Choosing Colours

From The Desktop Multimedia Bible by Jeff Burger

How colours communicate general moods or associated items

Colour Subliminal perception Associated item examples
Red Alert, danger, sexy, hot Stop, fire engine, blood, roses, hell
Orange Attention Pumpkin, popsicle
Blue Confident, royal, tranquil, comfort Sky, water, public information signs
Yellow Loyalty, fun Sun, banana, lemon, yield sign, butter
Green Nature, clean outdoors Plants, forest, money, go
Brown Earth Dirt, national park signs, chocolate
White Purity, cleanliness Wedding dress, clouds, heaven
Black Evil, elegant, mysterious Night, tuxedo, death
Pastels Soft, non-threatening, feminine female, Southwest, babies
Earth tones Nature Mother Earth
Saturated Loud, bold, capable, happy, strong Flags, corporate logos, crayons
Desaturated Old, weathered, drab Old photographs, expired products

Inherent qualities of colours

Cool colours: purple, blue, green. They seem to recede into the distance and offer stability. This implies their effective use as background colours.
Warm colours: red, yellow, orange. They appear to advance toward the viewer, implying foreground use.
Brilliance levels send messages as well. A reduction in brilliance adds warmth (such as oink istead of red). Lighter colours seem to have less weight than dark colours. Colours exhibit less brilliance in the distance than in the foreground.
If you intend to create visuals that convey realism, analyzing the world around you is a great place to start.

Concordance, Conflict, and Contrast

Remember these three principles from textual design. They can be used just as effetively when applying colour. Keep in mind the adage "Don't be a wimp". If you are looking for a certain exaggerated effect, don't go just halfway.


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Jane Fritz, jane@unb.ca

Last modified January 1997