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.

The Science of Color in Action

Have you ever visited two sites selling the same products, yet one seems more professional while the other is 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 — such as 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.

How to Make Smart Color Choices

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.

What Colors Are Right for Your Project?

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.

White and black: A black-and-white color scheme is a great way to emphasize important information on your site. It creates a minimalistic but modern look where text is simple to read and graphics are easy to discern.

Yellow-green and dark gray: The vibrancy of the green mixes with the muted gray to create a beautiful website scheme. The monotone palette lets you easily highlight buttons and offers.

White and shades of blue: Stability and reliability are conveyed with blue, which is why tech companies use it. White works well with it to connect two calming colors for your customers.

Black and neon blue: Blue works well for tech and futuristic sites since it’s often used to market technology. A black background with bright blue on top makes the important bits stand out.

Color gradients: One way to add modern appeal is through the use of a gradient. Mix it up by making half the screen white and the other colorful for the best results. This creates a clean but inspiring look.

White and bright red: These two colors (and similar ones) work well to emphasize the layout of a site. This tends to work well with a two-column design with the red making the site more eye-catching than other colors might.

Gold and royal blue: Create an elegant and professional website with gold and royal blue. These colors symbolize luxury, wealth, success, and prestige.

Purple and white: Using mostly white with a touch of another color can really add to the appeal of a site. Neutral colors combined with white are a great choice for a monochromatic look with a pop of color.

Getting Additional Help

There are two online tools that can help you identify appealing color combinations. The first is Adobe Color Wheel. 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 member's 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!