Colorful vs. colorized

November 29, 2012

By Ed Henninger

Two of my favorite small-newspaper clients, The Imperial (NE) Republican and the Ozona (TX) Stockman, are now consistent design award winners.
And, they are printed in black and white. No color.
I consider them proof that sound newspaper design can be consistently achieved without the use of color.
In 1986, Ted Turner bought the entire MGM library and had his technicians begin colorizing many of the great films in the vault. Even “The Maltese Falcon,” a film always meant to be seen in black and white, suffered the fate of the color retouching. It was a travesty.
Colors is important, yes. We see in color. We think in color. We even dream in color.
But when we use color in our newspapers, we have a responsibility to our readers and advertisers to use it with care.
Some points to keep in mind:
TINT BLOCKS: These can be used to set off items like infoboxes and quotes, but use extreme care with tint blocks behind stories. Often, the text type must be converted to a bolder, larger sans serif to be read more easily.
COLOR TO HIGHLIGHT: A red label may give extra attention to a special package.
COLOR TO LINK ELEMENTS: If you want to tie together the different pieces of a package on finding the right Christmas tree, a green rule or two might do, but …
WATCH THE RULES: Don’t overuse rules or boxes in color. It can create a dated look.
AVOID COLOR TEXT: A color headline might work well in a feature package, but let’s not run text in color.
DON’T BE CUTE: Running a frame around an Easter story in little purple bunnies may seem like a good idea. It’s not.
Color can add—or detract—from your design. Use it tastefully and it’s another tool in your kit. Use it badly and it makes your newspaper look gaudy and a bit silly.
Want a free evaluation of your newspaper’s design? Just contact Ed: or 803-327-3322.
If this column has been helpful, you may be interested my books: “Henninger on Design” and “101 Henninger Helpful Hints.” With their help you’ll have a better idea how to design for your readers. Find out more about them by going to © Ed Henninger 2012

Ed Henninger is an independent newspaper consultant and the director of Henninger Consulting, offering comprehensive newspaper design services including redesigns, workshops, staff training and evaluations. E-mail: On the Web: Phone: 803-327-3322.

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