Color Theory: Choosing the Right Mood

Aug 04th 2015

Color Theory: Choosing the Right Mood

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

Even if you have basic color theory down to a fine science, it’s not all about painting a pretty picture on a white canvas. When choosing colors for your website, branding, or something as simple as a brochure, you have to remember that each color has different emotional qualities. There are also a variety of different ways to use a color to show many different feelings – It all depends on how you use them! Here are the basic qualities of our beloved set of colors:



Red is danger, red is excitement, red is fights, fire and blood all in one! It’s a great color to use depending on the subject of your design, and can express many different emotions with a lighter or darker shade. It’s awesome to use in design to convey a strong message, and it is also proven to make people hungry. (You want a flaming apple now, don’t you?)

Design Tip: Design with power, and confidence. Don’t be afraid to use red. Try it out as an exciting background color, or mark important areas of your design.


An ambitious mix of red and yellow, it brings in emotional shades of both colors with a more well rounded appeal. It is strong like red, but it holds more warmth without losing energy. It is also more calming than a haphazard bright yellow. It can be attached to the fall season, from the beauty of changing leaves to a spooky Halloween surprise!

Design Tip: Orange and black don’t always mean Halloween or fall festivities. Try using different shades of Orange and pair it with a dark grey instead.



A symbol of the sun, it is happy, warm, and bright. Yellow feel clean, cheerful, and bright, but can also be flashy and attention-grabbing. Keep in mind, yellow is also used for caution and can be an eyesore if overused.

Design Tip: Use as a highlighter! Don’t overuse it, or it could start to feel obnoxious.



Green is naturally associated with being environmentally friendly. Designs featuring “natural” or “green” terms tend to follow in this color’s footsteps.  As well as being one of nature’s most abundant color, it is also a symbol of luck, tranquility and peace of mind.

Design Tip: Use for or a peaceful and low stress look. Vibrant greens are great for highlighting without being overly obnoxious and obtrusive.

“Color in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic.” ~ Antoni Gaudi



Blue is used widely in every media due to its calm and professional qualities. It is used often in business media, capturing a trustworthy and peaceful aura. But blue can also often associated with being sad and depressed because of it’s calming effects.

Design Tip: Using too much of a dull blue can wash out your design, and create an unwanted sad mood toward your audience.


Everybody knows that purple is a color associated with royalty. Deep shades of purple can be luxurious, giving off that feeling of status or class. Many luxury items like jewelry or alcohol may be packaged in a deep purple.

Design Tip: Lighter shades of purple will feel the opposite of luxury and feel like a the soft spring time weather.



It may come off as being strong and bold, but is very versatile when used in design. It is powerful, especially when contrasted against lighter colors. Black can be intelligent and sophisticated, but can also be eerie or melancholy as the color of death and mourning.

Design Tip: You can start off your designs in black and white. Visual elements like logos should always be able to work in black and white.



White is the ultimate symbol of purity, the empty canvas waiting to be painted. It is often used in design to create a sense of space and have a clean open feel.

Design Tip: White is great for minimal design. Use white space thoughtfully and with purpose instead of letting it reside in the background.

Color Inspiration

Sometimes you just don’t know what colors you want to use or pair your colors with. Or maybe you have a certain color in mind that you want to use, but just don’t know what other colors you want to pair them with. Try out Palettron with super customizable hues and shades to get the perfect pair of colors for your design. Adobe Color CC is another similar site, with an easy to use color rule and an easily-customizable color wheel. Though if you’re not particularly sure what color you want to use, Colour Lovers has tons of user submitted color palettes to browse through.

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