The subtle meaning of colours

George Drivas Form Leave a Comment

Think of the Colour Wheel.

In a slideware presentation, colour coordination is much more than selecting colours that match. The overall aim is to create a scheme that will underlie, support and accentuate the content of the speech. You can always choose one of the colour schemes that are provided with the software. However, creating your own is much more pleasurable, downright cool and unquestionably gratifying.

To begin with, forget everything you know about coordinating colours in clothes. If your intention when selecting garments is to please the eye, your intention when selecting colours for a presentation is to make a statement; and a rather bold one at that. First think of the colour wheel, an abstract illustrative organization of color hues around a circle that shows relationships between primary colors, secondary colors, etc.

There are three primary colours: red, blue and yellow. Mixing two primary colours creates secondary colours: Blue + Yellow = Green, Yellow + Red = Orange, Red + Blue = Violet. Furthermore, mixing a secondary colour and a primary colour creates a tertiary or intermediate colour: Green + Blue or Yellow = Blue-Green or Yellow-Green, Orange + Red or Yellow = Red-Orange or Yellow-Orange, Violet + Blue and Red = Blue-Violet and Red-Violet.

Colours (either primary or secondary) side by side on the colour wheel are considered analogous and generally go well with each other. Colours (either primary or secondary) opposite each other on the colour wheel are considered complimentary and generally contrast well with each other.

Analogous colours are a wise choice when creating a colour scheme. Complimentary colours are recommended when contrast between background and foreground are required or desired.

Think of Colour Attributes

The pairing or grouping of colours in a presentation needs to take into account four of their attributes: contrast, brightness, saturation and hue.

Contrast refers to the (striking) difference between two colours like black and white.

IMPORTANT: The colour contrast displayed on a computer screen or appearing in print can vary radically from the one displayed by a projector. A projector is limited in the colors it displays. Colors with little contrast can appear as washed out and imperceptible. The use of high contrast is preferred when designing a presentation to guarantee best results.

Brightness refers to the light perceived to originate from a particular colour, for instance white has maximum brightness while black has minimum brightness.

IMPORTANT: The use of black and white in print looks radically different from black and white through a projector. The recommended remedy is to use a subtle gradient of white to create the same effect, i.e. white with 10% black. It also adds depth to the image and text.

Saturation refers to the degree of purity of each colour, i.e. the absence or presence of white or black.

IMPORTANT: Vibrant colours on their own can be used to convey strong emotions. In combination with other colours they can be used to accentuate a feature on the slide and convey a range of different feelings. Red is used to stir feelings of anger or frustration; used with white and black, it provokes feelings of power or confidence.

Hue refers to a gradation or a variety of a colour, i.e. the property of light by which a colour is identified as red rather than blue, etc.

IMPORTANT: As a general rule of thumb avoid more than THREE colors in your colour scheme. Pick three colours and use them consistently throughout. Different hues of different colours suggest a more artistic feeling, a dynamic presentation. Different hues of the same colour conjure up a feeling of an understated presence and tone. Still any more than three colour hues can render the attempt ineffective.

Think of Colour Meaning Colours carry their own meaning. Meaning can vary across different cultures. Below are the prevailing meanings: (for more details visit

  • Red is the color of fire and blood, so it is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire, and love.
  • Orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It is associated with joy, sunshine, and the tropics. Orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation.
  • Yellow is the color of sunshine. It’s associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy.
  • Green is the color of nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility. Green has strong emotional correspondence with safety. Dark green is also commonly associated with money.
  • Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven.
  • Purple combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. Purple is associated with royalty. It symbolizes power, nobility, luxury, and ambition. It conveys wealth and extravagance. Purple is associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery, and magic.
  • White is associated with light, goodness, innocence, purity, and virginity. It is considered to be the color of perfection.
  • Black is associated with power, elegance, formality, death, evil, and mystery.
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George Drivas

George Drivas

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I consider myself as innovative and strategic, motivational, discreet and amicable, thorough and effective. Sometimes I think I try too hard!

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