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Marketing Color Psychology

The Ultimate Guide to Color Harmonies and Meanings in Marketing

Different colors have different meanings, and when you’re picking the color scheme for a logo, graphic or visual campaign, it’s imperative to have the right effect on your audience. This is why marketing color psychology is essential.

In this video, learn all about the different color harmonies and color meanings, alongside a few real world examples of these palettes being used. Then take your newfound color psychology knowledge and create your own beautiful design.

14:38 Beginner
Video Transcript

Marketing Color Psychology. Yeah, this isn’t kindergarten anymore. Prepare to see colors like you never have before. 

Hello world! I’m Mike Ploger and here with Visme – the visual communication tool that enables you to create stunning visuals to wow your viewers. 

Now, what’s one easy way to catch your viewers’ attention? Perhaps incorporating the perfect colors meant for your image?

Let’s all take a minute and rewind back to our youth for a second. We’re young, we’re playing hide and seek with our friends, throwing back popsicles like water. And while you may not have known it, we’re also learning associations with color. 

Think about it, your favorite color likely came from positive experiences with that single color when you were growing up. But as you grow older, you likely learned what colors represent. 

Blue represents intelligence, green is associated with nature and yellow signifies happiness. 

But the meaning of color does not stop there. There’s so much more to learn in the realm of color psychology and you’ve come to the right place to get started. Shall we?

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colors

Okay, let’s start with a quicker view. Can you name the three primary colors? Are you thinking to yourself, yellow, blue and red maybe? 

If so, you deserve that popsicle. But why are these the three primary colors? Well, it’s because these are the only colors that cannot be created when mixing any other two colors together. 

So, what happens when these colors combine? I’m glad you asked. 

Secondary colors are created from the combination of two primary colors. In the color wheel, these are visualized in between the primary colors as you can see here. 

And if you want to live life on the wild side, you’ll combine a primary color with a secondary color creating a tertiary color – mind blown. Right? 

And if you want to dive even further into these colors, check out our video where Visme founder Payman Taei takes you through a journey for picking the best colors for your slides.

The Color Wheel / The Color Picker

When you take all the primary, secondary and tertiary colors and throw them all together, you have what is called a color wheel. 

Any and every color imaginable is available in the color wheel and you can find a version of this on the Visme dashboard when you edit your projects. The color picker is nearly identical to the color wheel allowing you to find the perfect color for your designs. 

Color Nuances

Color nuances are important in visual marketing because they convey your brand personality. Choosing the right color nuance can either detract or support your overall message. So, let’s take a look at the different nuances and how they differ. 

Pure colors or hues are any colors unaffected by tints or shades. There’s no brightness added, no darkness added. It’s the original color seen around the outer edges of these color wheels. 

And as I mentioned, one way to alter a pure color is with tints. This is when white is added to that original color, making things brighter. 

Now, on the other hand, shades are your natural hues affected by black coloring, hence these colors appear darker. 

A variation of these two would be adding gray to the pure color. These are called tones and can create millions of different colors. 

The easiest way to adjust to each of these color nuances is by adjusting the saturation of your color. A pure color is at normal saturation but desaturated with white, gray or black to form an entirely new color. 

This is when color pairing is crucial. Some saturation of blue look great with yellow, while some blues you should stay away from.

Color Harmonies

Okay, time to take another step in our coloring book. We’ve learned how to mix colors but now it’s time to learn how colors can work together to form a color scheme. 

These are called color harmonies and the possibilities are endless. So, I have a few pop culture references to help. 

1. Warm and Cool Colors

Did you know that the color wheel is split up between warm and cool colors? 

By looking at this image here, you can see how red, yellow and orange are on one side of the color wheel making them warm while blue, green and violets are on the other side making them cool. 

Breaking into color psychology, warm and cool colors represent different emotions. With warm colors, you think of summer days and the heat. Cool colors remind us of the colder months or even just a clear, blue sky. 

A good way to think of warm and cool colors is in interior design. Warm colors in a room makes it feel cozy and comfortable. Cool colors provide a sense of cleanliness, even making a room seem bigger. 

The right combination of warm to cool colors will make a room or design pop. And if you’re using mostly cool colors, add a spark of warmth to emphasize something you feel is important. 

2. Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are direct opposites of one another on the color wheel. But hey, opposites attract. 

You’ll often see complementary colors paired together like yellow and purple, red and green or a lighter blue with a strong red as seen here in this Blade Runner 2049 poster

There is one thing to remember when using two complementary colors – avoid using 50% of one color and 50% of the other. This can make a graphic look difficult to look at. 

Make one color more dominant while the other complements that main color. You want to look for an 80-20 split. 

3. Analogous Colors

Analogous colors are those colors that are aligned next to one another on the color wheel. Think red, yellow and orange. All those warm colors that we talked about earlier and how good it looks on this Kung Fu Panda poster

Analogous schemes provide a sense of calmness and knowledge without too much excitement. Think nature and how the leaves gradually change over time come the fall. 

You want to use three colors when attacking the scheme with one dominant color and two used as accents. 

4. Monochromatic Colors

Now, a monochromatic scheme takes one single hue and uses colors of different shades, tones and tints. 

This graphic of the Grand Budapest Hotel took one color – pink – and altered the color for every item within the graphic. While it’s a beautiful piece of art, if you’re looking for a marketing design, I recommend using color harmonies with more contrast.

5. Triadic Colors

Triadic colors. Triadic. Triangle. That’s exactly what it means. This is when you take three colors in an equilateral triangle from the color wheel as you can see here. 

With the triadic color scheme, you are guaranteed to have either two warm colors and one color or two cool colors and one warm. This also means that you will have either three primary colors, three secondary colors or three tertiary colors. 

Note that if you do use three secondary or three tertiary colors, your image could look dark and jumbled. Primary colors provide more vibrance and life. This is why I want to stick with a triadic harmony of primary colors for your digital graphics. 

6. Split Complementary

Now, moving on, split complementary has three colors as well. And begins like that of a complementary harmony before splitting for two colors directly opposite of one another. It’s much easier to understand by looking at our color wheel here. 

These schemes are generally attractive to viewers but you’ve got to remember to have just one dominant color with the other two split colors filtered in. You can see with the red, splitting into that blue and green in this poster here

7. Tetradic Colors

Okay, just a couple more to go. The tetradic harmonies takes two sets of complementary colors and put them all together in one single graphic

This is one of the more difficult harmonies to properly complete but when it’s done right with shaded, tones and tints, they can be captivating. 

If this is what you’re after, make sure to do plenty of testing to find a happy balance between all the colors. Too much of one color can often send viewers into confusion. 

8. Square Colors

And last but certainly not least, are the square color harmonies. They are just as they sound. Four colors, all equal distances from one another. 

Once again, this scheme can either be powerful or overwhelming. Stick to 80% of a dominant color with 20% for the accent colors. Disney not only nailed the movie Inside Out, but they also nailed this scheme with their poster for the movie

Color Meanings and Symbols

Okay, now that you’ve learned how to pair colors with one another, let’s look into the meanings of individual colors. 

After all, a color can have a positive or a negative connotation so you want to ensure that you are choosing the right color for your audience. 

Yellow

Yellow! I’d say it’s a good place to start. It’s the color of the sun, bananas and the unforgettable smiley face. The color is typically associated with creativity, optimism and liveliness as long as there isn’t too much shade thrown in. 

You can see the colors in this graphic here. The bright yellow makes you feel good while those darker shades almost make you feel sick. Yellow is inviting and it’s a big reason why McDonald’s features the color on their world famous Golden Arches. 

Red

Red. It’s my favorite color, maybe because it’s the first color that we all see as babies or maybe it’s because of the desire from more power and importance, given that’s what it embodies. 

Red is memorable and transcendent. Many marketers use red for their call to action buttons and rightfully so. People notice red. It’s a big reason why stops signs bear the color. 

The tricky part with red is the number of connotations that are paired with it. Red can either be positive or negative, which is why it is key to clarify its intent with words alongside the color. 

Blue

Blue is another color that emits a wide range of emotions. For one person it symbolizes intelligence and a sense of calmness, for the other person it’s cold and sad. 

You’ll often stumble upon blues used by corporate and technology websites or hospitals. Not just to symbolize intelligence, but trust as well. Also fun fact, blue is the most preferred color by all consumers. Maybe something to keep in mind. 

Orange

When it comes to pop, there may be no better color than orange. Its vibrance is both creative and inviting. You want to use brighter oranges for elements that you want to stand out. 

And if you’re looking for a good background, a shaded orange could work to provide a sense of warmth for a viewer. 

Green

Often, when we need a break, we might step outside or go for a walk. This very well could be because of the green trees and nature around us that provide a sense of refreshment and serenity. 

Can you name one eco-friendly company that doesn’t use the color green? Color psychology has essentially created a rule through the term going green and it’s now recognizable everywhere. 

Violet

Violet. A character from the Willy Wonka movies and also a color which symbolizes royalty. It’s majestic, noble and lavish. Not to mention, it’s also termed to be very pretty. 

It provides a sense of truthfulness and wisdom. It is also a crowd favorite among many female consumers. Unless your graphic is intended to be spiritual or regal, use violet sparingly. 

Pink

Now, while violet has long been marketed for women, so has pink. It’s a color of happiness and positivity. I mean, have you ever been angry when you saw pink cotton candy? I haven’t. 

And while pink is often associated with feminine products, it can be gender neutral as well. Just be careful and make sure you do your research. If you’re selling a hammer, pink might not be your best option. 

White

White is a color that we see all around us. It’s the primary color for paper and the walls in our homes or offices. That might be because it symbolizes cleanliness and clarity. 

You won’t find many graphics without at least a touch of white. If so, I’m willing to bet that the graphic leaves you feeling overwhelmed. 

White is one color that can be used to cover nearly an entire image. After all, the term white space is all about leaving some room on a graphic blank so a viewer isn’t confused. 

Black

Black is a color of elegance and formality. You want a sleek look? Use black. It’s why our phones and cars are often the color. Black is a great background color as well. So long as it’s paired with vibrant colors in the foreground. 

Brown

Brown is similar to green in that it provides a sense of all naturale. It’s a supporting color that needs to be just right. One shade of brown can look clean, while the other appears dirty. 

Think paper bags, they’re a big part of that going green trend that I’ve mentioned earlier. But the tint must be just light enough to make it feel clean, not dirty.

Metallics

And lastly, gold, silver and bronze all fall under metallic colors. Yes, technically these are color pigments with metallic powder mixed in, which is why they’re difficult to use on screen and on paper. 

However, if you’re striving for a glamorous look, talk to your printing agent to see how they can help you achieve that perfect metallic color. 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s all I have for you today. Take some time to determine which colors and harmonies you think are best for your visuals and get to work on designing. 

One place you could start is Visme’s website. Head to Visme.co today where we have a color picker with millions of color choices, and if you still can’t decide, there’s predetermined color palettes to help you get off the ground. 

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel. Where we have new content arriving all the time. 

In the meantime, I hope we were of some help today and we hope you’ll come back with any of your digital design questions and needs. For now, I’m Mike Ploger with Visme, helping you Make Information Beautiful.