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I have been hearing a lot about how accent colors help in visualizing the key points on the page and drawing the eye to critical action items but I havent really got the understanding of how they differ from the standard use of red and green buttons as call to action buttons which stand out against the rest of the page.

Note: This question might be more suited to the Graphic design stackexchange so please migrate it if needed

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Accent colors are colors that stand out. In other words: they contrast with their surroundings. The red of a button is an accent on a white page. But it is not an accent on a page with a lot of red. So, making a button bright red or bright green does not necessarily constitute applying an accent color.

'Standing out' may be too narrow a view. Think of leading the eye. What do you see first (highest contrast), what do you see second, etc. Forget about the colors. Think contrasts and it will become clear which items draw the eye first.

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Accent colors = drawing your attention to certain parts of the page because the eye is drawn to them. Typically these are saturated bright colors or warm colors (eg: red, orange, yellow... they have lower freq) colors. Saturated colors and colors with lower frequency hit the eye faster than desaturated colors or colder colors (blue, violet etc.)

Red + green = Cultural notations for stop and go. Used to denote cancel and forward. They are not related to biology and vision. They also do not work with users who have colorblindness since red-green colorblindness is the most common type.

This is the basic difference. I hope I understood your question correctly.

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