Colors: A Primer for Color Psychology

Art and advertising share a great deal of common ground. There are the psychological impacts of colors, how the eye is drawn from one place to another, and the emotions of the shapes. This is a highly simplified explanation of how to use these design elements in web design. With these simple concepts, you can increase the recognition of you website.

On the color pie there are three primary colors: Red, Yellow and Blue, every kid knows that. Blending these colors gives you secondary colors: Green, Orange, Purple and Brown. Varying the intensity gives shades or tints, depending on if they are lightened or darkened.

Each color has a specific effect on the subconscious of the people viewing. Red tends to elicit excitement and attention. For instance that is why in a great deal of the world, stop signs are red, because it grabs attention and stands out against a great deal of other signs. Red is also used for occasions such as Valentine’s Day to elicit excitement and interest.

Blue on the other hand is generally used as a subduing color, to relax people. There was a study in Glasgow Scotland where blue lighting was set up instead of the regular street lights. There was an anecdotal report of lowered crime rates in those areas. Additionally the tactic has been used by a Japanese train company in hopes that it will lower suicide rates at their train stations.

Yellow is generally accepted as a happy color, eliciting feelings of joy. Yellow also grabs attention well, forcing one to focus on it, hence the use with legal pads. Interestingly when people are constantly around yellow they tend to lose their temper more easily and Yellow is the hardest color for the eye to take in.

Green is the color of nature, and very popular decorating color recently. Green elicits calm, helping people to relax. Before people go on television, many of them sit in green rooms to in order to calm their nerves. Green is also the easiest color for the eye to take in.

Purple is the color of the Roman Emperor. It implies Luxury and wealth. This is a great color for trying to elicit serious interest in anything upscale or elite. Purple also seldom appears in nature. This can give it an offsetting feel if used inappropriately.

The color pie is very interesting, and playing around with the color schemes on your webpage too often will likely unsettle people. So when you are designing a webpage, try to find out what kind of palate would interest or excite (depending on your intention) your target audience. Where do you want the attention drawn? Is there anything you want attention driven from?

After deciding on a palate the web design becomes much easier. Because you can understand the effects of colors, and the colors you are using, designing the lines you intend to use becomes more strait forward. In the end, color choice becomes an integral part of web design.


Mallesh Bonigala, an entrepreneur since 1999, specializes in Logo Design, graphic design, branding, website design and content management applications.

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