Using Color Theory to Your Advantage

The visual aspect of your marketing campaigns is essential to getting good results. In online marketing, people form first impressions based on appearances before text—so if there’s something off with your visuals, they aren’t likely to investigate further. This holds true for your logo, website, banner ads, and any other online material that contributes to your business brand.

An understanding of basic color theory can help you create attention-grabbing marketing materials that stimulate interest in what you have to say.

Working with the color wheel

Most people are familiar with the color wheel. There are three levels of this basic tool for color theory—primary, secondary, and tertiary. Of course, the primary color wheel consists of the three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. The next level, the secondary color wheel, keeps those three and adds the results of mixing the possible combinations together to bring in green, orange, and purple. Finally, the tertiary color wheel includes the additional colors formed by mixing a primary and a secondary color—such as yellow-orange and blue-green.

Designers typically use the color wheel to choose a color scheme in one of two ways:

  1. Complementary: This involves choosing colors that complement each other, which are located on opposite sides of the wheel. Examples of complementary colors are blue and orange, or yellow and purple.
  2. Analogous: These are color combinations that neighbor each other on the wheel. For example, on a twelve-part color wheel with one color between each primary and secondary color, an analogous color scheme might include purple, blue, and blue-green.

Choosing colors that evoke

One good way to approach design using color theory is to select a main color that represents the feeling you want your marketing materials to convey, and then build either a complementary or an analogous color scheme around it. Here are a few color meanings to consider:

  • Blue is viewed as representing stability, influence, and expertise. It is commonly used as the predominant color for corporate websites.
  • Green may be viewed as a vitalizing color that represents health and safety. Many hospitals employ green as part of their color scheme. Some shades of green can also be associated with money.
  • Red is a powerful and passionate color that symbolizes a sense of urgency. However, too much red can be over-stimulating and may be viewed as anger or rage—so use this color sparingly for emphasis.
  • Yellow represents positivity, energy, and happiness. But an abundance of bright yellow is jarring, and dingy yellow shades can indicate laziness or caution.

While white and black are not on the color wheel, these shades can also be used to a positive effect. Black signifies elegance and sophistication, while white creates a clean, open feeling. However, it’s generally a good idea to avoid black backgrounds, as too much of it can feel gloomy and foreboding.

A basic understanding of color theory can help you improve the visual impact of your marketing materials, and strengthen your business’ brand.


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