How to Choose Colors for Your Next Design Project

Sylvia LeRahl


June 6, 2018 (Updated: January 23, 2024)

Computer Designer and Color Swatches

Choosing colors for your next design project can be challenging. Picking the right shade of a certain hue can influence customers’ reactions to your product or service. Some experts believe it can spark action, such as a purchase, and ultimately affect your bottom line. But with so many color options, you might not know where to start.

You might be tempted to go with your gut and just pick what looks good to you. Or, you might opt for your preferred colors. Your best bet is to think about your target audience and use color to achieve your desired outcome. Here are some guidelines to consider as you choose a hue:

Think about the Moods Colors Elicit

Image via Flickr by litratcher

Experts in color psychology suggest asking yourself, “what feelings do I want to convey to potential customers?” For example, cool colors, such as blue and green, evoke tranquility and freshness. On the other hand, warm colors, such as red and yellow, can seem vibrant and energetic while feeling inviting at the same time. That’s why you might have heard about interior designers painting bedrooms in cool blue and offices sunny yellow. Black suggests power, whereas white is a symbol of purity. Investigating the significance of different colors can help you understand how your color choice can better relate to your message.

You can also convey different degrees of a feeling by trying different shades, according to an interview the Shutterstock Blog conducted with Leatrice Eiseman, who heads the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training. To illustrate, Eiseman compares light blue to dark blue, explaining that light blue can remind people of childhood and bring on calmness, while dark blue can be sinister or sophisticated, depending on how it is used. Investigating the way people feel when they see certain colors can help you make the right design choice.

Consider Trends in Color

Sometimes, businesses want to take advantage of current trends to make products or services more appealing. As a result, trends in color can help guide your choices. Take your cues from the most recent fashion on the runways or from model rooms in furniture stores. For a while, plum was a popular choice in fashion. Nowadays, you see lots of blush pink and gold on racks in clothing stores. Gray is the new white in interior design. People are painting living rooms, bedrooms, and even bathrooms all shades of gray. You will pick up on these trends by paying close attention to everything around you. Look at what people are wearing on the street. Snap a picture of the color on the wall at the new hip bar on the corner. Consider the most popular images on social media. Take stock of displays at brick-and-mortar or online stores. Then, determine if your ultimate goal lines up with any of these color trends.

Don’t Forget Timeless Neutrals

When in doubt, you can turn to neutral colors. These are hues such as beige, white, cream, and khaki. These colors convey a sense of durability. But they are also pleasing to nearly everyone. They are muted and non-controversial choices. Some people might find red too exciting or even angry, but beige blends into the background. It’s not going to spark a strong emotion. In fact, many real estate experts use neutrals on the walls of homes they are staging for sale. “Neutral will always be a classic,” writes Shelley Little in “Why Neutral Colors Are Best” for Freshome. She adds, “if the mood strikes and you decide you need some vibrant hues in your life, then you simply add a few inexpensive pillows in a bold color, or buy a beautiful bouquet of bright flowers.” You can always add pops of color to a neutral background. Neutrals might have more longevity, so they are a good option for products or promotions you expect to be around indefinitely.

Opt for Popular Pairings

Certain color combinations are well known and can evoke other feelings or even memories in people. For instance, people associate red and white or red and pink with love and romance. Orange and black are practically synonymous with Halloween. Today’s designers are drawn to ombre patterns, which consist of smoothly blended shades of one color. Green and coral are popular together because people associate them with nature and spring. Teal and red complement each other well because they are bold and eye-catching. Black and white are classic together. The point is that you can play with color pairings until you find one that evokes the right feelings.

Test Your Options

Nowadays, businesses have access to a lot of data when making decisions such as color choice, so there’s no reason to just wing it. In addition to researching colors in general, you can implement A/B testing. To do this, you create two versions of the same page and ask users chosen at random to determine which performs best. The final step is assessing statistical data to figure out which version of the page best helps you reach your goal. Obviously, you would feature the colors you want to test on each page. If you don’t have the resources for formal A/B testing, you can always conduct informal focus groups with current customers or your family and friends.

Getting feedback is an important part of choosing design colors. Haphazardly choosing colors can end up being a costly error. What if you end up committing to colors that don’t work, and you have to throw out your original work? Your best bet is to test, get the opinions of your target audience, and choose carefully.

Make Colors Work for You

Colors are a great way to make a statement about your products or services. Choosing the right colors for logos, promotional material, packaging, and the products themselves can boost sales. More importantly, color can help define your brand. To determine the best colors for your business, you should think about the emotions the colors evoke, how they match your overall strategy, and how they look. Never choose a color without researching your target audience’s tastes. After all, customers are ultimately the ones who add color to your business.

Author Image - Sylvia LeRahl
Sylvia LeRahl

CopyPress writer

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