The Meaning of Colors

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Understanding the meaning of colors as well as the cultural use of color and how colors interact is important in print and electronic design (and other fields) in order to convey the right tone, message, and evoke the desired response to the brochure, newsletter, ad, Web site, or other publication (as well as clothing, household products, and room decor). Colors are non-verbal communication. They create a physical and emotional reaction.

We'll explore these reactions below.

This page and all its individual color meaning pages have been copied in whole or in part many times over by others. On these pages, you will find my original, frequently updated, and ever-expanding and detailed look at the meaning of the many colors of our world, no matter how you want to see those colors.

The Meaning of Cool Colors and Their Positive Attributes

Cool colors tend to have a calming effect. At one end of the spectrum, they are cold, impersonal, antispectic colors. At the other end, the cool colors are comforting and nurturing. Blue, green, and the neutrals white, gray, and silver are examples. Learn more about these cool colors.

The Meaning of Warm Colors and Their Positive Attributes

Warm colors convey emotions from simple optimism to strong violence.

The warmth of red, yellow, pink, or orange can create excitement or even anger. The neutrals of black and brown also carry warm attributes. Find out more about these warm colors.

  • Yellow is happy, joyful, cheerful, and for remembrance
  • Gold represents riches, extravagance, bright, traditional
  • Orange is energy, warmth, change, health

The Meaning of Mixed (Warm/Cool) Colors and Their Positive Attributes

Colors with attributes from both the warm and cool colors can calm and excite. These are colors derived from a mix of a cool and warm color such as blue and red or blue and yellow. Typically considered cool, green is really more of a mixed warm and cool color. Specific shades of individual colors may lean more to the warm or cool side. A grassy green is warmer than a deep, watery blue-green.

The Meaning of Neutral Colors and Their Positive Attributes

Neutral colors help to put the focus on other colors or serve to tone down colors that might otherwise be overpowering on their own. To some extent, blacks, browns, tans, golds, and beige are considered warm. While white, ivory, silver, and gray are somewhat cooler colors.

Yet these warm and cool attributes are flexible and more subtle than that of reds or blues.

  • Black reveals itself as conservative, mysterious, sophisticated
  • Gray goes formal, conservative, sophisticated
  • Silver says sleek, glamorous, rich
  • White is for purity, innocence, softness
  • Ivory whispers quiet, pleasant, understated elegance
  • Brown is earthiness, wholesomeness, simplicity, friendliness
  • Beige is conservative, relaxing