When designing a printed advertisement, the messaging is often the most important aspect.
However, no matter how persuasive it is, that message might be easily overlooked on a plain, white background.
That’s where colours can really have an impact.
They can draw eyes towards your ad, make customers feel different emotions and encourage them to interact with your brand.
We’re diving into basic colour theory in this guide, helping you understand what different colours mean and how to use them effectively in your advertising.
Colour theory basics
Colour theory is a combination of art and science. It includes rules and guidelines for using colour schemes to achieve impressive visual results.
The cornerstone of colour theory is the colour wheel.
Fun fact, it was invented by Sir Isaac Newton in the 17th century after making several discoveries related to the colour spectrum.
The colour wheel consists of three colour categories:
The colours within these categories are then divided into two sections:
Warmer tones, such as reds, oranges and yellows are said to invoke energy when viewed by someone. While cooler shades, such as blues and purples, are considered soothing to the eye.
Using colours close to one another on the wheel will create what is known as colour harmonies. Whereas those on opposite ends are known as complementary colours and are good for creating contrasts in your design.
In the standard colour wheel, the colours are divided into three groups. These are:
Primary colours – which cannot be created by mixing shades together:
Secondary colours – made by mixing two of the primary colours together:
Tertiary colours – created by mixing one primary and one secondary together:
Now, how does colour theory extend to digital and print designing?
Through two types of colour models that are most frequently used:
The RGB colour model is the blend of red, green and blue to create other shades. It’s mainly used in digital designs, such as television adverts, mobile apps or webpages.
CMYK is the standard model for printed designs. It stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – the colours you’ll find on an ink cartridge. An exact balance of these tones will create the current shade for your printed materials.
We’ve got an in-depth blog on the print process for colours, check out our guide on Pantone vs CMYK.
What different colours mean
Each colour gives off a specific emotion when we see it in an advert, whether it’s a billboard, tv ad or printed poster.
Here’s a quick explanation about what they could mean for your print design:
It’s said that colours increase brand awareness by 80%.
That’s why, when we think of a famous company, the first thing we see is their brand colours.
Businesses that understand the meaning behind colours and use them to their advantage are the ones we’re most likely to remember. After all, what’s McDonalds without its red and yellow signature logo? What would Coca-Cola represent in green packaging?
Beyond being recognised, the right balance of colours can also help you persuade, attract and appeal to your customers. This in turn can boost sales and improve the return you get on your investment.
Going back to the McDonalds example, the widely recognised yellow arches symbolise happiness. While the red background depicts desire and love.
Paired with the brand’s signature tagline ‘I’m lovin’ it’, these colours make you hungry for McDonald’s as soon as you see them.
The bright yellow arches are also easy to spot and the red signals you to stop – placing McDonald’s as a fast food haven, whatever time of day it is.
Blue is the most popular choice for brands, as its calm, strong tones help convey trust and confidence in that company. Tech companies, such as Samsung, Dell and Intel, as well as businesses from totally different sectors, like Ikea and PayPal, all favour blue branding.
What sets them apart is the shades of blue they use. These different tones send messages to customers that are unique to that company.
For example, Facebook and LinkedIn use darker blues to show strength and reliability in their channels, which are popular platforms for businesses. While Twitter’s lighter, calmer tone better suits the everyday users looking for a place to write their thoughts.
When it comes to establishing a brand identity, colours should be at the top of your priority list.
Here are a few helpful tips to master your use of colours in advertising:
Ready to put your newfound colour theory into practice? Start printing your next batch of marketing materials by checking out our product range.
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