Color impacts your courses and your learners. Choosing the “correct” colors can hinder or increase the speed of learning and retention. Colors can affect mood, have different meanings in various cultures, and bring immediate things to our minds. Here’s what we learned about each color’s psychological effect from reading Using Color in Learning.
2016 Update: We’ve added some insights from The Hidden Meanings Behind Famous Logo Colors along with adding the color pink to the list!
Red is a stimulant and can evoke passion, intensity, and excitement. The strong emotions it can evoke are commonly used to draw attention to key points, but too much can be… well, too much. Be careful not to invoke a sense of urgency that doesn’t exist in your courses or cause too much attention to a detail that doesn’t matter as much to the subject you’re trying to get across. Use it to emphasize, for good or bad, any point that you want to have stick with your learner.
Orange is an antidepressant and can be used as a stimulant that is playful and enthusiastic. (We at eLearning Brother really like orange!) As a stimulant, orange can be inspiring and encouraging to your learners. Use it to appear more light-hearted with your learners, particularly if your content is a little on the dry side. Try including it on quiz screens to motivate them and help them succeed!
Yellow is another stimulant and promotes memory, optimism, and (sometimes on the other end of the spectrum) caution. Brighter shades are harsh on the eyes, so use it sparingly. Use yellow to highlight points that should be memorized or to grab the learner’s attention. Pick a shade that can help convey a warm sense of cheer or happiness on positive feedback.
Green brings tranquility and peacefulness. It is refreshing and is the easiest color on the eyes. Green helps to relax muscles and deepen breathing. It will help your learners recover. from what could be a stressful activity or quiz. This kind of flexibility means that you can (and should!) use this color often and in just about any way you can imagine.
Blue encourages serenity and lowers the pulse (opposite of red), and invokes stability and serenity. It is liked by the widest range of humans. People are most productive when they work in blue rooms!
Use to calm learners when presenting complicated and overwhelming information, helping them to concentrate on your eLearning content rather than on its presentation. It is a color that many companies use and is easy to integrate into content without conflicting with branding guidelines.
Purple is the color of royalty, luxury, and success. It also can be paired with other colors to emphasize its effect on the learner. It also can represent imaginative or mysterious ideas. Consider using purple to help emphasize colors already dictated by your brand (where applicable) to give a sense of quality and nobility. Also, purple makes a great color to use in games and activities where you’re trying to capture a sense of mystique or sleuthing about.
Black elicits feelings of power, sophistication, and seriousness. Black is often the best choice for the bulk of text (or a dark gray). Black is a nice color to add to an overall look/feel to add some depth and mystery. It is basically a color that isn’t really focused on and seen. (Nor is it meant to be!)
White is seen as pure and clean. White space can be very powerful and help learners to stay focused. Additionally, white is a good color for fonts when a background color may be too dark to use black.
Pink is usually associated with sweetness, warmth, and energy. It’s often described as a color of playfulness and fun. Use pink in your courses to convey a light-hearted or positive message. Also, consider using pink if your primary audience is women, as there is a strong correlation between this color and femininity.
Creating Color Schemes
- Adobe Color is a great tool to come up with color schemes. I use it a lot to dream up new ideas.
- COLOURLovers will let you upload a photo and then it will create a color scheme based on the picture.
Designing for Color-Blindness
- Here is an interesting chart that shows how people see colors if they have various color deficiencies.