Promo University

The Psychology of Color & How to Create the Best Scheme for Your Company

Alyssa Mertes

Published: May 29th, 2021

The right color scheme can make or break your business. It's something to pay attention to in all areas of your marketing, whether it's your logo, product packaging, website, billboards, or outdoor banners. Overall, color influences 85% of a shopper's purchase decision. 85%!

That number is high enough that it's worth considering. So let's get into the psychology of color, and how you can create the best scheme for your company.

What is a Color Wheel?

A color wheel is a visual representation of hues and how they work together. It shows the relationship between 12 different colors based on either the RYB (red, yellow, blue) or RGB (red, green, blue) color model.

infographic color wheel

Every color wheel features:


  • Primary colors
  • Secondary colors
  • Tertiary colors
Colorwheel 1

Primary Colors

Colors that, when added together, create pure white.


  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Blue
  • Green
Colorwheel 2

Secondary Colors

Colors that can be created by mixing together two primary colors.


  • Purple
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Cyan (RGB model)
  • Magenta (RGB model)
  • Yellow (RGB model)
Colorwheel 2

Tertiary Colors

Colors that are created by mixing a secondary color with a primary color.


  • Red-orange
  • Yellow-orange
  • Yellow-green
  • Blue-green
  • Blue-violet
  • Red-violet
  • Orange (RGB model)
  • Chartreuse green (RGB model)
  • Spring green (RGB model)
  • Azure (RGB model)
  • Violet (RGB model)
  • Rose (RGB model)

You can take an entire class in college to learn color theory, but let's just talk about the basics.

The color wheel is broken down into warm and cool colors. Warm colors (reds, yellows, and oranges) are meant to evoke coziness and energy, while cool colors (blues, purples, and greens) are all about serenity and isolation.

Furthermore, each color scheme found in the wheel is meant to help you find harmony and balance in your design. You pair these colors together to create an aesthetic that's visually pleasing, while also communicating your company's values to customers.

Other Useful Color Vocabulary

  • Hue - any color on the color wheel
  • Neutral - black, white, or gray
  • Shade - created by adding black to any base color
  • Tint - created by adding white to any base color
  • Tone - created by adding black & white (gray) to any base color
  • Saturation - intensity or purity of the color
  • Luminance - the amount of light in a color

What Do Colors Mean for Marketing?

When creating a color palette for your business, it's important to think about color psychology. Through research, experts have determined that each color can cause a psychological or physiological reaction in the viewer!

Here's how it all breaks down:

Red

Red

You often see red used by fast food restaurants. Why? It's because this color is associated with excitement, stimulates the appetite, and increases people's heart rates.


Red

Feelings associated with red:


  • Excitement
  • Energy
  • Desire
  • Action
  • Love
  • Hunger
  • Romance
  • Attentiveness
  • Risk
orange

Orange

Do you want your company to come across as energetic? Be sure to incorporate orange in your color scheme. Shoppers who see this color are more likely to make impulsive decisions, which is why orange is often used for call-to-action buttons in web design.


orange

Feelings associated with orange:


  • Optimism
  • Rejuvenation
  • Action
  • Fun
  • High energy
  • Caution
  • Impulsiveness
  • Cheerfulness
  • Affordability
yellow

Yellow

Be sunny by using yellow in your company's color palette. This bright hue evokes happiness, creativity, and optimism. Many color theorists believe it's the most eye-catching color, which is why it's commonly used for company color schemes. In fact, an analysis of the top 100 brands in the world found that 13% use yellow or gold in their company colors.


yellow

Feelings associated with yellow:


  • Happiness
  • Confidence
  • Friendliness
  • Enthusiasm
  • Hopefulness
  • Creativity
  • Warmth
  • Playfulness
Green

Green

Go for a natural look by using green in your color scheme. With thoughts of lush trees and grass, this is a wonderful hue for eco-friendly organizations. Green is also linked to good health and calm vibes, which is why it's great for hospitals and medical centers.


Green

Feelings associated with green:


  • Harmony
  • Balance
  • Growth
  • Refreshment
  • Reassurance
  • Good health
  • Calmness
  • Generosity
  • Vibrancy
Blue

Blue

If you want your brand to come across as reliable and tranquil, use blue in your color scheme. Think about a blue sky or a calm ocean. Blue is associated with peace, security, and trust. It's no wonder 33% of the world's top brands use blue in their color scheme. .


Blue

Feelings associated with blue:


  • Reliability
  • Serenity
  • Peace
  • Comfort
  • Trustworthiness
  • Honesty
  • Authority
  • Consistency
  • Loyalty
Purple

Purple

Purple is a bold, unique color to use in your palette. It's known as a "royal color," making your company seem superior to others. Purple also reflects wisdom and luxury, which is why beauty and cosmetics companies love using this powerful hue.


Purple

Feelings associated with Purple:


  • Superiority
  • Luxuriousness
  • Wisdom
  • Individuality
  • Royalty
  • Imaginativeness
  • Glamour
  • Dignity
  • Spirituality
  • Intrigue
Pink

Pink

Hey there, trendsetter! You're a hot, up-and-coming company that wants to appeal to a young audience. Pink is the perfect color for you! It's attractive, bright, and thought of as being fashionable and carefree.


Pink

Feelings associated with pink:


  • Trendiness
  • Carefree
  • Youthfulness
  • Attractiveness
  • Fashionable
  • Brightness
  • Passion
  • Relaxation
  • Fantasy
  • Upbeat
Brown

Brown

Your company is down-to-earth and laidback. Communicate that earthy vibe by using brown in your color scheme. This color may seem dull, but don't be fooled. It's associated with comfort, elegance, and reliability.


Brown

Feelings associated with brown:


  • Laidback
  • Approachability
  • Comfort
  • Elegance
  • Reliability
  • Earthiness
  • Dependability
  • Old-fashioned
  • Traditionalism
Gray

Gray

Gray skies on a rainy day make you feel kind of "blah." But when used in a company's color scheme, studies show this hue makes people think of wisdom, intelligence, and stability. We associate expertise with gray since many of our elders have gray hair. That same knowledgeableness will be associated with your company if you use gray in your color palette.


Gray

Feelings associated with gray:


  • Expertise
  • Knowledgeableness
  • Intelligence
  • Stability
  • Neutrality
  • Modernity
  • Professionalism
  • Efficiency
White

White

No color is more pure than white. With its simplicity, white is often used by formal industries like doctors and scientists. This color is also thought to convey newness, professionalism, and cleanliness. For this reason, 75% of skin care brands like Dove and Neutrogena are packaged in white..


White

Feelings associated with white:


  • Simplicity
  • Purity
  • Directedness
  • Professionalism
  • Cleanliness
  • Newness
  • Practicality
  • Conservativeness
  • Freshness
Black

Black

Black can be a great accent color in your company's palette. Psychologists believe that this dark shade represents power, tradition, and sophistication. It's a very popular color with tech startups. In fact, roughly 27% of tech companies use black in their logo, followed closely by blue and gray.


Black

Feelings associated with black:


  • Sophistication
  • Elegance
  • Powerfulness
  • Strength
  • Authority
  • Drama
  • Control
  • Mystery
  • Formality

Carefully think about what you want to communicate to customers and select your brand colors accordingly. The next step is to pair these hues together in an appealing scheme that you will use everywhere, from your logo to your product packaging.

Did you know?

Pantone has chosen a "Color of the Year" since 2000. This hue is inspired by pop culture and has a huge influence on fashion trends, home décor, and advertising.

What Are the Different Color Schemes?

You can use the color wheel to create your very own palette! The following schemes can be made using the wheel:


  • Complementary Color Scheme
  • Monochromatic Color Scheme
  • Analogous Color Scheme
  • Triadic Color Scheme
  • Tetradic Color Scheme
Icon color wheel 1

Complementary Color Scheme

This is two colors that are on opposite sides of the color wheel, such as blue and orange. A complementary scheme is typically very colorful and vibrant.


Logos That Use Complementary Colors

Quality Logo Products

L.A. Lakers Wikipedia.org

7Up Wikipedia.org


Icon color wheel 5

Monochromatic Color Scheme

A monochromatic color scheme uses various shades, tones, or tints of one base color. It's a very professional look that's great for formal industries like law, education, or medicine.


Logos That Use Monochromatic Colors

Earley Law Firm serp.co

Holiday Inn Nimblecms.com

GameCube creativeblog.com


Icon color wheel 6

Analogous Color Scheme

Stick within the same color family for an analogous color scheme. This can be done using three colors that are side by side on the color wheel. You want 1 dominant color with 1 or 2 colors as accents.


Logos That Use Analogous Colors

Frito-Lay wikipedia.org

Holiday Inn thedesignwork.com

GameCube wikipedia.org


Icon color wheel 7

Triadic Color Scheme

A triadic color scheme is very colorful, using 3 colors evenly spaced apart on the color wheel. It's a bold palette that's best for fun, energetic companies.


Logos That Use Triadic Colors

Burger king wikipedia.org
Sunkist sunkist.com
Folgers folgerscoffee.com

Icon color wheel 8

Tetradic Color Scheme

You won't find a palette more colorful than a tetradic color scheme, which uses 4 colors on the wheel spaced evenly apart. It's a look that can be difficult to balance, but worth the effort if you want a vibrant color scheme.


Logos That Use Tetradic Colors

windows wikipedia.org
google hubspot.com
ebay ebay.com

How Do You Choose a Color Scheme?

It might seem overwhelming to put a color scheme together, especially if you don't know the first thing about graphic design. To get started, think about your business and what you're trying to represent.

Here are some suggestions!

Complementary Color Scheme

Complementary color scheme

Think pairings. If you work closely with others, this could be a good color scheme for you. It's great for B2B companies or businesses that offer direct services like spa treatments, party planning, auto work, or personal training.

Best For: Hair salons, spas, groomers, wedding planners, marketing companies, fitness centers, gyms, mechanics

Monochromatic Color Scheme

monochromatic color scheme

A monochromatic color scheme exudes professionalism. By using the same colors, you're showing customers that they can trust your company to be consistent. Try this scheme if you work in healthcare, law, finance, or construction.

Best For: Banks, hospitals, medical centers, law firms, accounting firms, construction companies, manufacturing, organic food brands, non-profits

Analogous Color Scheme

Analogous color scheme

Are you a trendy company with a mostly Gen Z target audience? Catch their eye with an analogous color scheme. With its one-hue-to-the-next aesthetic, this palette is also great for companies associated with travel like hotels, gas stations, and airlines.

Best For: Fashion stores, entertainment venues, distilleries, social media apps, hotels, gas stations, airlines, car companies, travel agencies

Triadic Color Scheme

Triadic color scheme

Customers come to your company to have a good time. Exude optimism and joy with a triadic color scheme. It's a colorful look that's impossible not to notice. Since this scheme is a bit louder than others, it's great for high-energy places like theme parks and ice cream shops.

Best For: Arcades, theme parks, zoos, chain restaurants, bakeries, ice cream shops, junk food brands, bars, coffee shops

Tetradic Color Scheme

Triadic color scheme

You're a bold company with a forward-thinking mentality. Reflect that by using a tetradic color scheme. Many big name brands have used this palette like Google and Windows. The multiple colors show you're a brand that's willing to take risks and go big!

Best For: Tech companies, cell phone providers, electronics manufacturers, telecommunications, apps, ecommerce stores


Overall, you know what hits your eye right and what seems a little funky. If you need to darken a color, or add another hue, more power to you! Experiment until you find a color scheme for your business that you love.

Where to Use Your Color Scheme

Now that you have a palette, it's time to start using it! Be sure that your company colors are found in all of the following:

Mcdonalds arches

Logo

Your company logo is hands down the most important part of your brand identity. Repetition is key once you've decided on the colors and design. Customers need to see a logo 5 to 7 times before they recognize it and associate it with a business.

website

Website

Over half of consumers will leave a website if it has an unappealing color palette. The bar on ecommerce has been raised, so it's more important now than ever to make sure you have a low bounce rate. Use your brand colors on your website, but keep everything fairly subdued, neutral, and easy on the eyes.

Phone

Social Media

It should come as no surprise that your brand can reach a ton of customers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In fact, 21% of customers follow their favorite brands on social media. Send the right impression by using your color scheme in your profile pic and in posts whenever possible.

Colon bottle

Product Packaging

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and 72% of American consumers base their purchasing design on the packaging design. Use a visually-pleasing color scheme, and if possible, make your packaging look like a gift that's just waiting to be opened!

Starbucks sign

Signage

Who wants to look at plain, boring signs? Use your company's color scheme in all of your signage - from the one above your front door, the banners that hang at your trade shows, and the flags that wave near busy roads in your community.

Billboard

Billboards

It may seem old-fashioned, but billboards can still be a great way to advertise. The background should be your company's dominant color, while the text should be 10 to 15 characters that get the point across at a quick glance.

Printed ads

Printed Ads

If you're a new business, it's not a terrible idea to mail printed ads and coupons to homes in your local area. Direct mail is still a lucrative marketing strategy as 90% of mailers get opened as compared to only 20% to 30% of business emails. Incorporate your company colors in the ads for the biggest impact.

 employee making coffee

Employee Uniforms

Do you manage a restaurant, store, or coffee shop? Order t-shirts, hats, and other corporate apparel in your chosen brand colors. This is great for your employees to wear on the clock, but you can also sell it as branded swag to your biggest fans.

store interior decor

Store Interior & Décor

For brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants, be sure to paint the walls, set up displays, and hang up artwork that's reflective of your brand colors. If you've ever gone into a Victoria's Secret store, for example, you'll notice all of the vibrant pink on the walls and displays. Shoppers should almost feel as though they're stepping directly into their logo!

Shop Popular Promotional Items

Promotional Items

Whether you’re going to a trade show or trying your hand at guerilla marketing, it’s important to have freebies to give away to customers. The promotional items you use, from stress balls to pens to phone cases, should all have your color scheme somewhere in the final product.

Can Color Increase Sales in Business?

The right color scheme is a big deal when it comes to marketing your company. It can get customers to notice you, and as a result, increase sales of your products and services.

These studies prove how color affects your bottom line:

Icon color wheel 9

Study #1: Red Increases eBay Bids

A study published in The Journal of Consumer Research showed how color affects shoppers on eBay. 78 undergraduate students were asked to bid on a Nintendo Wii that was being sold on the auction site. The Wiis that were set up in front of a red background received more aggressive bids than the consoles that were pictured in front of a blue background.

Icon color wheel 10

Study #2: Colorful Palettes Are More Recognizable

In the book "Color for Impact: How Color Can Get Your Message Across - or Get in the Way," author Jan V. White notes how the more colorful your logo, the more recognizable your business. In fact, colorful logos and ads are recognized 42 times more often than black-and-white versions of the designs.

Icon color wheel 11

Study #3: Blue Leads to Repeat Visitors

This is an important study for brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants. A study published in the Journal of Business Research found that patrons are 15% more likely to return to stores with blue color schemes instead of orange color schemes. While this doesn't mean you should avoid orange completely, it does mean that many people love the color blue.

Icon color wheel 12

Study #4: Green & Gray Cause Relaxation

Do you manage a spa or resort? You might want to pay attention to this fascinating study published by Sage Journals. 5,000 students were asked how they felt upon entering a Palm Inn that used shades of green and gray paint on the wall. The majority reported feeling "psychologically warm" and "invited."

Research is still being done to see just how much of an impact color has on spending, but one thing's for sure, it's worth taking your time and selecting your brand colors carefully. A good scheme can increase sales and encourage new customers to try out your business!

Why is Color Important in Marketing?

Color slides

Color is important in marketing because it’s associated with thoughts, feelings, and actions. You’re sending a visual message to customers about your brand without having to say a word. Pick a color palette that adequately represents your company’s values and the role you play in the marketplace.

Color slides

Stats for Success

Stats 1 icon

Color increases brand recognition by 80%. You can't see red and yellow and not think of McDonald's!

Stats 2 icon

93% of shoppers focus on visual appearance when deciding whether or not to make a purchase.

Stats 3 icon

60% of a shopper's acceptance or rejection of a product is dependent on the product's color.

Stats 4 icon

The human brain process images 60,000 times faster than words, which is why a good logo is so important.

The Bottom Line

When you were a kid, you probably loved coloring inside of coloring books. You're not going to create your company's scheme using crayons, but it can still be a fun process! Take your time and put something together that you'll love and want to use for years.

Quality Logo Products are experts on all things printed and promotional. Let our team of awesome, incredibly good looking, and fun promo nerds help you select awesome promotional swag today!

4 random promtional products 4 random promotional products tablet
Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

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