Whenever I see an article that breaks down colors (and there are a lot out there), I stop and read it.

It intrigues me.

I suppose the idea of any sort of “suggestion” hidden within something as basic as colors is interesting.

You may be thinking this is just another one of those articles, but my goal is to take all of the cool information that I find in these myriad sources and lay them out all nice and neat for you.

Why should you care?

When you are ready to design something that represents your brand whether you are promoting yourself, a small business, or your blog, the colors you choose shape people’s first impression.

It can calm them, electrify them, stimulate them or subdue them.

Regardless of your purpose and your audience, you want to be deliberate about this effect or you risk losing a potential client or follower.

Attention: The impact of different colors can still be (and will likely be) skewed by a person’s experience, so use this information as a general guide to the broad message patterns that colors provide. Perfection cannot be promised folks.

Location, Audience, Location…

Consider where you are.

A color can mean something different in a tropical environment versus a snowy one.

Also, certain cultures can perceive colors differently.

When you think of your colors and you target a particular audience, know that the reaction may not be the same for them as it is for you.

*Any color psycho stuff I state in this post is based on a North American perspective.

All materials are not created equal

There are certain staple materials that you will have for both identity and marketing, and each one deserves it’s own look at color while still considering your brand.

Your logo should contain the main colors for your brand, but they are just a jumping off point.

Depending on your audience and the feeling you want to invoke, you may need to switch it up a bit and utilize more of the accent colors you have chosen.

Color Combinations: Analogous vs. Triadic

Honestly, I’m trying to impress you with big words.

An easier way to understand these words is to think about color the color wheel.

Analogous colors reside next to each other on the color wheel.

Triadic (complementary or tertiary) colors are highly contrasted colors like purple, green & orange. The truth is that people are attracted to both! You have to consider the personality of your when choosing combinations.

The truth is that people are attracted to both! You have to consider the personality of your when choosing combinations.

You have to consider the personality of your when choosing combinations.

A quick rule is that analagous colors flow with each other while tertiary have a bolder impact.

Quick Note: Remember to reflect the personality of your brand when picking colors instead of solely relying on general color stereotypes that can vary with experience.

Break it down

Color: Red

Associated Qualities/Emotions: excitement, strength, passion, danger, strength, energy, ‘fight or flight’, stimulation, excitement
Practical Uses: Invokes quick reactions and intense emotional responses, causes less analytical thinking and encourages impulsive drives

Color: Green

Associated Qualities/Emotions: nature, regrowth, creativity, productivity, harmony, balance, refreshment, rest, restoration, environmental awareness, peace
Practical Uses: To induce productivity, consider decorating your home office with green accents or painting a wall green in your workspace.

Color: Blue

Associated Qualities/Emotions: trust, reliability, belonging, coolness, intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, duty, logic
Practical Uses: Considered the most accepted color by both genders and will typically please the majority no matter what the use (office space, brochures, websites, logos, etc…)

Color: Yellow

Associated Qualities/Emotions: warmth, sunshine, cheer, happiness, optimism, self-esteem, extraversion, emotional strength
Practical Uses: Not a color for the masses as far as being a favorite, but its warm, vibrant and inviting. Yellow is a primary color and, therefore, attracts children along with red and blue. Also great for outdoor brands.

Color: Orange

Associated Qualities/Emotions: playfulness, warmth, vibrant, good values, security, abundance, fun
Practical Uses: Orange seems to carry a virtuosity with it as in fair business practices. Incorporating it in your logo or brochure designs may strike clients that believe in quality and loyalty, above all else

Color: Purple

Associated Qualities/Emotions: royal, spirituality, dignity, vision, luxury, truth, quality
Practical Uses: Should be used sparingly because it can invoke deep reflection. Purple can get old quickly, so using it as an accent might be the way to go.

Color: Pink

Associated Qualities/Emotions: soft, sweet, nurture, security, femininity, love
Practical Uses: Pink has a calming effect. If your blog or business exists to reduce stress or help people remain level-headed, incorporating some pink is a good idea. Think of a sunset. At the same time, pink is considered gender-specific, so be mindful of your audience.

Color: White

Associated Qualities/Emotions: pure, virginal, clean, youthful, mild
Practical Uses: Used in a lot of modern designs. Lots of white space gives a clean, sleek look, but it’s best to not have too much to focus in on  or think about when looking at your materials because white doesn’t hold someone’s attention against competing thoughts and distractions.

Color: Black

Associated Qualities/Emotions: sophistication, elegant, seductive, mystery, glamor, security, substance
Practical Uses: The Jaguar website is mainly black with a some silver. It represents sophistication, mystery and prestige. Incorporate black to make a strong stand and statement about your brand.

Color: Silver/Gray

Associated Qualities/Emotions: prestige, cold, scientific, psychological neutrality
Practical Uses: Silver can range from shiny and flashy to muted and quiet. It can feel industrial or fancy. The type of glare or metallic feel you use with your silver will determine whether your client views you as corny, sleek, dull or futuristic.

Quick Color Jargon Glossary

So you can communicate or find exactly what you need

Hue – The color itself. When someone refers to the “hue,” he/she is talking about whether it is red, blue, black, etc…

Saturation – How intense the color appears. This has nothing to do with “light” vs. “dark” but rather “pale” vs. “strong”.

Analogous – Hues that are right next to each other on the color wheel. They create a monochromatic look event though more than one hue can be used like red, orange, yellow or different shades of purple

Complementary – Hues that are on opposite sides of the color wheel. They create great contrast while reinforcing each other.

Value – how light or dark/bright or dim a color appears.

Tints – How a color varies from a pure hue by adding various amounts of white.

Shade – How a color varies from a pure hue by adding various amounts of black.

Tone – How a color varies from a pure hue by adding various amounts of gray.

Are you figuring out colors for you own brand?
Check out a quick step-by-step guide to designing your own brand identity.

Share the Knowledge!


  • Regina says:

    I love the depth of this post. I’m always drawn to yellow because it makes me feel the brand is creative and unique. I also feel more creative and unique when yellow is present. It can easily get overwhelming though, so I guess it needs to be used wisely.

    Your color glossary is very helpful Brittany. I hear certain terms and just assume/assign a meaning to them but reading actual definitions is way more accurate. Great post!

    • Brittany says:

      Thanks Regina and you absolutely nailed it. It’s important to use colors that motivate us as individuals while being wise (as you said) and keeping in mind their potential affect on others. I have found that even the word we use for a particular color can affect an audience. For instance, people seem to love the color “mocha”, but they don’t appreciate the color “brown”.

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