How To Effectively Use Color To Improve Your Design
Updated: Jul 11
Color can make or break a graphic design, it attracts our attention, sets the mood, and influences our emotions. Using color in your graphic design is not about using whichever color one prefers for their design, it is about balance and meaning. That being said, without a structured theme, the design can become complicated with the use of color. Settling on a theme helps to bring complexity to the design without causing visual chaos.
Color Theme and Visual Balance
Whether you are designing a logo, brochure, or business card, the color combination you use plays a big part on how your design is received.
Color Theme Example
Here is a blue and white theme, complemented with red. As you can see the colors flow easily together in this design. You can also see white in the pictures, this ties them together well with the rest of the brochure.
Symmetry is naturally pleasing to the eye and is a key component in basic design. Balance essentially provides a sense of order, unity, and equilibrium. The design looks clean and professional, while not overly complex. The designer used only three colors in this scheme, which complemented each other, creating color balance. It is crucial to work with complementary colors that don’t strain the eyes or cause a headache. Using the wrong colors together can be visually confusing and hard to look at!
One of the best ways to create harmony in colors is by using a monochrome design. A monochrome scheme is a single color as the base, extended with different hues and shades. You can easily create a monochrome scheme by choosing one spot color, and then adjusting the saturation values lighter and/or darker to make different variations.
Color and Emotions
Each color we see evokes an emotional reaction and can change your mood. These types of emotions are part of our human nature. By utilizing the right colors, you can effectively show feelings and emotions in your design.
Warm colors, such as red, orange, and yellow, can create emotions ranging from comfort and warmth to anger and pain.
Cool colors, such as blue, green, purple, can cause emotions of calmness and relaxation to sadness.
While color symbolism exists globally, some symbolism can be more common within cultures. Not everyone will be affected the same way by seeing the same colors. It is important to remember who your target audience is and how your target audience will respond to color meaning.
Each color has a physiological response to us—here is a list of general emotions associated with common colors:
Green: Happiness and peace
Pink: Relaxation and tranquility
White: Security and purity
Red: Danger and energy
Blue: Calming and safety
Yellow: Optimism and cheerfulness
Purple: Prestige and sensitivity
Orange: Action and warmth
Improving Legibility with Color
When creating a design, it is important to create a contrast between text and background color. This will ensure the legibility of the text and creates a professional look. The contrast should be presented between darkness and lightness of each color. Having colors that clash and don’t contrast well together can strain your eyes and cause headaches.
How well can you read me? How about now?
This is Ideal. This is NOT
Color affects us all in many different ways—it will be one of the first things that people see and can cause someone to instantly like or dislike a design. Using colors that are not harmonious, using too many colors, or not enough can drive your target audience off before they truly see your content. You can truly add depth and impact how powerful your design is by choosing the right colors. You need to plan ahead and choose a color scheme from the start and be consistent with it throughout the whole design.