Colour is very subjective in design. Different people may have different reactions to the same color and vise versa. The different reactions are mainly attributed to cultural differences and personal preference. To design with colours, one must understand how colours affect different people, or groups of people.
The Meaning of Colour
Warm colours are colours that are bright and positive. It consists of the primary colours red and yellow, and any combination of these two colours like orange. They are colours that are associated with daylight, summer, autumn and fire. It is used to reflect passion, happiness, enthusiasm and energy.
Positive : courage, strength, warmth, energy, importance
Negative : violence, war, aggression, destruction
Other : prosperity, happiness
Positive : creativity, optimism, friendliness, confidence, emotional strength,
Negative : irrational, fear, insanity, depression, suicide
Other : royalty, wealth
Positive : warmth, security, friendliness, food, abundance, sensuality, fun
Negative : immaturity, frustration, deprivation
Other : crime, criminals, prison
Cool colours are green, blue and purple. They represent the colours that are associated with the night, water and nature. These colours are calming and relaxing. Cool colours have only one primary colour, blue. Green and Purple are made of a combination of blue and either yellow or red. Green shares some attributes of yellow and purple shares some attributes of red.
Positive: beginnings, growth, harmony, stability, wealth, abundance, nature
Negative: envy, jealousy, inexperience, disgust
Other: safety, greed, corruption, mystery
Positive: calmness, responsibility, friendly, strong, reliability, peace, intelligence
Negative: sadness, loneliness, depression, coldness, unfriendliness
Other: futuristic, elite, power
Positive: royalty, creativity, imagination, romantic, wealth, luxury
Negative: introversion, decadence, inferiority
Other: mourning, widows
Neutral colours are brown, black, white and grey. Neutral colours have equal or almost equal levels of red, blue and yellow light.
Positive: efficiency, sophistication, emotional safety, security
Negative: heaviness, meance, coldness, oppression
Other: evil, death, supernatural, unholy
Positive: sterility, hygiene, purity, clarity, cleanness, simplicity
Negative: elitism, unfriendliness, coldness, sterility, barriers
Other: poverty, weddings, chastity
Negative: dampness, depression, hibernation, lack of energy
Other: mourning, graves
Positive: earthiness, nature, warmth, support, reliability
Negative: common, unsophisticated, heaviness
Other: physical strength
Concepts and Terminology
Hue is the most basic colour term to refer to an item’s colour. When we talk about colours such as “blue”, “green” or “red” we are referring to the hue.
The chroma refers to the purity of a colour. A chroma has no black, white or gray in it. A chroma can be thought of as the brightness of a colour in comparison to white.
A saturation is the appearance of a hue under certain lighting conditions. A colour will appear more pure under higher saturation and more dull or washed-out at lower saturation.
The brightness of a colour is called value. For example, bright yellow has a higher hue than dark blue. White has the highest value of any colour, and black the lowest.
A tone is created when grey is added to a hue. This creates colours that are either duller or softer than the pure hues.
A shade is created when black is added to a hue. Shade only applies to hues that are made darker by adding black.
A tint is created when white is added to a hue. Making it brighter and lighter. Very light tints are called pastels while an addition of white to a pure hue is called a tint.
[Infographic : Click for full size]
- Made using Adobe Illustrator.
- Uses a narrow-wide-narrow layout.
- Uses a balanced colour scheme. Bright colours at the left, dark at the right with light blue (cool colour with high value) in the middle.
- Contrast of lettering between light and dark colours with the lettering.
- Colour with high values have black lettering and colour with low values have white lettering.
- Transparent background is used so it blends in with blog background and reduce ink usage in printing.
- Cameron Chapman, 2010. Color Theory for Designers, Part 1: The Meaning of Color.
[Accessed 20 Feb 2015]
- Cameron Chapman, 2010. Color Theory For Designers, Part 2: Understanding Concepts And Terminology.
[Accessed 20 Feb 2015]
- Adrian, 2011. Color Concept for Professional Designers, Traditional Color Schemes.
[Online] available at : http://designmodo.com/color-concept/
[Accessed 20 Feb 2015]