Color Choice in Graphic Design

Color choice has psychological impacts on the viewer, and each color is associated with a different idea or meaning.When designing, keep in mind what colors might mean in the overall design and what feelings it will produce in the person seeing it. What is the reasoning behind the chosen colors? What feeling will the viewer get when the see your design? Let’s take a look at what some colors mean:



Red is a stimulant, and is the hottest of the warm colors. Studies show that red can raise blood pressure. Red has a high visibility which is why it is used for stoplights, stop signs and fire equipment. The color red can be an emotionally intense, energetic and dramatic color. Red is the color of passion, desire and love, but can also be used to represent war, bloodshed, radicalism, and anger. Red is also used to represent power, hence “the red carpet” for celebrities and VIP’s.

Use red to grab attention and to get people to take action. Use red when you don’t want something to disappear into the background. Red will suggest speed and confidence and perhaps even a dash of danger. A little bit of red goes a long way. Small doses can often be more effective than large amounts of this strong color. Multiple shades of red and even pink or orange can combine for a cheerful palette.

Light red represents joy, sexuality, passion, sensitivity, and love.
Pink signifies romance, love, beauty, and friendship. It denotes feminine qualities and passiveness.
Dark red is associated with vigor, rage, anger, power, courage, longing, malice, and wrath.
Reddish-brown is associated with harvest and fall.



Combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It is associated with sunshine and warmth as well as joy. Orange is a bold color and represents determination. It is invigorating and stimulating, so it is often associated with physical and energetic things. Orange can indicate confidence and assurance. It is more of an informal color and indicates creativity and flamboyance. It is very accepted with younger people. As a citrus color, it is associated with healthy foods. It is often associated with the Fall and Harvest seasons. Orange  has a very high visibility so it can be used to get attention, and is very effective  promoting food and toys.

Dark orange can mean deceit and distrust.
Red-orange corresponds to desire, sexual passion, pleasure, domination, aggression, and thirst for action.
Gold evokes the feeling of prestige. The meaning of gold is illumination, wisdom, and wealth. Gold often symbolizes high quality.



Produces a warming effect and brings happiness and energy. Yellow evokes pleasant, cheerful feelings and is very effective at attracting attention. Yellow is very visible, which is why taxicabs and caution signs use this color. Yellow also represents hope as is seen with the yellow ribbon supporting a loved one at war. Men interpret yellow as being youthful, childlike, or lighthearted and using yellow may not be appropriate when selling expensive, prestigious items to men. Yellow is unstable and spontaneous and very creative, but would not work well when you want to suggest stability and safety.

Shades of yellow can become dingy and lose their youthfulness, and pale yellow can be hard to see and is better supported with a darker. Too much yellow can be overpowering and too bright to the eyes. It is known that babies cry more in yellow rooms. Yellow is seen before other colors when placed against black; this combination is often used to issue a warning.

Dull (dingy) yellow represents caution, decay, sickness, and jealousy.
Light yellow is associated with intellect, freshness, and joy.



Green is the color of nature and symbolizes growth, harmony, health, freshness and fertility. It promotes overall physical health. It strongly represents ecology and the environment. Green is often used for “green products” because of it’s tie to nature. It suggests money, stability, safety and endurance. Many medical products and drug companies use green to indicate safety in their products. Green can represent life. On the flip side, green is can indicate jealousy or envy. Green can be viewed as a person with a lack of experience, such as a “greeny” or a “novice”. Green is not as energetic as yellow and orange; instead it has healing power and is restful to the eye.

Dark green is associated with ambition, greed, and jealousy.
Yellow-green can indicate sickness, cowardice, discord, and jealousy.
Aqua is associated with emotional healing and protection.
Olive green is the traditional color of peace.



Blue is the color of the sky and the ocean. For this reason, it also has a tie to nature and is seen as a very tranquil and calming color. It can be associated with depth, stability, openness, trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. Blue is often used in products and services related to cleanliness (water purification, air conditioners, airlines, cleaning supplies, water, boating) because of its connection with the ocean, air and sky. In many diverse cultures blue is significant in religious beliefs, brings peace, or is believed to keep the bad spirits away.

Blue is stable and linked to intellect. It can be more exciting when paired with orange or yellow. Blue is often used in technology related products to indicate precision. It would not be a good color to use for an attention getter, or to show warmth. It can feel cold at times and indicate sadness or depression (“the blues”). Because blue is not found much in food, it would not be a good color to use in promotion food items and cooking, and it can actually reduce appetite. Blue is highly accepted upon males and is the preferred color for corporations in America.

Light blue is associated with health, healing, tranquility, understanding, and softness.
Dark blue represents knowledge, power, integrity, and seriousness.  unity, and conservatism.



Has a long history of representing royalty, power, prestige, luxury, wealth and extravagance. It combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. Purple is also representative of magic, mystery, wisdom, dignity, creativity, and independence. Purple isn’t found much in nature accept to be used as an accent, such as with flowers, sunsets and gemstones. Because there is not an abundance of purple in nature, some people consider it to be artificial.

Purple comes from mixing a strong warm and strong cool color, allowing it to have both warm and cool properties at times. A purple room can boost a child’s imagination or an artist’s creativity. According to surveys, almost 75 percent of pre-adolescent children prefer purple to all other colors. Too much purple, like blue, could result in moodiness. Bright purple can be used when promoting children’s products. Light purple is a good choice for a feminine design.

Light purple evokes romantic and nostalgic feelings.
Dark purple evokes gloom and sad feelings. It can cause frustration.



Brown is a natural, down-to-earth neutral color. It is found in earth, wood, and stone. It is a solid, reliable color. Brown is a warm neutral that can stimulate the appetite. It represents dependability, wholesomeness and earthiness. It is sometimes considered dull, but also represents steadfastness, simplicity, friendliness, dependability, and health. Brown can also be sad and wistful. Men are more likely to say brown is one of their favorite colors so it is often associated with masculine qualities. Brown is a great color to use for earth friendly products.

Light brown implies genuineness
Dark brown is similar to wood or leather.



White is associated with light, faith, goodness, innocence, cleanliness and virginity. It is considered to be the color of perfection and establishes clarity. It can represent a successful beginning. Brides wear white to symbolize innocence and purity. To the human eye, white is a brilliant color that can cause headaches for some. Too much bright white can be blinding.

White is associated with coolness and cleanliness because it is the color of snow. White does well to suggest simplicity to high-tech products. It is a good color for charitable organizations, because it is the color associated with angels. It also suggests safety and sterility because it is often associated with hospitals and doctors.



Black is the absence of color. It is associated with power, elegance, formality, death, evil, and mystery. In most Western countries black is the color of mourning. Black also can imply submission. Priests wear black to signify submission to God. But, among teenagers, black is often seen as a color of rebellion. Black is both positive and negative. Black can be associated with fear and the unknown such as “black holes”. It indicates strength and authority, and is considered to be formal and elegant (“black tie” event). Black gives the feeling of perspective and depth, but a black background diminishes readability. In clothing, black is visually slimming. Black can make other colors appear brighter.


Cool Colors

Blue, Green, Turquoise, Silver, Purple
Feeling: Calm, reduce tension, not overpowering


Warm Colors

Red, Pink, Yellow, Gold, Orange
Feeling: Exciting, heat, motion, warmth, more dominating


Neutral Colors

Brown, Beige, Ivory, Gray, Black, White
Feeling: Unifying




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