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The Bright side of Color Theory

How can color theory be used to elevate art and design?



Take a moment to think about how many times you see coca cola products in a day. From the billboards to the store, even in tv shows and movies- coke is everywhere. It is true that the franchise has seen wild success, a large part of which is thanks to the company’s application of color theory.


Color theory is the art and science surrounding the use of color. It is the study of how people perceive color, as well as how it can be used to portray messages and feelings. This can be used in various applications in order to direct people into seeing things in a certain way depending on the visual effect aimed to be created.


Warm Colors
Cool Colors

There are various effects that can be given through individual colors. Looking at this more broadly we can perceive that warmer colors (such as yellows, reds, and oranges) often create feelings of passion, happiness, and energy into various products as well as spaces. They are often associated with fire, fall leaves, and food. Opposing this lies the cool colors of the spectrum. These consist of blues, greens and purples and are commonly associated with night, water, and nature. These colors create a sense of calm, relaxation, and professionalism.


Each individual color creates different effects on its perceiver. Red, for example, portrays excitement, strength, and energy. In addition to this, red has been shown to increase appetite making it commonly applied in restaurant and commercial dining spaces. To bring us back to our earlier discussion of the Coca-Cola franchise, we can now see how the company has utilized the effect red has on our perception. Red is the single most eye-catching color-meaning you are instantly drawn to the product first. This makes it highly noticeable on advertising and portrays strength in the company.


Orange is a highly vibrant color which fittingly portrays fun, whimsy, and optimism. It ensures a piece feels playful and inviting, making it commonly used in work designed for children. Orange is also believed to offer emotional strength to those within its vicinity.


Yellow is a color that instantly projects happiness into individuals. It portrays creativity, self-confidence, and friendliness. Yellow can project many different feelings depending on the shade at hand. For example, a deep yellow will emphasize sophistication in a piece while a light-yellow shows freshness and joy.


Green is the color most associated with nature and freshness. Additionally, green is considered to be a restful color for the eye, making it create a sense of calm. This means green is ideal for a wide variety of pieces, especially those in which we want to project health, or environmental factors.


Blue is one of the most popularly liked color in the world. It is associated with trust, wisdom, and creates a sense of calm. It is said that blue helps to bring down blood pressure and slow the heart rate, making it an excellent color to be used for a professional environment. Blue can also project luxury when used in a dark tone.


Purple in its darkest values, is dramatic, rich, and sophisticated. It is associated with luxury, royalty, and power. Purple is commonly used to create a more luxurious feel, as well as to make spaces appear high end. Purple adds drama to a space and can make the area feel quite unique.


Neutral colors also have a psychological effect on those within a space. Browns project comfort and high quality, while grey is associated with sophistication, and knowledge. Lastly looking towards whites, whites are associated with purity, safety, innocence, and cleanliness.



As well as having gorgeous effects on their own, when pulled together into one palette, color can have an entirely new meaning in art and design. There are several color groupings that have been identified in order to ensure harmonious designs. Some of these include complimentary, analogous, triadic, and monochromatic color schemes.


Understanding color, as well as color theory is vital to design harmonious pieces of art. It can be used to project a desired feel or mood, or just to create a beautiful piece. Think back to the Coca-Cola franchise one last time. Remember their success, and think about how they achieved it… through color theory.

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Ashley Grunow 

2D Animator and Digital Artist
Interior Designer (ADID)
ashley.grunow@gmail.com

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