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Using Warm vs Cool Colors

Understanding color and how it impacts us as consumers can be a very useful tool when coming up with a branding strategy. Here is why.

Warm colors, as you may know, are those who subconsciously remind us of fire while cool colors remind us of water. Well, that’s vastly simplified, but it’s the way we are taught to look at color when we are children. We are also taught that the most basic or primary colors are Yellow, Blue and Red. This too is a simplified version of color theory.

The actual names for the basic colors are Yellow, Cyan and Magenta. It is the combination of these colors that give us the nearly one million hues that are perceptible by the human eye. As you can see, Cyan is not a pure blue. It has some green and blue in it. Magenta is its own color that has its very own properties. The best way to illustrate it is that if you dilute red, you get a light red and not a pink. Yet magenta will produce a pink. That’s why when you buy ink cartridges for your inkjet printer, you will see that they come in packages of Yellow, Cyan and Magenta and not Yellow, Blue and Green. It is the mixture of Yellow, Cyan or Magenta that create Red, Blue and Green

When you see the interaction between the primary colors, it bisects at just the right spot to make the colors closest to red be perceived as warm and colors closest to blue as cool. When you think of things that are hot such as fire, lava, hot peppers our brain automatically makes associations. Things or people associated with warm colors are perceived as energetic, impactful, active, and yes, sexy. However on the not so desirable side, they can be perceived as volatile, emotional and even aggressive. Cool colors conjure feelings of peacefulness, stability and security but can also be seen as unfeeling, distant and even boring. That’s why we have to be careful about the context in which we use them.

Here’s a food related image. Notice how the version using the warmer colors looks more inviting, appetizing and attractive. If we want our ad read as such, warm colors are the way to go. On the other hand, the cooler color image does not have the same effect.

Difference in advertising cool vs warm colors and their impact on consumers
Differences between cool and warm colors as choices for different products can be very impactful.

In the same way, The image of the car looks stronger, dependable and expensive because of the use of cool colors. The image using the warm colors may look more dynamic, but it might be better suited to promote a sports car and not a luxury sedan.

Differences between cool and warm colors as choices for different products can be very impactful.
Differences between cool and warm colors as choices for different products can be very impactful.

Our clients often look for guidance and advice on the most effective way to communicate messages to their consumers. We aim to guide them through the many options that could be costly or ineffective if not done correctly from the beginning. As always, please remember to subscribe and share this information with anyone who may need it. We always appreciate your comments and suggestions.

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