There are an infinite number of colors and shades. Have you ever been to a paint store? The array of “white paint” is impressive and takes up an entire section of the store on its own. Egret white, natural choice, white duck, shoji white, ivory lace, and incredible white all looked incredibly similar to me. Despite the nearly identical-seeming colors, I did witness a couple stare them down for generous amounts of time and debate before settling on “white duck.” I laughed, but when I approached the same wall to make my own decision I couldn’t bring myself to simply grab a shade that was amidst the general color I was shooting for. I too stared each one down for a while.
It reminds me of before we post our Instagram photos, when we’re still in the editing process. “This filter… or this one.” One makes the grass look green, the other makes the grass look a little blue. Why does it matter so much? Why do we care so much?
We care because color oftentimes carries message. For many individuals or agencies, color factors into their brand. What message are you trying to get across? For example: flowers and the connotation of each color. Maybe get your grandma a yellow rose, get the one you love a red rose (unless they request otherwise) and get your friend any color in between (or skip the rose altogether).
The human eye associates colors with messages. Red = stop. The message is probably a warning or a statement of alarm. Green = go. The message is positive, approving, or maybe they’re talking about the environment. Blue often evokes calm, but it can also mean sadness. Yellow, often associated with the sun, evokes happiness and energy, while orange and red gives a fiery feeling.
Complementary and analogous colors are just as important as a color standing alone. Mini art lesson: complementary colors are those that sit opposite of each other on the color wheel. The high contrast creates a vibrant look that works well if you want a message to stand out. For example, Christmas’s festive red and green. Analogous uses colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel. These are used for more serene and comfortable designs that are pleasing and gentle on the eyes, like the different shades of orange in a sunset.
Use colors thoughtfully when you communicate and when you design. If you’re doing a good enough job, you audience may know your message before you have to explain it.