Colour in Graphic Design and Branding

Chances are the first thing that will catch your attention will be the colour - this is when colour theory comes into play and why paying attention to colour in graphic design is so important.


Brisbane branding

In an increasingly saturated market, it can be hard to stand out from the competition. Imagine you’re walking through a shopping aisle, trying to find the right soft drink to buy. What would immediately catch your eye? The size of the drink? The font choice? The price? Or the bright red Coca Cola bottle?

Chances are the first thing that will catch your attention will be the colour – this is when colour theory comes into play and why paying attention to colour in graphic design is so important.

So, what is colour theory? Colour theory is based on the notion that certain colours and combinations can evoke psychological responses. By incorporating a certain colour in graphic design, you can influence how people perceive your brand. A good colour scheme can elicit a positive response from your audience whereas a bad colour scheme can harm brand perception and make it less attractive to your audience.

To choose the best business colours for you, you can utilise the help of a branding design agency who can help you formulate a brand identity.

How to choose the right colours for your brand

Ever wondered why The Simpsons were yellow? Creator Matt Groening chose the bright punchy colour as a way to stand out from the rest of the cartoons. He reasoned that ‘When you’re flicking through channels with your remote control, and a flash of yellow goes by, you’ll know you’re watching The Simpsons.” Similarly, the golden arches made famous by McDonald’s were also used for this same reason – what better way to capture the attention of someone on the road than a bright flash of yellow?

Common business colours

Yellow, in particular, is one of the eye-catching colours according to colour theory, which is why it’s often used in hazard signs, street signs, and taxis. It makes for a great colour in graphic design as has the ability to both convey warmth and danger – a yellow and orange combination, for example, would be welcoming, whereas yellow and black, such as the colour combination is seen on dangerous insects such as bees and wasps, is perfect for warning signs.

Yellow is good for these businesses: food, retail, creative agencies, construction

Red, yellow, and orange are commonly used in food marketing as the ‘red’ conveys passion, whereas yellow and orange stimulate the brain, which can stir up the sensation of feeling hungry. So, what does that combination do? It makes people passionately hungry!

Red and orange are good for these businesses: food, beverages, creative agencies

Green, on the other hand, is closely associated with nature, earth, and peace, making it the perfect colour for brands that want to portray themselves as being eco-friendly. Incorporating this colour in graphic design can make your brand appear more down to earth. Alternatively, it can represent jealously or lack of experience – making it the perfect colour choice for health and wellness company but not a good choice for businesses wanting to portray a sense of authority.

Green is good for these businesses: gardening, nature, food, health, wellness,

Companies that wish to gain a consumer’s trust will find the perfect colour with blue as it’s synonymous with trust, making it a very popular choice for financial companies. It’s also often utilised by technology focussed companies and is considered one of the best colours for business, due to its neutrality.

Blue is good for these businesses: technology, finance, consulting,

Depending on the kind of message you want to key with your brand, choosing the right colour in graphic design is key to forming your best first impression. To pack an even bigger punch, companies can incorporate two or more colours into their branding design.

Complimentary colour graphic design

Simply put, complementary or ‘contrasting’ colours are colours that are directly opposite of each other. For example, yellow and blue contrast nicely because one is a warm colour and the other is cool. Utilising complimentary colour graphic design elements can make your brand quickly capture attention by being more visually stimulating.

Complementary colours include:

  • Yellow and purple
  • Blue and orange
  • Red and green

Additionally, it’s also important to note what medium your colours will likely display on (print and digital) and how accurately you can reproduce those colours. If you are designing a brand logo, you should consider all the possible uses for that logo. For example, a spot colour ink would be hard to replicate in print, so it’s best avoided for company logos. Choosing a colour in graphic design that can be replicated easily in both RGB and CMYK format is key.

What’s the difference between RGB and CMYK?


RGB or ‘red, green, blue’ is the standard colour format used for anything meant to be viewed digitally. A computer screen is made up of tiny units called pixels, which are made up of these units of colour. As there is already a source of light (usually your computer screen) RGB has a larger range of colours available than CMYK and can produce colours that are more vibrant.


CMYK refers to the four printing colours – cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black). These colours are known as ‘subtractive’, meaning that printed ink absorbs light. Think of it like you’re painting on paper – the more colours you get, the darker it becomes. Except no colour combination creates black, which is where the fourth colour ‘key’ comes into play.

Not sure how to choose the right colours for your brand? Why not have a chat with the team at our brand design agency Brisbane and find out what the best business colours are for your brand. Get in touch with our team online or call us on 07 2140 7311 today.

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