The Artist’s Palette: Using red, orange and yellow to evoke emotion

Discover the emotional associations that come with warm colors.

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Colors included in what is typically referred to as the “warm” side of the spectrum are red, orange and yellow.

Red, with its excitable, loud emotional associations can also be assigned to emotions of passion, anger and love. Rushed or urgent items are many times marked in red (excitement, hurry, attention). However, the color red is not all hyper-fun and games. It does have a more ominous side, as it is often associated with religious symbolisms such as the devil and in descriptions of hell.

By making any red a deeper shade, you morph the color into a brown-red or burgundy hue, which can change the meaning altogether. Simply by altering the color in this way, the feel of your piece will soften a little and probably invoke sentiments of the fall season or a harvest festival.

Orange-once reserved to a certain niche segment (such as being used to accentuate tropical-themed pieces) orange is now recognized by many to feel energetic and joyful. It has become more accepted by the masses, especially among young adults and teens. Colors for the fall season and hues relating to summer fun also use orange in a darker manner.

It is an active color, so be careful when using orange, as too bright of a tone will blind and too dark can look muddy or dingy. Orange has many food references to healthy fruits, like peaches and citrus oranges. It is generally perceived as a positive color.

Yellow conveys happiness and cheerful feelings. Yellow is often used to highlight or draw attention to something and is the original color of the highlighter marker. While a shade of gold works well for awards, many tones of yellow are perceived as being childlike and unprofessional. Yellow text is hard to read many times, unless it is against a background that will contrast such as black, but be careful, as that combination can create a message of “caution.” How you use the color changes the visual effect of it.

-Jennifer Foy, Unisub

Jennifer Foy

Jennifer Foy


Jennifer Foy has over 20 years of experience using Adobe software and working in the advertising, marketing, and design fields. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications from the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, and a Master of Arts in Advertising from Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York. Her years of teaching experience include numerous software and design classes for colleges in Atlanta, Georgia, and Louisville, Kentucky. Jennifer is currently working as the Creative Director at Universal Woods with the Unisub and ChromaLuxe brands. Jennifer can be reached by email at [email protected]

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