Julia Blake May 26th, 2014

Elegant or Boring? Gray Color in Website Design

Did you know that the human eye is able to distinguish something around 500 shades of gray? The range of gray lies between two non-colors - black and white. The darker a gray is the more black-like it is, and the lighter tones of gray are growing into white. Depending on the intensity of the color, it has been loaded with various meanings. Light gray shades are very neutral, they are perfect for a background design. Usually, light gray doesn’t evoke negative emotions, and, to be honest, it feels emotionless in most cases. On the other side, dark gray symbolizes mourning, depression, grief - strong emotions. The wide range of gray shades and their associated effects allow us to claim this color to be one of the most versatile and unpredictable.

The Different Perceptions of Gray

First, let’s talk about a common stereotype of gray. It's the color of business, corporate uniformity. Together with blue suits, gray ones are very widespread in the business industry. That is why millions of people perceive gray as something formal, serious, and boring. While many who consider gray to be boring and emotionless, others conceive it as very elegant. Suits are established as elegant clothes for managers of big corporations. Still, colors are extremely significant and powerful in website design and development. If you use colors inappropriately, your next website project will have a horrible look. Colors convey moods; they set the tone for a website and form an impression of you via your project. Gray is used a lot in web design, and believe it or not, a gray website or any other color site with gray accents can have a classy appeal (but this requires some efforts from you). Here are the main applications of gray in web design:
  • Gray color as a background color is unobtrusive. A proper gray tone will point the content out and make the design complete. Still, a website will never look elegant, if you do it in one gray shade. You should make a composition of grays, and do it wisely, it will act in your favor then. In addition, tons of gray background textures can be used for websites of any category. Floral textured background is the one for design studios, wedding or fashion sites; metal textures are for industrial projects. This long list is written on by your own creativity.
  • The second use for gray is navigation menus. You can base your design on images and then a left-sided menu panel in a neutral gray will be a peak of elegance. A search box with a gray field is a very common thing for many web projects too.
  • Another application of gray is geometry, i.e. use of different shapes. The text content organized in geometrical figures (colored gray or done in a mix of colors) will have a nice look for any corporate website.
  • Gray typography, what do you think about it? If you like to design a feminine site, use gray together with pink; in case you are going to develop a site for men, blend gray with deep green or blue hues. A play of colors can help you to build a strong color hierarchy on your site.
Now I would like you to look through the examples below - these are the best website designs in gray taken from all over the web, at least as far as my own taste is concerned...

Jay Fram Website with Gray Cloud Header Image

Jay Fram Web Design Tyler Copeland One-page Site with Light Background and Charcoal Footer Tyler Copeland Website Monday Music Gray Website Design Monday Music Website Trust Reviews Web Design in Gray Trust Reviews Website Heartbeat Retail Store Website in Gray and Pink Retail Store Website H Furniture Website with Light Gray Background H Furniture Website PFD Design Agency Website PFD Web Design Bird Boutique Website with Gray Homepage Image Bird Boutique Website One Space Media Digital Agency Website with Dark Header and Footer One Space Media Website Sunaj Official Store Website Sunaj Website Design Provekjore Website with Gray Image Banners Provekjore Web Design Doris Research Website Doris Research Web Design Tickera Ticketing System Website Done in Various Gray Shades Tickera Website

Capullo Hairmake and Styling Portfolio Site Capullo Website Uppercase Website with Monochrome Gray Background Uppercase Website Tommy Graphics Website Tommy Graphics Site Lee Jeans Web Design with a Few Background Textures Lee Jeans Site Olaf Hussein Denim Label Site with Creative Use of Gray Olaf Hussein Web Design Authentic Wine Sales and Marketing Agency Website Wine Website Michele Mazzucco Branding Design Website Michele Mazzucco Gray Site Juicymo Website with Gray Dotted Texture Juicymo Site Mike Seehagel Photography Website Mike Seehagel Portfolio Photo Portfolio Website Design with Floral Background Texture Portfolio Web Design Boggi Roeselare Website Boggi Roeselare Site Graf von Faber Castell Website with Gentle Shade of Gray in Design Graf von Faber Gray Site Perfect Gray Website Design for Cereal Magazine Cereal Magazine Gray Design Bold & Noble Website Bold & Noble Gray Web Design Allure Architecture Website Allure Architecture Site Schneider Electric One-page Website Designed with Many Gray Tones Schneider Electric Site Masseria Gialli Website Masseria Gialli Site Edge Magazine Website with Creative Background Texture Edge Magazine Gray Design The Pragmatic Lab Website Pragmatic Lab Site Arsova Salon Website Design in Gray Arsova Salon Site Gray Designer's Portfolio Wordpress Theme Design Portfolio Theme Mega Illustrations Website with Original Background Texture Mega Illustrations Web Design VROY Communications Website Done in Gray VROY Website Anyi Lu Shoes Brand Website with a Gray Touch Shoes Brand Site Crocon Corporate Website Crocon Site Magnetic Zero Website Designed with Gray Background Magnetic Zoo Website The 2014 Lavazza Calendar Website Lavazza 2014 Site Herbal Bises Website Herbal Bises Web Design Framelab Website Framelab Site Ink & Spindle Textile Studio Website Ink & Spindle Web Design That's the end of our little roundup. Did we miss the latest and graytest ;) ? Then help us out in the comments. (dpe)

Julia Blake

Julia Blake is an author of many articles related to web design. She is interested in photography, learning languages, and she travels a lot. She loves learning new things and sharing her experience with others.


  1. Colors are extremely noteworthy and powerful in website design and development. Personally I also used this in my own site..

  2. I love sites that take advantage of simple colors like grey and white, I think you can use all that white space too make your site look brilliant. I really love the Dorris Research one, the black & white photography is very strong on the eyes.

  3. Have to be careful with greys though – it’s very easy to let asthetics get in the way of usability. Users of your site with mild vision imparements will be disproprotionately affected by a lack of contrast, and text that looks fine to a designer may be all but unreadable to a significant portion of readers.

    Theres nothing worse than a site that looks beautiful but people can’t read. Check contrast ratios to be sure, and make adjustments as necessary.

    From the W3C “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0”

    1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum): The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, except for the following: (Level AA)

    Large Text: Large-scale text and images of large-scale text have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1;

    Incidental: Text or images of text that are part of an inactive user interface component, that are pure decoration, that are not visible to anyone, or that are part of a picture that contains significant other visual content, have no contrast requirement.

    Logotypes: Text that is part of a logo or brand name has no minimum contrast requirement.

    1. Thanks for your advice, Stephanie! Yes, it is really hard create a balanced design, but impossible is nothing – hard work gives good results)

  4. Thanks for really making me think about the importance of color in website design! This will come in handy!

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