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Color Meanings

The meaning of color impacts all our visual communications. How do your color choices stack up? © J. Bear

| Complementary Colors | Harmonizing Colors | Common Color Combination Schemes
Mixed Warm and Cool Colors

These colors pull a little bit from the warm (reds or yellows) and a bit from the cool (blues) sides of the color wheel.

Jacci Howard Bear; licensed to About.com
Neutral Colors

Neutral colors are warm and cool shades of black, gray, brown, beige, and white.

Jacci Howard Bear; licensed to About.com

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 About.com 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 use those colors.

The Meaning of Cool Colors & 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 & 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.

  • Red is all about love, passion, heat, joy, power
    Also see: blood red | crimson | scarlet | vermilion


  • Pink is sweet, nice, romantic, playful, delicate
    Also see: fuchsia


  • 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 & 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 & 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



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