color space you generally work in from the four choices on the right. Most likely, only professional photographers or graphic designers will have much use for this information.
Does Calibration Matter?
Not everyone needs to calibrate their display to the extent offered by the datacolor SpyderX Pro. If you have a cheaper monitor, and you rarely edit images or do any graphic design, this device is probably overkill. The built-in calibration capabilities of your operating system or graphics card will probably serve you well.
But if you’ve spent hundreds (or even $1,000) on a high-end display, you owe it to yourself to make sure it’s functioning as perfectly as possible. Even if you’re not a professional, and you just want the best, most accurate images on your display, the SpyderX Pro is an excellent way to do that.
Here’s What We Like
Easy to use
Gives the most accurate color the display is capable of
Works with multiple monitors and PCs
Provides before and after calibration comparisons
And What We Don’t
Operating system or graphics card calibration is usually enough for most displays
When it comes to a good prank, the best pranks have a long reach but are completely harmless. In that regard, a 1962 April Fool’s Day prank perpetrated by the staff of SVT (Sveriges Television)—then the only station in Sweden and broadcast in black and white—is pretty great.
That evening, the station aired a segment led by Kjell Stensson, who they labeled as their “technical expert”. Stensson carefully explained to the audience that a new discovery had revealed it was possible to enjoy black and white television in color thanks to the light scattering properties of nylon pantyhose. The viewer simply had to stretch the pantyhose over the screen. Naturally, to extend the life of the prank, it was explained that viewing distance was critical and it would likely be necessary to move your head around a lot to get the right viewing angle for the full effect.
Thousands of people fell for the prank and it remains a memorable cultural event—many people in Sweden today recall their parents and older relatives trying, and failing, to experience color TV with a pair of pantyhose.
Color impacts everything from how a user feels when they interact with a design, to how they use the design, to whether they can fully see and understand it. Quite simply, color is a lot more than a decorative tool; color is central to user experience.
Let’s start with a common example: You’ve just finished a website design for someone. It looks and functions exactly like the wireframe. Everyone on the design team has praised the project. The client hates it, but they can’t explain why.
The culprit might be color. Different colors can evoke such strong emotions that people have sharp reactions to them. It’s part personal preference, part psychological, and even part social norms. Understanding these tendencies and user preferences can greatly impact user experience.
Here’s what you need to know.
User Expectations and Preferences
User experience starts with the type of user your website or app is designed for. Basic demographics such as gender or region where a user lives can impact their perception of your design based on color. (You can read more about color and cultural considerations here.)
One of the most interesting impacts from color on UX is linked to gender. Studies have shown that men and women tend to like and dislike certain types of color.
Men tend to interact more with websites that have darker design schemes and more saturated colors, such as the design for VLNC Studio, above.
Women tend to prefer to interact with websites that have lighter design schemes and more muted color palettes, such as Tally, below.
Some men have a sharp reaction to websites using distinctly feminine colors such as pastel pinks, purples, and yellows.
More women tend to be put off by websites with harsh color schemes such as dark background with fully saturated red accents.
Mid-tone palettes are the most generally appealing to everyone.
Color Associations and Meanings
While it’s not an exact science, colors have fairly distinct emotional associations. Note that some colors can fall into categories of extremes. These associations tend to work with other design elements to create an overall vibe.
When a user sees a certain color or combination of colors, it creates an immediate response in the brain.
You expect design elements for Coca-Cola to be red. The color is so synonymous with the brand that it’s referred to as “Coke red.” Change the color and the brand is confusing. You don’t recognize it right away. The user is jarred and doesn’t quite react in the expected fashion. The drink might even seem to taste different.
All of those feelings come from changing the color. You might have felt yourself say “what?” when you saw the first image with green Coca-Cola branding.
It impacted the user experience you would have with the brand moving forward.
Color is an important element in branding because it creates that distinct connected between a user and a design. Color tells users what the brand is about. It tells users about the thing they are about to engage with.
Change that color, or use something off brand, and the user experience suffers because website visitors are suddenly confused or uncertain about the brand they thought they knew.
User Patterns Connect to Color
Have you noticed how many websites use red or orange buttons?
There’s a reason for that.
Bright colored buttons that contrast with the background of a website – red and orange often stand out from either light or dark backgrounds. Can help users find, understand, and want to engage with click- or tappable elements because they visually, and immediately, know what their expectation of that element is.
A key part of user experience is providing easy opportunities for users to interact that they enjoy and understand.
Cruise uses a ghost-style button with red text and a red hover state. It’s a different spin on traditional solid-color buttons, but there’s little question as to how to interact with it. Color draws users to the button.
Net Bluez uses a bright orange button for the most important element in the navigation menu. Notice how that element tends to jump off the screen begging to be clicked.
Increasing Conversion Rates
Challenge yourself in the design process to A/B Test button color. You’ll likely find that one color has a distinctly higher conversion rate than the other. (And it might not be the color you expect.)
Conversion rates tend to increase when the color of buttons or links is in stark contrast to the rest of the design. So, while you want to use a brand palette, picking a contrast color is key to generating conversions that contribute to overall user experience.
Look at the website below for a minute. Which color button is most likely to make you click? (The original color is blue.)
Providing Accessibility to All Users
Finally, color impacts UX in a way that’s not emotional or rooted in psychology. It’s much more practical than that.
Color impacts user experience because it can make a design accessible or not.
In order for everyone to understand a design fully, and engage with content, they must be able to see and read it with ease. Using color palettes and contrast ratios that fall in line with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) can ensure that every user can understand your color choices.
Use a color-blind filter, such as those in the comparisons below, to help simulate what other users might see when they look at your website. How could that impact usability?
Think of color as a tool to help users better interact and experience the content on your website. It impacts user experience on an emotional and usability level.
The key to figuring out if color is impacting UX in the right way is through user testing. A/B color tests can be a valuable tool.
Windows 10 now lets you increase the mouse cursor’s size and change its color. Want a black mouse cursor instead? You can choose that! Want a huge red cursor that’s easier to see? You can choose that, too!
To find this option, head to Settings > Ease of Access > Cursor & Pointer. (You can press Windows+I to open the Settings application quickly.)
To change the pointer’s size, drag the slider under “Change the Pointer Size.” By default, the mouse pointer is set to 1—the smallest size. You can choose a size from 1 to 15 (which is very large).
Choose a new color in the “Change Pointer Color” section. There are four options here: white with a black border (the default), black with a white border, inverted (for example, black on a white background or white on a black background), or your selected color with a black border.
If you choose the color option, a lime green cursor is the default. However, you can choose any color you like. From the “Suggested Pointer Colors” panel that appears, select “Pick a Custom Pointer Color,” and then choose the one you want.
That’s it! If you ever want to tweak your mouse cursor again, just come back here.
From this Settings pane, you can also make the text entry cursor thicker so that it’s easier to see when typing. If you have a PC with a touch screen, you can also control the visual touch feedback that appears when you tap the screen.
Saving color palettes you find online or as you’re working on a design is not always an easy process. You could use the browser’s Inspect tool to grab the hex code or grab a screenshot and use Photoshop later on to pull the colors from it.
Or you could simplify the process and grab a dedicated color picker tool that will allow you to grab color from any website, on desktop or on mobile without having to leave your browser window. Here are 10 best color pickers that will make it easy to save color palettes.
1. Instant Eyedropper
Instant Eyedropper is a free Windows-only tool that makes it easy to grab a color from anywhere on your screen. Once you install this lightweight app, it will sit in your system tray. All you have to do is click its icon and choose a color, then the app will copy the code to your clipboard. The app supports the following color code formats: HTML, HEX, Delphi Hex, Visual Basic Hex, RGB, HSB, and Long.
ColorPic is another lightweight Windows color picker tool that works with all major versions of Windows. It’s not a free program although it offers a free trial. It was designed to work specifically with high resolution screens and supports HEX, RGB, and CMYK color formats. You can save up to 16 colors in the palettes, and use 4 advanced color mixers to adjust the colors.
3. Eye Dropper
Eye Dropper is a browser extension that works on Google Chrome and any other Chromium-based browser. The extension allows you to quickly and easily grab a color from anywhere in your browser and displays it in HEX or RGB format. You can save colors to history and they are automatically copied to your clipboard when you pick a color. The extension is free to use.
4. ColorPick Eyedropper
ColorPick Eyedropper is the second-most popular browser extension that works in Chrome and Chromium-based browsers. What sets it apart from the Eye Dropper extension above is the ability to zoom in on any area of the browser window to help you focus in on the exact color you want. The app is free for personal use and it also has its own desktop app if you want a tool that works outside your browser window.
ColorZilla is a Firefox extension that allows you to grab any color from any page that’s open in your Firefox browser window. This extension has a built-in palette that allows you to quickly choose a color and save the most used colors in a custom palette. You can also easily create CSS gradients. The extension is free and supports HEX and RGB color formats. It can also be used with a Chrome browser.
6. Rainbow Color Tools
Rainbow Color Tools is another free Firefox extension that makes color picking easy. The extension lets you easily pick a color and it also includes a website analyzer that extracts the color scheme from the current website’s images and CSS. It supports RGB and HSV color formats and allows you to save the colors into your own personal library that lets you tag images based on websites you picked colors from or your own tags.
7. ColorSnapper 2
The ColorSnapper 2 is a color picker for Mac users that helps them find a color anywhere on their screen. The app is invoked by clicking the menu icon or through a global shortcut and it has a unique high-precision mode for better accuracy. You can choose between 10 different color formats and control the app with gestures and keyboard shortcuts. The app is available in the app store and comes with a 14-day free trial.
8. Just Color Picker
Just Color Picker is a multi-platform utility for choosing colors. This tool allows you to pick colors, save them, edit them, and combine them into color palettes ready for use in other applications. It supports a wide range of color formats and includes a zoom tool for better accuracy, the ability to edit Photoshop and Gimp color swatches, and it can even calculate distance between two pixels.
iDropper is a color picker for iOS devices. It’s compatible with iPhones and iPads so if you do design work on your iPad, you’ll easily be able to grab colors, save them, and use them in any application. You can save colors to your favorites and supports RGB, HEX, HSV, and CMYK format. The app is free to download and use.
If you belong to team Android, then be sure to check out the Pixolor app. When you enable the app, it shows a floating circle over other apps along with the color information beneath it. To copy the color code, all you have to do is click the Share button or tap outside the circle overlay. The app supports RGB and HEX color formats.
Once upon a time in an England far removed from the present, Englishmen were for want of a specific word to describe what we now call “orange”. What we would now casually refer to as orange in color they called, depending on its shade, a variety of different compound Old English words including ġeolurēad (yellow-red) to describe reddish orange, or ġeolucrog (yellow-saffron) to describe yellowish-orange.
It was only when they were introduced to the fruit by the French, which was called “orange” in the Old French of the day, did the word enter into the English language to give that particular shade of yellowish-red a distinct name. The first recorded instance of “orange” as a color designation in the English language was in 1512.