Color Graphics: the Power of Color in Graphic Design

May 13, 2024Dianne Eberhardt

Color is the user's first impression of a website, app, or platform. It sets the mood and tone and can lead to impulsive purchases or specific courses of action.

As a designer, when creating graphic layouts, you should always keep in mind that colors are so powerful they shape our perspective without using words.

This article explores the science of color, uncovering how to convey messages effectively by mastering its core principles.

What Is Color in Visual Design?

In visual design, color is a strategic tool applied within projects to evoke emotions, convey meaning, capture the audience's attention, and create a compelling visual impact that aligns with an intended message.

Research has demonstrated the influence of color on purchasing decisions, highlighting the importance of color practice. The use of color extends from the product design to the packaging and the digital interfaces through which they are accessed.

What Is the Importance of Color in Graphic Design?

Integrating color thoughtfully throughout the design project is essential for achieving success.

To resonate with a target audience, designers need to understand both the public and the nuanced meanings associated with different colors and their combinations. The chosen color palette can evoke specific emotions, influencing the audience’s reactions and behaviors significantly.

Let’s delve deeper into this concept.

Emotional Impact

Color generates emotional responses. Let’s review the most basic associations:

  • Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow give a sense of energy, passion, and optimism.
  • Cool colors like blue, purple, and green are linked to tranquility, relaxation, and peace.

But there’s more to it. Did you know that purple symbolizes spirituality and black represents sophistication? We’ll explore further details later on.


The Color Marketing Group (CMG) continually researches color trends to boost seasonal sales, revealing that color can increase brand recognition by up to 80%.

Consistency in the use of colors promotes a unified visual identity across platforms and products.

Visual Hierarchy

Color guides the viewer's eye through a design, highlighting important information and helping them recognize objects easily.

Contrast and intensity create focal points to strengthen visual communication.


Colors carry diverse meanings and cultural associations. For example, when filling a form, red might indicate missing or wrong fields, while green signals completed and correct inputs.

Understanding these associations helps designers choose colors that align with the intended message. In one of our previous blog posts, you can learn more about how to create a strong color palette.

Understanding Color Psychology in Graphic Design

Colors have psychological associations deeply rooted in our brains. Mastering these associations allows designers to create emotionally engaging user experiences.

Let's explore some common color combinations and their associated emotions:

  • Red: Evokes passion, energy, and urgency. Strategically used, it grabs attention and emphasizes importance.
  • Orange: Represents enthusiasm and warmth, adding a playful touch to designs.
  • Yellow: Symbolizes happiness and optimism, conveying positivity.
  • Green: Often linked with nature and sustainability, bringing freshness and vitality to designs.
  • Blue: Signifies calmness and reliability, commonly used in professional settings to instill trust.
  • Purple: Connotes creativity and spirituality, offering a blend of mystery and elegance.
  • Black: Represents sophistication and elegance, adding a touch of formality and exclusivity.
  • White: Stands for purity, simplicity, and cleanliness, offering a modern and aesthetic appeal.

As a designer, your job involves triggering the right emotions through color balance and contrast.

Color Theory in Graphic Design

The color wheel is a timeless tool for artists and designers, displaying different colors and mixing possibilities.

Choosing a color palette is one of the most important steps in the design process. It must align with the brand's identity, the message, and the audience.

For example, would you use calming blue for an important payment reminder? While the choice of color may seem straightforward, it's sometimes easy to overlook the obvious.

Using multiple colors can be tempting, but remember that less is more. In many cases, monochromatic color in graphic design can be just as, if not more, impactful than color combinations.

Primary colors

This encompasses blue, red, and yellow.

Secondary colors

These are colors created by mixing two primary colors.

  • Purple is a combination of red and blue.
  • Orange results from mixing red and yellow.
  • Green is formed by blending yellow and blue.

Complementary colors

These are pairs of colors that lie opposite each other on the color wheel. They create a contrast to highlight concepts, appearing brighter and more vibrant when placed together.

Split complementary colors

This is an adaptation of the complementary color scheme. Select a base color and combine it with two neighboring colors.


These colors are created from a main color and two or three additional colors on the sides (left or right).

An analogous color scheme conveys harmony and balance using one primary color and three accent colors.


Also called tertiary colors, they result from mixing primary and secondary colors, like red-orange or blue-purple.

How to Use Color in Graphic Design?

The use of color in graphic design influences how we interpret information and can evoke specific emotions and actions. It's an essential tool in a designer's toolkit.

Creating memorable designs involves aligning the colors of a product (whether physical or digital) with the brand's identity, applying color theory, considering factors like visual weight, and utilizing color as a functional element to simplify interaction.

Here are some tips to guide your use of color:

1. Define the mood you want to transmit

As we’ve mentioned before, colors can stir feelings.

Be mindful of this when designing. Familiarize yourself with color theory, as well as the meanings and symbolism associated with each color to effectively convey your message.

2. Choose a color palette

Choose a color palette to maintain consistency with the brand's identity and core values. Applying color theory will help you achieve harmony and balance while minimizing user confusion.

3. Establish visual hierarchy

Visual hierarchy involves using different hues to guide the viewer's attention, emphasize, and organize information.

Some principles to consider are:

  • Contrast: to distinguish between important and less important elements.
  • Intensity: using variations in brightness and saturation to create focal points.
  • The combination of size and color.

4. Use color contrast

Color contrast offers differentiation, ensuring users identify and interact with desired elements, improving usability.

If you design a landing page, the call-to-action button must stand out from the surrounding elements for the user to identify and interact with it.

5. Pay attention to accessibility

Consider a broader audience and prioritize accessibility, ensuring sufficient contrast between text and background to enhance legibility.

A pro tip is to avoid relying solely on color to convey meaning, as color blindness is more common than you might think.

A/B testing your designs with real users will allow you to gather valuable feedback and ensure you've considered all possible options.

Tools and Resources for Working with Color

Working with color is complex but equally fun. Besides color psychology and color theory, some tools improve your color skills.

Here’s a curated list of some of our favorite tools:

  • Adobe Color is a website that allows you to create a color palette from the color wheel and then integrate it with Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • Coolors is an online palette generator that provides trends and inspiration.
  • Colors.lol offers a site for “overly descriptive color palettes” to create contrast and visual impact.
  • Copypalette.app specializes in monochromatic palettes.
  • Data color picker is ideal for data visualization purposes.
  • Grabient is a minimalistic tool that has gradient color palettes.

Books also remain invaluable tools for mastering color use. Some recommended reads include Color Harmony by Hideaki Chijiiwa, Interaction of Color by Josef Albers, and The Designer’s Dictionary of Color by Sean Adams.

Achieve success in visual design with The Design Project

UX/UI is our passion and color is a fundamental element that plays a key role in graphic design.

At The Design Project, we collaborate with diverse industries to craft custom designs that bridge the gap between humans and technology in meaningful ways.

Through UX good practices, user insights, and intuitive interfaces, we help your company or project stand out from the crowd and achieve your goals.

Let’s get you started by booking a free discovery call in our calendar!

Dianne Eberhardt

Dianne Eberhardt

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