How hues appeal

Titel picture for tip 9 by Heidi Rondak

“Think about the images’ effects you want to cause on the viewer”

Part 5: How hues appeal

Red stands for intense emotions, yellow for happiness, blue implies trust and calmness, green is the colour of nature and health, orange associates with warmth and positivity, while purple is the colour of luxury and mystery – and then there are the non-colours white, which stands for pureness, and black, which symbolises quality, power and death. The psychological impact of colours on human minds is powerful and evidently influencing our feelings towards things, which again influences our buying behaviour. It’s almost that simple, but of course there is more to it, like e.g. the season and current colour trends. When you plan your next campaign and you want to have a photo shoot for it, it’s worth taking a closer look at what colours are going to be in the pictures, aside from the hues of your collection. It might allow you to have a distinct impact on your future sales numbers. Getting curious about colours now? Here are five factors whereby choosing the right background, styling and make-up colours gets easier for you.

1. Stick or break with your brand’s own colour scheme

When it comes to marketing, your brand for sure already uses a certain range of colours that are suitable and have become typical for it. 

In case you haven’t decided on them yet this article by CustomLogoCases helps you to understand why your brand’s colours are so important and how to work them out. It also gives good insights into colour psychology in general. To visualise your pick quickly, I recommend the colour generator Colordot, because it’s fun and very easy to use, plus you get the hex color codes of your hues, making sure that you or your designer from now on use the exact same ones. 

Proceeding on the assumption that your main colours are defined, it’s time to decide, if you want to draw on tradition and focus on brand recognition and your costumers’ trust, or if anything surprise them with something new and evolve into another direction. You might also just want to shock or stand out and make new people curious about your brand, because it’s unpredictable, but needless to say with the risk of loosing some previous costumers. In other words you should be aware of your campaign’s objective and it’s target groups. 

Using your carefully designed colour scheme usually makes perfect sense, because there were good reasons to choose those colours in the first place. It means that you know who you are and what you stand for (resp. your brand). You can find some good examples of brands staying true to their key colours in this article by Ceros/Originals. 

But if you feel a new mood coming up you may find some answers by taking a closer look at the collection itself. 

2. Take in the vibes of your product and translate them into colour 

Some fashion obviously demands certain topics and therefore certain colours but it’s up to you to accept the call or not. Of course it’s logical to stage e.g. light flowery pieces in front of a pastel pink background or in a warm yellowish field to create romantic images. The result would be homogenous and credible, but it might not strike as much as a contrasting dark blue  background or a construction site with lots of orange accents would (just to name some examples). As long as the colours are applied tastefully, both possibilities are fine and it again depends on your campaign goals.

When it comes to the styling or make-up (and their colours) your intuition may be right. A flowery dress should go well with peachy lips or a light headscarf. However, breaking the rules here should be treated with caution. While on the runway and in editorials super eye-catching colour details are boosting the effect, it’s rather standing in the way of successful commercials. The reason? A campaign aims for it’s viewers – people like you and me – to identify with the model and the brand and it’s not regarded as art, while a fashion show and magazines rather present the expression of a designer or photographer, stylist, etc. Also the audience of fashion shows is mostly from the industry as well as extravagant, or at least used to it.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you must apply just a nude make-up or grey basics to the styling. Striking colours indeed do their job of attracting attention and as long as they make your fashion come into focus by contrasting or underlining it, the story benefits from it.

Although both outfits look very valuable, the right one looks much more neutral due to the businesslike furniture in the background. A hint of sustainability may come to one’s mind, because of the green accents of glasses and the cactus. The left image, however, uses more fancy colours and contrasts the seriousness of the black. Why especially this colour works well with this image explains it’s symbolism.

3. Make use of color symbolism

After considering the factors above, several colours should be still in the running for dominating your future campaign. Now it’s time to analyse their subconscious and physical appeal on the viewer to make sure you send out the right message. Don’t forget to also think about the typography, because it can add another colour to the whole image. Here are the connotations of the main colours:


Red is a powerful and flashy colour that causes strong emotions like passion, excitement, love, anger and fear. It therefore creates a feeling of urgency when it comes to decisions. In nature red is often a signal colour. For that reason it attracts notice quickly and it leaves the impression of self-confidence when somebody wears red (– think of a king’s coat). The colour appears to be warming, activating the metabolism and the immune system, but also causing restlessness. 


In general yellow radiates optimism and joy and it concurs fear and depression. It also has a detoxifying impact and it encourages creativity and concentration. Lucid yellow stands for wisdom and rationality, however „dirtier“ yellows stand for jealousy, greed and selfishness. So the right yellow can convey happiness and energise people. 


The colour blue evokes trust, calmness and desire, but it also feels distant. It stands for freedom, open-mindedness and royalty. Apart from blue being the color of the sky and sea, it can rarely be found in nature. For that reason it triggers a certain fascination. Blue is the favorite colour of most people all around the world. As for it’s calming effect, blue walls can help people to fall asleep better.


Green represents nature, health, growth, fertility and wealth. It has the power to calm people down and help them heal. Lighter greens provide the feelings of safety, harmony and hope and it eases negative emotions like anger or grief. The downside of this marvellous colour is it’s connotation with immaturity and poisonousness. Darker greens may also look antiquated.


Orange is a highly stimulating colour. It increases appetite, vitality, strength and lifts the spirits. It’s a fun and socialising colour and it arouses emotional warmth. While it’s standing for optimism and in Asian countries even for enlightenment, it sometimes also looks cheap and intrusive. Darker, brownish tones convey feelings of comfort and balance. Like green it stands for the natural and it therefore has a calming effect. Brown can also be quite elegant and look premium.


Purple is an extravagant colour and it stands for wealth and spiritualism. It benefits balance, resolution and the ability to open one’s mind and purify. It provably helps both cerebral hemispheres to exchange vibrancies, as well as the person to experience unification with all surrounding life and him- or herself. Other connotations of purple, however, are vanity and arrogance. 


Pink causes very different reactions depending on it’s intensity and the viewers gender. While vivid pink is very expressive, the lighter version is rather innocent and pure. Pink tones stand for empathy and idealism, but on the other hand they can appeal dominant and snobby. Many males in the Western world have an aversion for pink due to early childhood imprinting.


Grey is not a colour, but the very absence of it. That is why it’s appealing perfectly neutral, reserved, pedestrian, sometimes uncertain and oftentimes very boring. It restrains individuality and possibly underlines fear of life. In photography, however, greyscale pictures are the origin and if good contrasts are provided, a so-called black and white image may look classy and striking. 


Black is a very elegant and graceful non-color. It’s also neutral and therefore conveys reliability and seriousness. It’s a solid colour for festive purposes. Beyond that, black is clearly expressing matters of death, gloom, coldness and sadness.


White stands for pureness, ease, lucidity, perfection, beginnings and innocence. It’s a cool and neutral non-colour that is, like black, appealing elegant, but also distanced. White can also be connoted with the good and the truth, so it’s related to all spiritual topics. While this relation is solely positive in the Western world, in some Asian countries white is a mourning colour and stands for death. 

4. Consider to use seasonal colours for the right atmosphere

Different colours are obviously linked to different seasons. While fresh and light hues like baby blue, yellow and pink are perfect to express the revival of nature and people in spring, saturated vibrant and warm colours like green, cyan and orange are associated to summertime. For these seasons, the linked colours are having quite positive effects. The autumn and winter  season is, however, different – darker and colder tones like blue, brown, black and grey are suitable, but they might create distance. On the other hand they produce reliability and look elegant. Although it’s always possible to try the complete opposite of what is typical for the season, it’s crucial to know that people respond to what they know best.

But when it comes to pre-seasons, holiday campaigns, and suchlike, this is the perfect opportunity to go for somewhat else. Of course this only makes sense, if your collection has something to do with those extra seasons… E.g. if you have always dreamed of a luscious red and glamorous imagery, but red just isn’t part of your brand’s colour scheme, Christmas time is the perfect occasion to make an exception. Especially when you deal with festive offerings you should definitely go with a Christmassy look during the period of October, November and December, because clothes are a great gift idea and red will inspire your clients to buy more. Other Christmas colours would be green, silver and gold and as the season matches New Years Eve glitter in all hues is promising as well. Another good example would be the time around Valentine’s Day, when everything shines in loud redness although February is a rather cold and grey month. The same applies to carnival, when all colours are thinkable, and so on. It’s up to you to let your imagination run free and try some off-seasonal colour schemes, depending on your brand’s sales.

5. Consider colour trends in order to be zeitgeisty 

Apart from seasons there are colour trends. Every year the colour institute Pantone announces a colour-of-the-year based on researches. This year’s colour for example is Ultra Violet. 

But this sure doesn’t mean that the colour pops up everywhere immediately and disappears after one year. It can be coming up more slowly and staying present for a while, like e.g. Serenity and Rose Quartz, the colours of 2016, did. They are still around everywhere till this day. The important thing is to be aware of what’s trend and to consider going with it, because especially colours brand themselves into people’s minds and make them rate something they see as modern or not in split seconds.

Another thing to consider is the amount of the whole pictures’ saturation. Slightly desaturated images look more premium than brash colours. But if your brand offers rather cheeky teen fashion, loud colours would be a good thing to choose, because they would match the concept. However, most commercial pictures are getting desaturated resp. turned to grey a little bit. Hereby all colours look homogenous and more matte, thus not cheap. Assuming that the technology of screens and prints has gotten better during the past years, this could be the reason why luscious colours are coming out deeper than we perceive them to be pleasant.

Hopefully, this little colour guide will help you decide which colours to choose for your next campaign, look book, or other shoot that you plan with your favourite photographer. I wish you good speed (:


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