RgB Design Group Color Theory – part one

Color Theory – Part 2
Warm Colors

Continuing our journey to understanding the messages and emotions elicited and communicated by color.

Last week we looked at the pros and cons of using cool colors, blues, greens and purples for business branding. (click this link if you would like to read it now)

This week we are going to look at the warm, inviting colors of red, orange and yellow.

Warm colors

Warm colors are associated with movement, action, boldness, energy, brightness, passion and vitality. Think about the colors of a burning fire dance and you’ll never forget the feeling of warm colors.

Advertisers will often use warm colors to arouse feelings of urgency and activity. Clearance and SALE signs are almost always red to unconsciously push consumers to take immediate action.


Red isn’t just warm, it’s hot! Volcanos, violence, war, heated passion, love. Both the devil and cupid – opposite emotions. It is so easy to flip from love to hate. And all represented by the color red.

In Western culture we associate red most closely with anger, danger, passion and oddly importance (the red carpet).

Chinese brides wear red as a symbol of prosperity and happiness and to attract good luck. While in South Africa, red is a color of mourning. It is also associated with communism, particularly when paired with yellow or orange.

The light version of red, pink is linked to sweet romance, feminine qualities and passiveness.

When choosing to use red in your branding it is important to be aware of who your market is and their most likely association with the color. The brighter the red the more energetic your design will feel while darker reds lean more toward elegance.


Orange is less in-your-face than it’s close friend red and when muted is associated with all things fall-like. Isn’t it interesting that only one season has a color palette? Because of that strong association, dull oranges often represent change.

Brighter orange creates images of creativity, health, amusement and refreshment. Food and drink brands often use orange to suggest you are young and vibrant if you eat or drink their product and toy manufactures often use it to catch the attention of children.

Gold is in the orange family and is most often used to suggest wealth, prestige and high quality.

Dark orange colors have been used to mean something is being hidden, deceit and distrust. Be careful when mixing black or grey undertones into an orange color in design.


Yellow is associated with happiness, sunshine and joy but also with jaundice, sickliness and being a coward.

A bright yellow is going to grab attention, think taxis. But too much of a good thing can be overstimulating and create a disturbing unconscious reaction.

Light yellow is young, childlike and cheerful. It is often used to represent small children without the gender suggestions provided by pink and light blue.

When paired with black, yellow is often used to indicate caution should be taken, caution signs, caution lights, yield signs, etc.

Dull yellows, those with a grey undertone are going to create feelings of sickness, cowardness and decay (like the color of a healing bruise).

Yellow is used for morning in Egypt, represents courage in Japan and in India it is the color of merchants.

Using a bright yellow as an accent color in your designs will bring a happy, bubbly and cheerful feeling to your work, while a lighter yellow will be more calming. Stay away from dull yellows unless you are doing branding for a zombie convention.

The final word

Warm colors can create amazing branding when used correctly. When used without consideration for color theory and the psychology of color, it can turn ugly quickly. For help with your branding and marketing ideas, including the use of color theory, contact Russ at

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