What Meanings Are Associated With the Various Colors

Article extracted from: https://www.lifewire.com/color-symbolism-information-1073947

Color symbolism is the use of color to represent traditional, cultural or religious ideas, concepts or feelings or to evoke physical reactions. In graphic design and publishing, choosing a color based on its symbolism applies to print and electronic projects from logos to website backgrounds. Colors are non-verbal communication. They have meanings that go beyond ink.

As you design brochures, logos and websites, keep in mind how the eye and the mind perceive certain colors and the symbolism associated with each one.

 

 

 

The Symbolism of Cool Colors 

Cool colors tend to have a calming effect. At one end of the spectrum, they are cold, impersonal, antiseptic colors. At the other end, the cool colors are comforting and nurturing. Blue, green and the neutrals white, gray, and silver are examples of cool colors.

In nature, blue is water and the sky while green is grass, trees and other plant life—a natural life-sustaining duo. Combine blues and greens for natural, watery color palettes. Heat up a cool color palette with a dash of warm color such as red or orange. If you want warmth with only a blue palette, choose deeper blues with a touch of red but not quite purple or almost black deep navy blues.

Cool colors appear smaller than warm colors, and they visually recede on the page so red can visually overpower and stand out over blue even if used in equal amounts. If you want to focus on the calm, use more of the cool and just a dash of the warm colors.

The profiles for each of these cool colors include descriptions of their meanings and how to use each color in design work.

Blue 

Blue is a calming natural color. A universal favorite of men, women, and businesses, blue is perceived to be friendly, authoritative, peaceful, and trustworthy.
 

Green

Green is life. Abundant in nature, green signifies growth, renewal, health, and environment. On the flip side, green is jealousy or envy (the green-eyed monster) and inexperience.
 

Turquoise

A blend of blue and green, shades of turquoise have the same calming effects of those colors and shares the symbolism and characteristics of both colors. Aqua, aquamarine, beryl, blue-green, cerulean, teal and ultramarine are all names for turquoise colors.
 

Gray

Gray is a neutral, balanced color. It is a cool, conservative color that seldom evokes strong emotion although it can be seen as a cloudy or moody color.
 

Silver

Silver is a precious metal that has been known since ancient time.
 

White

White is purity, cleanliness, and innocence. Like black, white goes well with almost any color.

 

 

Warm Color Symbolism 

Warm colors rev us up and get us going. The warmth of red, yellow or orange can represent excitement or even anger. Warm colors convey emotions from simple optimism to strong violence. The neutrals of black and brown also carry warm attributes.

In nature, warm colors represent change as in the changing of the seasons or the eruption of a volcano. Tone down the strong emotions of a warm palette with some soothing cool or neutral colors or by using the lighter side of the warm palette such as pinks, pale yellows, and peach.

Warm colors appear larger than cool colors, so red can visually overpower blue even if used in equal amounts. You can often back off from the warm shades and still convey its excitement.

The profiles for each of these warm colors include descriptions of their meanings and how to use each color in design work.

Red

Red represents power, hence the red power tie for business people and the red carpet for celebrities and VIPs.

Flashing red lights denote danger or emergency. Stop signs and stop lights are red to get the drivers' attention and alert them to the dangers of the intersection.

In some cultures, red denotes purity, joy, and celebration. Red is the color of happiness and prosperity in China, where it may be used to attract good luck.

Pink

Both red and pink denote love, but while red is hot passion, pink is romantic and charming. Use pink to convey playfulness (hot pink flamingos) and tenderness (pastel pinks). Multiple shades of pink and light purple or other pastels used together to maintain the soft, delicate and playful nature of pink. Add strength with darker shades of pink, purple and burgundy.

Yellow

Although it can work as the primary color, yellow often works best when paired as an accent to other colors. Yellow is a perky color. Use bright yellow to create excitement when red or orange may be too strong or too dark. Use yellow to suggest freshness and citrus fruitiness. Golden yellows can stand in for gold.

Gold

Because gold is a precious metal, the color gold is associated with wealth and prosperity. While all that glitters is not gold, the color gold still suggests grandeur and—perhaps on the downside—the excesses of the rich. To Hindus, gold represents knowledge and learning. In China, gold represents the element Earth. Gold is the traditional gift for a 50th wedding anniversary.

Orange

Orange is vibrant. It's a combination of hot red and sunshine yellow so it shares some common attributes with those colors. It denotes energy, warmth, and the sun. But orange has a bit less intensity or aggression than red, calmed by the cheerfulness of yellow.

Black

In design, use the color black to convey elegance, sophistication or a touch of mystery. Dark charcoal gray and very dark brown can sometimes stand in for black. 

Brown

The color brown and its lighter cousins in tan, taupe, beige and cream make excellent backgrounds that cause accompanying colors to appear richer and brighter. Use brown to convey a feeling of warmth, honesty, and wholesomeness. Although found in nature year-round, brown is often considered a fall and winter color. It is more casual than black.

 

 

Mixed Warm and Cool Color Symbolism 

Colors with attributes from both the warm and cool colors can calm and excite. These are colors derived from a mix of a cool and warm colors such as cool blue plus warm red or cool blue plus warm yellow. Shades of purple and shades of green along with beige are mixed colors that carry the color symbolism of both the warm and cool sides of the color wheel.

A cool blue and a warm red combine to create deep purples and pale lavenders. To a lesser extent, shades of green, especially turquoise and teal, also have both the warming and cooling effects born of warm yellow and cool blue. Some light neutrals such as cream, pale beige, and taupe evoke some of the same warm and cool feelings of purples and greens. The opposite or clashing color for purple is green and for green, it is purple.

The profiles for each of these mixed colors include descriptions of their meanings and how to use each color in design work.

Purple

Choosing purple for your web and print designs adds a range of meanings to your projects. A deep eggplant purple combined with neutral tan or beige is an earthy, conservative color combination with a touch of the mystery that purple provides. 

Lavender

In design, use the color lavender to suggest something unique or extremely special but without the deeper mystery of purple. Lavender may be a good choice when you want to invoke feelings of nostalgia or romance since it often symbolizes wonder and an aura of impossibility. Additional characteristics of this color include serenity, silence, and devotion.

Green

Green is life. Abundant in nature, green signifies growth, renewal, health, and environment. On the flip side, green is jealousy or envy (the green-eyed monster) and inexperience.

Turquoise

A blend of blue and green, shades of turquoise have the same calming effects of those colors and shares the symbolism and characteristics of both colors. Aqua, aquamarine, beryl, blue-green, cerulean, teal and ultramarine are all names for turquoise colors.

Beige

Because most beige colors are very light, graphic artists tend to use them as background colors. A few beige shades are dark enough to use for text. Use the color beige to provide a calm, relaxing background. Small doses of beige can be added to separate two dark colors in a print project or website.

 

 

Neutral Color Symbolism 

The neutral colors of black, white, silver, gray and brown make good backgrounds, serve to unify diverse color palettes, and also often stand alone as the only or primary focus of a design. Neutral colors can be cool or warm but are more subtle than blues and reds.

Neutral colors help to put the focus on other colors or serve to tone down colors that might otherwise be overpowering on their own. To some extent, blacks, browns, tans, golds and beige colors are considered warm. While white, ivory, silver and gray are somewhat cooler colors. Yet these warm and cool attributes are flexible and more subtle than those of reds or blues.

The profiles for each of these neutral colors include descriptions of their meanings and how to use each color in design work.

Black

In design, use the color black to convey elegance, sophistication or a touch of mystery. Dark charcoal gray and very dark brown can sometimes stand in for black. 

Gray

Gray is a neutral, balanced color. It is a cool, conservative color that seldom evokes strong emotion although it can be seen as a cloudy or moody color.

White

White is purity, cleanliness, and innocence. Like black, white goes well with almost any color.

Ivory

The color ivory provides a relaxing effect. Use it to set a tone of understated elegance. It's especially suited to formal wedding invitations and for elegant, personal stationery. 

Brown

The color brown and its lighter cousins in tan, taupe, beige and cream make excellent backgrounds that cause accompanying colors to appear richer and brighter. Use brown to convey a feeling of warmth, honesty, and wholesomeness. Although found in nature year-round, brown is often considered a fall and winter color. It is more casual than black.

Beige

Because most beige colors are very light, graphic artists tend to use them as background colors. A few beige shades are dark enough to use for text. Use the color beige to provide a calm, relaxing background. Small doses of beige can be added to separate two dark colors in a print project or website.

Physical and Cultural Reactions 

Sometimes colors create a physical reaction—red has been shown to raise blood pressure—and at other times, it is a cultural reaction. In the U.S., white is for weddings, while in some Eastern cultures, white is the color of mourning and funerals. Colors follow trends as well. Avocado, a shade of green, is synonymous with the '60s and '70s in the minds of some consumers.

Color Relationships 

In addition to understanding symbolism, it helps when mixing and matching colors to know the relationship of adjacent, harmonizing, contrasting and complementary colors. 

  • Adjacent or harmonizing colors appear next to each other on the color wheel. Harmonizing colors often work well together but if they are too close in value, they can appear washed out or not have enough contrast. A harmonizing trio could be something like blue, light blue and cyan or perhaps red, orange and yellow.

  • Contrasting colors are separated from each other by other colors—they come from different segments of the color wheel. The further they are apart, the more the contrast. Red from the warm half of the color wheel contrasts with green and blue from the cool half of the wheel. Shades of purple contrast with shades of green. 

  • Complementary colors are on opposite sides of the color wheel. For example, blue is a complementary color to yellow. Green is complementary to purple and magenta. A pair of complementary colors printed side by side can clash making them a less than desirable combination. However, separate them on the page with other colors, and they can work together.