Background and Foreground Control

Browsers which support HTML 3.2, such as Netscape and Internet Explorer, allow web authors to specify the colors of background and foreground elements of HTML documents. This encourages more creative web pages and it helps keep the web from being so dull and grey.

But when the power of colorizing web pages falls into the wrong hands, it often results in hideous color combinations that are either ugly or impossible to read or both. For the sake of everyone, please get lots of opinions from your friends and colleagues on the color combinations you choose before you go public with them. Even then, don't be surprised when someone sends you e-mail stating that your web pages are hard to read.

Background Elements

Foreground Elements

What ColorMaker Does

Browsers can only display colors if you specify the hexadecimal (hex) codes of the rgb values for those colors. Hex codes, I would guess, are ugly to most web designers and if given the choice they probably would rather live without them. For example to specify the colors of this page, I am using the following <BODY> tag:

<BODY BGCOLOR="#006666" TEXT="#FFFFFF" LINK="#FFCC00" VLINK="#FF6699" ALINK="#00EE00" BACKGROUND="images/colormaker-background.gif">

All that gibberish isn't very intuitive, is it?

Well that's where ColorMaker comes in. It is very intuitive because all you have to do is pick the colors you like from a palette of 216 colors. ColorMaker then shows you a sample document with your chosen colors and the corresponding <BODY> tag with those funky hex codes. If you like the results, paste the <BODY> tag into your own web documents. If not, just keep trying until you get the perfect color combination.

How to use ColorMaker

The heart and soul of ColorMaker is the color palette. It has 216 different colors for you to choose from. These aren't just any 216 colors--these are the standard 'web safe' colors that most browsers are able to display without dithering computers displaying at least 256 colors. Using only these colors will help prevent your web pages from being illegible to a lot of people. Each color is designated by its position within the palette. If you've ever played the board game Battle Ship, then you already know how to use this palette. For example, the position of the color three rows down and five columns over from the left is designated C5.

Sorry, but to use this page you must be able to see an image here.

Background, Text & Link Colors

On the main ColorMaker page, you will see the following five entry fields:

Background Color:

Normal Text:

New Links:

Visited Links:

Active Links:

These represent the five elements of a web page for which you can control the color. Let's go ahead and make a colorful page. For each of the five fields above, enter the positions of colors you like. Make sure the values you enter for the positions of colors contain only one letter (lower or uppercase) followed by one number (consisting of either one or two digits).

You don't have to designate a color for every element if you don't want to, but I highly recommend you do. Blank fields will result in the default colors being used as specified by each browser. There is no standard for the default colors and so some of them may be difficult to see with the colors for the elements you do specify. For example, if you choose a blue background color but don't specify a color for new links, most people will not be able to see your links.

Background Pattern

ColorMaker allows you to designate an image file to use as the background pattern of your web documents. The image is used repeatedly to fill the entire page. To designate a pattern file, you need to provide the full URL for it in the entry field below. There are many sites listed on the Resources page where you can download background patterns.

Background Pattern:

Designating a background pattern file is not required. If you don't want to use one, just leave the field either blank or with the default value of http://. If you use a background pattern file, you can -- and should -- designate a background color as well. The pattern file takes precedence, but if the file doesn't load for some reason, then the background color will be used instead. Furthermore, the background pattern is generally not immediately displayed while a page is loading. During this time, the background color is shown instead (either the one you specify or the browser's default). If the background color is significantly different from the background pattern, it will be quite a shock when the page suddenly changes colors. It also could render your text illegible until the page is completely loaded. In other words, if you use a background pattern, select a background color of a similar color.

Page to Colorize

ColorMaker gives you two options for how your color choices will be displayed to you. On the main ColorMaker page, this is done in the following section. The fastest method is to just use the 'sample page' option which will show your background, text, and links color choices on a quick-loading page.

Page to Colorize:
sample page (faster)
following web page:

Alternatively, you can select the 'following web page' option to have your color choices displayed on (almost) any web page available on the Internet. This is really fun because you can scare your friends into thinking you've made their page lime green with pink text. Actually, the original page remains unchanged -- only a downloaded copy is modified. The real purpose of this option is to allow you to easily test your color choices on any existing web pages you may have. This option is generally slower at showing your color choices because the page has to be downloaded and then processed. One strategy you might try is to use the default sample page until you think you have the colors the way you like them, and then try them out on a specific web page.

Some web pages cannot be colorized using ColorMaker. For example, if you try to colorize a web page that is using frames, it won't work. This is because the URL points to a document which only specifies the size, shape and number of frames, but what goes in those frames are different documents entirely. If you enter the URL of an individual frame document instead, then it will work.

Another instance when a web page may not get colorized is if you specify a site that uses URL redirection. In simplest terms, the URL you enter is automatically changed to something else; Pathfinder is an example of this. With most web browsers, you may not even notice this change because it takes you to the new URL automatically. ColorMaker doesn't understand URL redirection so you will see an error message telling you your browser is dumb. But I wouldn't worry too much about it, because most sites don't use URL redirection.

Still another case of why a web page might not get colorized has to do with the validity of the HTML document itself. If the author didn't use an opening <BODY> tag, then the page won't get colorized. ColorMaker has to find one so it can replace it with the new one specifying your colors. Furthermore, if there are multiple <BODY> tags, the page may get colorized, but the results may not be what you expect. Please note that it is NOT a requirement that a web page you want to colorize have only the basic <BODY> tag. It can have a more complex one like this <BODY BGCOLOR="#006666" TEXT="#FFFFFF" LINK="#FFCC00" VLINK="#FF6699" ALINK="#00EE00"> and it will still be replaced with the <BODY> tag specifying your color choices.

Choosing the Output Window

If you are using Netscape 2.0 and above, you can choose to have the output of ColorMaker shown in either the current window or a separate window. The choice of the output window applies for both the generic sample page or any web pages you want to colorize. If you choose a separate window, it will be created the first time and then it will be re-used subsequent times.

Netscape 2.0 and above: display the output in the
current window or a separate window.

One advantage of using a separate window for the output allows you to try out a lot of color choices without having to keep going back to the main ColorMaker page and waiting while the page reloads. This is especially helpful if your monitor is big enough to show a good portion of the output window and the main ColorMaker page at the same time.

Another less obvious advantage, and perhaps the most important, is that the output window remembers your previous color choices when you create new ones. Each page is stored in the cache and you can go back and look at them again.

Trying Out Your Color Choices

Okay, you're finished. To see a sample page with the options you've chosen, press the "Try It Out!" button below.

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Brought to you by Sam Choukri
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Updated on Fri, Nov 6, 1998