How to Use Color Psychology to Create Authentic and Creative Designs

Published: | By Jessica Lillis

A wide range of colors surrounds us. We have choices when it comes to designs. Some colors are well-received and popular, and others…not so much. The perception of colors differs from person to person and even place-to-place. 

Nonetheless, we define different colors with different emotional states. We associate blue with confidence and calmness; yellow is a color we relate to happiness and positivity, while red connects with love and passion.

It’s how we think, but that’s not always true. Take a website design, for example. If a designer wants to reflect a confident look on an eCommerce website, they may choose red to express a confident look instead of blue. 

This write-up will focus on leveraging color psychology to create authentic and innovative designs. But before that, let’s dig into what color psychology is.

What is Color Psychology?

Colors pattern

Color psychology studies how color impacts human thought, emotion, behavior, and decision-making. The perception we develop about different colors isn’t something innate. That’s why we have our own color choices for other objects.

For example, if you visit any online apparel store to buy a dress, you always ensure that your chosen dress is of your preferred color before purchasing. 

You look at other factors like price, quality, etc., before purchase, but color also carries weight in your purchase. 

13 Ways to Use Color Psychology in Creative Designs

  1. The fundamentals
  2. Audience targeting
  3. Attention-grabbing color
  4. Readability
  5. Brand inspiration
  6. Tactful deployment
  7. Color consistency
  8. Develop a brand color palette
  9. A color's meaning
  10. Cultural context
  11. Color testing
  12. Correct color combinations
  13. Color personalities

You must understand and follow specific rules and regulations to employ color psychology. And it’s a cakewalk to understand them.

Let’s examine the dos and don’ts of using color psychology in creative and authentic designs.

1. Pick up color psychology fundamentals

Colored blocks

Introducing yourself to the basics of color psychology is the first step before applying color psychology to your design. 

What we mean by basic is that you should know the effect of different colors on human emotion and behavior upfront.

Only then will you be able to employ colors appropriately in your creative designs. Sometimes, you may even require color combinations to make your design imaginative and authentic. 

So, no way to brush aside the basics and essentials!

2. Comprehend your target audience

Target audience

Understanding the target audience is vital in applying colors to creative designs. And this is very simple. If your target audience is eCommerce businesses, leveraging colors won’t be identical if your target audience is real estate agencies.

E-commerce businesses will always think about their website designs from a marketing perspective. 

They would seek colors that bring simplicity and cleanliness to their websites. However, real estate agencies always look for bold and confident website colors. 

3. Leverage color to grab attention

Person choosing a color palette

Color is a fantastic medium for slashing monotony and passivity, streamlining attention spans. Attention while paying attention helps increase recall rates and reaction times. Umpteen studies have revealed and verified that too.

As per the studies, when designers deploy colors to stress a specific feature or a piece of content on the screen, the attention level of visitors mounts. 

Warm colors notch up this goal best. Red, in particular, when used meticulously, stands out and draws attention instantly, stimulating the visual sense and assisting learners in recalling facts and figures. 

4. Streamline and boost readability with color

Color can scale up clarity and readability in the text by as much as 40 percent. But for that, your color usage must be tactical, no doubt.  

With the strategic use of colors on every screen to improve the clarity of content, they automatically rationalize the concept and aid with reasoning and memory.  

Secondly, color has the magical prowess to make the content more readable. It works best in designing eLearning course screens that demand contrasting chromatic colors in the text and background. (You can use a color wheel to find contrasting colors).

5. Get inspired by other brands

There isn’t a better way to improve understanding of the psychology of color is to take a closer look at the ads, websites, and marketing materials of global brands. It’ll enhance your knowledge of color psychology. 

For example, you can visit the website of Bloomscape, an e-commerce plant website targeting Millennial and Gen-Z consumers. 

Their website will bring a vibe – the cream is pleasant with a natural accent that pairs well with the light peach, a warm, innovative revision of Millennial pink.

6. Deploy intense colors tactfully

person doing karate illustration

In specific designs, employing intense colors is pivotal. For example, eLearning designers should generously leverage solid and bold colors or place them over neutral background tones when designing eLearning materials. 

It prevents colors from becoming too intense and gripping the eye in various directions. Therefore, using colors in this type of material should be bold, not bright and solid. It makes text easier to go through.

7. Maintain color consistency in your branding

Blue triangles

To understand this point, let’s look at a study by an SEO company, Reboot. The study looks at logo recognition, finding that 78% of participants could remember the logo's primary color, while only 43% could recall the company name.

So, if your prospects recall your brand just by its color, shouldn’t you ensure it’s the same every time and everywhere? 

Maintaining color consistency with your branding is essential; the most successful brands recognize this.

8. Develop a design color palette

You aspire to keep the colors in your design consistent, and definitely, you don’t want people to forget you. So, what’s the solution?

Embrace the power of a Color Palette Generator to effortlessly create a color scheme that allows for some variety but sets some standards.

So, if you don’t already have a color palette, gear up to make one with the help of a reliable Color Palette Generator.

- A few common types of color palettes

  • Analogous: Colors sitting next to each other on the color wheel.
  • Complementary: Opposite colors create high contrast.
  • Monochromatic: Various shades or tones of the same primary color.

9. Stress colors based on their meanings

Designers who overlook the idea that every color has a distinct meaning should consider color connotations when designing websites. 

It’s because the visitors are likely to consider the significance of color, whether consciously, subconsciously, or unconsciously.

Meanings of colors vary with culture, and designers should pick appropriate tones according to the culture and particular characteristics of their primary audience. 

In Western society, for example, red signals danger or importance, black is negative, and white implies purity. 

10. Don’t ignore cultural context

We already mentioned above that the perception of color isn’t universal. MIT researchers disclosed that the words used to discuss color vary by language. Some communities only have three color categories, while others have up to 12. 

It shows that color psychology is variable based on culture and individuals. That’s why it’s essential to keep the cultural context in mind while crafting your designs, no matter whether it’s for your branding and marketing.

11. Run an A/B test with different colors

A_B testing

This point is crucial, as examining your audience will give you a better idea of how to proceed. 

You can’t always foresee how your audience will respond to a particular color—let alone certain shades, tones, or tints in your palette. 

That’s where A/B testing comes to the rescue. You can run A/B testing in a myriad of ways. For example, try two different color backgrounds in your ads or buttons on your website and observe which one your audience prefers.

12. Don’t neglect to choose the right color combinations

office desk

New designers often choose colors based on their tastes and preferences. It may work once in a blue moon, particularly when the designer has a good eye for what makes catchy combinations. 

Those who may not be so naturally gifted would refer to the basics of color theory.

One of the most valuable facets of color theory is the color wheelIt showcases which colors are harmonious and complementary and ensures designers create a combination that avoids damaging visitors’ eyes.

The color wheel typically consists of six primary colors — red, yellow, green, blue, orange, and purple. Generally, any two colors opposite each other, any three colors equally spaced to form a triangle, and any four colors that create a rectangle will be aligned.

13. Different color attributes and personalities

Red is a warm color for stop signs, sales tags, negative finances, and call-to-action buttons. It’s one of the most striking and stirring colors. Brands use it with care as it can trigger powerful emotions — both positive and negative. 

Positive attributes:

  • Power
  • Passion
  • Energy
  • Fearlessness
  • Excitement

Negative attributes:

  • Anger
  • Danger
  • Warning
  • Defiance
  • Aggression
  • Pain

Prominent brands:

  • Coca-Cola
  • Netflix
  • Levis
  • Canon

Blue is a cool color well-known for bringing feelings of peace and dependability. It also reflects trust and calmness. Brands leverage this color to exude serenity, trust, logic, and security.

Positive attributes:

  • Trust
  • Loyalty
  • Dependability
  • Logic
  • Serenity
  • Security

Negative attributes:

  • Coldness
  • Emotionless
  • Unfriendliness
  • Unappetizing

Prominent brands:

  • Facebook
  • Ford
  • PayPal
  • American Express

Yellow reflects youthfulness, happiness, fun, and sunshine. Different cultures also apprehend it as the color for prosperity and joy. It can be powerful to deploy as a complement to darker colors.

Positive attributes:

  • Optimism
  • Warmth
  • Happiness
  • Creativity
  • Intellect
  • Extroversion

Negative attributes:

  • Irrationality
  • Fear
  • Caution
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Cowardice

Prominent brands:

  • CAT
  • McDonald’s
  • Best Buy
  • Hertz
  • DHL

Green is a color that makes us think of eco-friendly branding and the concept of ‘going green’ right away. Right from an early age, we associate green with nature — it is refreshing, healthy, and resembles growth.

Positive attributes:

  • Health
  • Hope
  • Freshness
  • Nature
  • Growth
  • Prosperity

Negative attributes:

  • Boredom
  • Stagnation
  • Envy
  • Blandness
  • Debilitating

Prominent brands:

  • Android
  • Starbucks
  • British Petroleum
  • Energy Australia

Black is graceful and futuristic with connotations of wealth and class – think of the famous instance of the little black dress. That’s why several luxury brands like Chanel, Prada, Gucci, and Apple use it.

Positive attributes:

  • Sophistication
  • Security
  • Power
  • Elegance
  • Authority
  • Substance

Negative attributes:

  • Oppression
  • Coldness
  • Menace
  • Heaviness
  • Evil
  • Mourning

Prominent brands:

  • Nike
  • Chanel
  • Accenture
  • Hugo Boss

White reflects and highlights the absence of any color. But still, it’s known as a color, liked by most people. It conveys purity, cleanliness, and innocence.

Positive attributes:

  • Innocence
  • Purity
  • Cleanliness
  • Simplicity
  • Pristine

Negative attributes:

  • Sterility
  • Emptiness
  • Plainness
  • Caution
  • Distance

Prominent brands:

  • Adidas
  • Tesla
  • Sony
  • Apple

Magenta is leveraged classically for feminine brands, and it can be impactful. It’s a cheerful color that inspires comfort and reflects hope. Magenta is successfully used in traditional industries to stand out from the competition.

Positive attributes:

  • Imagination
  • Passion
  • Caring
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Quirkiness

Negative attributes:

  • Outrageousness
  • Rebelliousness
  • Flippancy
  • Impulsiveness

Prominent brands:

  • Donut King
  • InDesign
  • T-Mobile
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Barbie

Ready to Apply Color Psychology?

As a designer, it’s overly salient to understand the concept of color psychology. If you use colors in your designs without prioritizing color psychology, not that your design won’t work at all. 

It may work out of the blue, but it will fail most of the time. More importantly, you will need to connect emotionally to your target audience. 

By perceiving the concept of color psychology, you can nail your creative designs, keep consistency, and understand how your audience reacts to different color combinations.

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