The Science of Choosing the Perfect Color

Whether you choose to believe it or not, the colors you use in your designs can have a major psychological impact on your customers. This science is called color psychology. Color psychology is the idea that by using specific colors, you can induce certain emotions or reactions. When we design a layout, we place a lot of importance on choosing the right color combination (or palette) so that the piece produces the desired effect. It's never a random choice or a reflection of our mood for the day. Instead, we have your customer's emotional response as our prime objective.

Have you ever visited two sites selling the same products, yet one seems more professional while the other more amateur? Color choice may explain this disparity — at least in part. If a site has a black backdrop with red text, your customers may feel anxious unless they are younger and like edgy and aggressive graphics — say, a videogame. If, on the other hand, you were advertising a spa that offers relaxing massage in serene surroundings, it would make more sense to go with softer hues that are milder and more pleasing.

Not every designer possesses the talent for creating color combinations that induce the desired sentiment. This is why it is necessary to utilize resources and tools that will help you improve these choices. The Pantone System, and other color systems like it, can help you make sense of all of your vast color choices. To give yourself a deeper appreciation of the effects of color psychology, you should consider reading Leatrice Eiseman’s Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color. Eiseman takes a very close look at how even the smallest color decisions can impact the psychological message you are delivering to your viewer. Her book applies to all marketing pursuits, branding efforts, and design projects and is recommended reading for anyone interested in the field of color psychology.

When designing a website, for instance, you are obviously going to want to create a welcoming and inviting environment where your online customers will want to read, shop, and return. In order to accomplish this, you will want to use colors such as:

Blues: Blue hues tend to make viewers feel calm, safe, and focused. By using blue for your site, your viewers may associate your site with dependability and loyalty.

Greens: Green is another calming and welcoming color, associated with success, wealth, generosity, and support.

Yellows: Yellows are a great way to lighten your page, and evoke feelings of happiness and optimism. Too much yellow can be overwhelming, so this color is normally an accent color.

There are two online tools that can help you identify appealing color combinations. The first is Adobe Kuler. Community members post their favorites online, which you can view on the home page. If you register on the site, you can then get busy trying out your own ideas. The second is a blog called ColourLovers. This is much more of a members site and you'll find a worldwide community of people who are passionate about color and what it can do. Both these sites allow you to download the color sets for loading into the swatch palettes in design applications like Photoshop, Quark Xpress, InDesign and Illustrator. This is handy because then you don't have to painstakingly add each color value by hand. Happy hunting!

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