Color Theory: The Basics

Color theory is the intersection of art and science.  While color is often based on feelings there is scientific evidence to explain why certain colors work together and why they make us feel different emotions.  It is a powerful tool, especially in business, and can define the mood of a product or place.  This is because colors and emotions are directly related.  Colors can make us feel a wide variety of emotions due to psychological effects and cultural norms.

Color Theory: The Basics I Cloth & Stitch

 

Colors are organized in a wheel and grouped into three main categories: primary, secondary and tertiary.  Another prominent way to divide color is by temperature.  There are two groups for this: warm colors and cool colors.  Half of the color wheel are warm colors: red, orange, yellow, etc.  These colors evoke feelings of happiness, warmth, and optimism.  However the brighter and more saturated they become the feelings can change.  For instance when red becomes more heavily saturated it often is used as an attention grabbing technique or to signify danger. 

Color Theory: The Basics I Cloth & Stitch

 

Additionally, we have cool colors.  Cool colors (green, blue, purple) make up the second half of the color wheel and are usually associated with feelings of peace and calm.  However, on the flipside they are also used to represent sadness hence the saying “feeling blue”.


What do your favorite colors say?


Red: funnily enough when red is saturated it often makes us feel hungry.  Additionally, the color can make us feel energized, passionate, but can also be overwhelming.  It has been shown that a bright red can elevate a person’s heart rate.


Orange: this color helps make us feel energized but balanced.  It has similar properties to the color red but is more subdued.  It is frequently used as a call to action color in business as it portrays a friendly but positive energy.


Yellow: yellow is the color of the sun and thus portrays feelings of happiness.  It is, also, used to represent freedom.  While the color is beautiful and fun it can also be incredibly overwhelming so it should be used sparingly.


Green: green is the color of nature and thus makes us feel healthy and refreshed.  Green is one of the easiest colors for our eyes to digest so it is often used as a symbol for balance and wellness.


Blue: blue is one of the most popular colors.  It evokes feelings of calm, tranquility, and spirituality.  It has long been used in the marketing world to make brands feel more palatable to a wider audience (eg. Facebook and Twitter).  There is evidence that seeing the color blue makes the body release chemicals that calm us down.


Purple: purple is the color of royalty.  It is most heavily associated with creativity, success, and wealth.  While, like blue, it is thought to help relax the body in business it is used primarily to exhibit products of luxury and beauty.


Pink: this is a fun and playful color that is most frequently used to represent romance and femininity.


Brown: this is one of the colors most commonly associated with the earth.  Brown is natural and makes us feel secure and grounded.  When used in design it emotes feelings of stability.  It is a dependable color even if it sometimes looks a bit old fashioned.


Gray: gray is typically used as a serious color.  It is commonly used in professional settings as it exudes feelings of dependability and professionalism.


White: white is the color of minimalism and simplicity.  People usually associate it with purity and innocence.


Black: the color black is used to establish feelings of seriousness and respectability.  It is a bold and powerful color that can be used to establish a feeling of mystery.  Additionally, in many cultures it is the color of death and mourning. 

Color Theory: The Basics I Cloth & Stitch