Warm and cool. Descriptions given to describe a variety of things – weather, people, fashion, beauty and hue choices.
Those of you also living in New Jersey know that ‘cool’ is the last word we would choose to describe this recent weather. Freezing works better. Let’s warm up a bit and talk about the use of warm colors in graphic design.
Reds. Oranges. Yellows. Pinks.
Warm colors make up half of the color wheel and are hues that symbolize sun or fire. The term warm is emotional and psychological and has nothing to do with reflective properties or light absorption. “Warmth” refers precisely to where the color falls on the color wheel.
Warm colors are often seen as vivid and energetic. They advance in space and have the ability to make surroundings seem bigger, more open and more inviting. They are stimulating and connect emotionally to warmth – just as the name implies!
Warm colors are often used to convey feelings of energy and happiness, which is why you often seen restaurants choose reds and yellows.
Here is a quick breakdown:
Reds – love, passion, anger, hunger, urgency
Oranges – attraction, youth, wealth, attention
Yellows – warmth, childishness, optimism, cheer
Pinks – innocence, romance, tenderness, sensitivity
When choosing to work with warm colors, it is important we understand how they work in space. Warm colors advance, causing them to appear longer, larger and open. This also applies to the wavelengths in the light spectrum – for example, red light waves are longer than blue ones. This can explain why warm colors seem much closer to you than a more distant cool color.
“Warm color” – a common term in design settings, yet it is often misused. How often have you asked or heard someone ask to make a color “warmer”? Making a color warmer would mean changing the color mix, adding more yellows or reds. The correct term to use in this instance is “brighter” – “can you make that orange brighter, please?”. Brightening a color is simply adjusting saturation and tint.
So, what are the warmest colors? In the warm color group, the warmest color falls between red and yellow – the two primary hues. Making the “warmest” color orange – like the Falco Design logo!
Utilize warm colors in projects where your goal is to convey happiness, enthusiasm and energy. Some say you should not mix warm and cool colors in a single palette, however, it is a perfectly acceptable use of color. Just be sure to understand how the contrasting hues may work together or against each other and how that color choice will pertain to your overall message.
The use of warm colors in design is extremely popular, but can sometimes be difficult to use. For example, red, can be overpowering and pink can feel too feminine. Do not forget to create contrast – super bright warm colors need a static background as a settling property, otherwise these color choices can seem too active or busy. Some of the best designs with a focus on warm colors only are simple, direct and even monochromatic. The best way to work with warm and cool colors simultaneously is to select colors with complementary tints or saturations. Follow the basic concept of the color wheel – start with a warm color and partner it accordingly for the best results. Try out the 80/20 rule. To maintain warmth, use 80% reds, oranges, yellows and pinks and 20% blues, greens and violets.
You can determine the warmth or coolness of a color by simply looking at its makeup. When using RGB color, warm colors will have the highest red values and the lowest blue values. When using four-process CMYK color, warm colors will have the highest magenta and yellow values and low cyan or black percentages.
If your goal is to engage your audience with a design project – use a warm color! They are inviting, energetic and fun. They evoke certain emotions from people and can provide just the right accent in just the right place. The key to using warm color in your designs is understanding its emotional connections and working with it, not against it. Go with your gut! How does this color make you feel? Is that the right emotion you are trying to convey?