Colors that are traditionally considered feminine colors or that appeal most strongly to or are more closely associated with women can be good choices for marketing messages, Web sites, and interior designs targeting women. Color studies done over the years indicate that the favorite colors of women and men do differ. Some of these differences in favorite colors may be attributed to cultural use of color and conditioning.
Like men, women like blue and green but women are also strongly drawn to the blue-green mix of turquoise. Among their least favorite colors are the neutral brown and gray. And a color that men strongly dislike (not pink) is another feminine favorite.
There are no hard and fast rules about what colors are feminine or masculine or gender-neutral. Because colors come in many tints and shades, someone may love a light powder blue but strongly dislike a deep navy blue so a preference for the color blue doesn't mean that every shade of blue is universally appropriate. However, some generalizations are possible based on various color studies.
Women Like the Color BlueBlue is a favorite color of both men and women of all ages. While men have a stronger preference for blue than women, it's still a top choice. It may be the calming effect of the color blue that makes it a popular color for both men and women.
These words are synonymous with blue or represent various shades of the color blue: azure, baby blue,beryl, cerulean, cobalt, cornflower blue, corporate blue, cyan, indigo, midnight blue, navy, Prussian blue, robin's egg blue, royal, sapphire, sky blue, slate, steel blue. And these swatches show off the variety found in dark blue colors and light blue colors.
Women Like the Color GreenMother Nature is green and she's a female. A favored color of both men and women, the color green is cool, restful, and signifies growth, renewal, health, and environment.
These words are synonymous with green or represent various shades of the color green: apple, aquamarine, beryl, chartreuse, emerald, fir, forest, grass green, jade, kelly green, lawn green, leaf green, lime, mint, moss, olive, olive drab, pea green, pine, sage, sap, sea green, seafoam, spring green, viridian.
Women Like the Color TurquoiseAccording to a 1964 Color and Gender study, women favored blue-green (aka turquoise) more than men. This same study found that "76% of women preferred cool colors" and turquoise is a mix of the two cool colors of blue and green.
These words are synonymous with turquoise or represent various shades of the color turquoise: aqua, aquamarine, beryl, blue-green, cerulean, teal, ultramarine. And these swatches show off some of the many different hues we call turquoise colors.
Women Like the Color PurplePurple stands out as a feminine color because it is chosen almost exclusively by women as a favorite color and is strongly disliked by men. Traditionally associated with royalty,the color purple is also spirtual, romantic, and mysterious.
These words are synonymous with purple or represent various shades of the color purple: amethyst, eggplant, indigo, lavender, lilac, magenta, mauve, mulberry, orchid, plum, pomegranate, puce, royal, thistle, violet, wine.
Men May Like Women in PinkMost people still think of pink as a feminine, delicate color, the color for little girls. Does that mean women prefer pink? Not necessarily. The color pink and women is likely more of a cultural association than a strong preference. However, this cultural association could mean that pink is not the ideal color for targeting men.
"...when it comes to attracting the opposite sex, women will find that the color pink is a safe bet. While flattering, it also makes them appear vulnerable to men, and brings out a mans protective nature. Women who don’t want to attract a man who sees them as needing to be looked after, may decide to wear the statement color red." — Secrets of Attraction Two: Color
These words are synonymous with pink or represent various shades of the color pink: blush, coral, flesh, flush, fuchsia, hot pink, rose, salmon.
Women Like the Color LavenderA more grown-up and cooler version of the pink of baby girls and the lighter side of purple, the color lavender is associated with genteel ladies and can evoke feelings of nostalgia or romance for women. A 1990 study found that between bright and soft colors, women prefer soft colors which could include soft shades of pink, lavender, and other pastels.
These words are synonymous with lavender or represent various shades of the color lavender: lilac, mauve, orchid, plum, purple, thistle.
Choosing Colors for WomenShould any and everything aimed at women be colored in soft, cool pastels, or royal purple? No, of course not. There are many more factors involved in choosing colors. Gender is simply one consideration. To delve deeper into the issue of color and gender, start with The Meaning of Color for Gender by Natalia Khouw. Also see the references at the end of the Color Matters Research article for specific color studies and further research options.
The results of Joe Hallock's polls on color preferences by gender and age yield some interesting results. Those results include:
- Female Top 3 Favorite Colors: Blue, Purple, Green (all cool colors)
- Female Top 3 Least Favorite Colors: Orange, Brown, Gray (warm and neutral colors)
- Among favorite colors, preferences for green decrease with age (all genders).
- Among favorite colors, preferences for purple increase with age (all genders)
- Among least favorite colors (all genders), dislike of orange increases with age.
In Colour as a tool for e-branding (PDF), Na Ree Lee looks at the use of color in e-commerce. Among the case studies included in this article, it was found that colors used successfully for targeting young women in Australia failed to deliver when used to target women in Denmark. The lesson learned here is that color is only part of the equation. "Feminine colors" are not universal. The research also acknowledges that color on the Web and color in print differ in appearance which can affect the symbolism, preference, and psycological effect of certain colors and color combinations. C.O.P.E. investigated How Does Gender Color our Preferences and Decisions on the WWW? and found that blue was favored overwhelmingly by men and women. Limited in the number of colors studied and the number of study participants, the four colors were, in order of preference, blue, yellow, red, green. Personal preference was the main criteria in choosing a color from the choices offered, but context (background colors, adjacent colors, symbolism) and to a lesser extent readability also played a role in choosing colors.