Color in Relation to Graphic Design


    When it comes to color, most people are pretty decisive about what they like and what they don’t. Color plays an important part in our lives from the color of our houses, cars, clothes and, in some cases, our phones and computers. Color in everyday life is an expression of who we are or how we are feeling.

     Did you ever stop to think, though, how color relates to graphic design? Specifically, how color relates to your book cover? Color often “speaks” to people on a personal level and when color is used purposefully, it becomes a message carrier. Colors are strongly associated with moods and emotions. For example, most people consider yellow, orange and red to be warm, simulating colors, associated with fire and the sun. Blues, greens and violets are usually thought of as cool and serene; these colors are often visually associated with cool forests, the sky, and bodies of water.

     Let’s say you were a consumer standing in front of a shelf full of books; the cover will be the first thing that grabs your attention. If you were looking for something light and funny to read, you would most likely skip right over the books with darker colored covers and focus on the lighter ones. Not that dark covers are a bad thing, but our brains associate color with feelings.  Blue, yellow, green, orange and white are all associated with positive, more relaxing ‘feelings’.

     It’s a given that usually more than one color will be used in your cover but you will want colors that convey the ‘feel’ of your story to the consumer at a glance.  Here are a few examples of what colors mean and how they make us feel:

Black-is a powerful color and can be associated with many different emotions. It symbolizes authority, sophistication, and power. It is also associated with mystery, dark or negative forces, the unknown, emptiness, grief, loss, and aloofness. It is even known for a symbol of submission; worn by priests as a symbol of their complete submission to God.

White-is a neutral color that is associated with purity, innocence and freshness, which is why brides wear it at their wedding. White is also known for symbolizing sterility, safety, fresh beginnings and clear thinking.

Red-is an extremely intense color. It immediately evokes passionate emotions. The color is associated with the heart or love. But since it is so intense it also signifies danger, enthusiasm, energy, and even increased confidence.

Pink-is a derivation of red and symbolizes romance and is considered tranquilizing.

Blue-is a very popular color and is associated with peace and tranquility. It symbolizes loyalty, dependability, commitment and trustworthiness. Sometimes blue can be associated with coldness and depression. Electric or brilliant blue is dramatic and exhilarating.

Green-is a symbol of nature and has very relaxing qualities. It means fertility. Darker shades of green are considered masculine and signify wealth and a conservative attitude. It is also a very tranquil color and is regarded as meaning freshness and peace, and is closely associated with Spring. Though sometimes it can also be negatively associated with feelings of jealousy.

Yellow-this color attracts attention and is regarded as being a positive color. It has to be used sparingly though because it can easily become overpowering and irritating. This color symbolizes enlightenment, happiness, radiance and optimism.

Orange-is a relative of red and has a strong positive association. The color signifies warmth, energy, cheerfulness and change. It is also closely related to the season of Fall.

Purple-is regarded as the color of royalty and wealth. It has large feminine appeal and is closely related to romance and has majestic qualities. It signifies balance and mystical qualities.

Brown-is an earthy color and implies qualities of dependability, friendliness, and wholesomeness. It also symbolizes sadness and wistfulness.

Gray-is associated closely with depression of loss.

     As you can see, color can play an important role in how your book is perceived even before the first word in it is read. Varying combinations of colors can have a powerful affect on the consumer, as well as subtle nuances with tones and hues. Often these color variations can have more impact than all the images that you can purchase. You should talk to your graphic designer in detail about what you want your cover to ’say’ to the waiting eyes of the public.

     Color conveys in an instant what no title or summary can do as quickly. Keep these things in mind the next time you consider a cover for your book.


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