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Color and Attention

 

Explanations > Perception > Attention > Color and Attention

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

 

Description

The eye is more sensitive to some colors rather than others. As an easy reminder, the colors of the rainbow are in approximate order of attractiveness:

  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Indigo
  • Violet

Red in particular is often used to grab attention as it has, in addition to the sensitivity of the eye, a social meaning of danger, fire and general threat.

Saturation of colors also increases attention. Hence a bright red is more attractive than a dark red. 'Day glo' is a brand of colors that are particularly bright and may include fluorescent elements.

White can also be attractive, though bright colors will often be more attractive. White can stand out when contrasted against black, as can other colors when set against a contrasting other color.

The eye may also be attracted by large areas of a single color, particularly the brighter colors as above.

Example

Normal-dark colors:

           

Spectrum bright colors:

           

Discussion

The eye sends color signals to the brain in three 'wires': Red-green, yellow-blue and luminance (brightness). In each dual pair, there is a dominant color that comes forward (red and yellow) and a receding color that goes backwards (green and blue). Increasing luminance also increases the attentional value of the color.

We perceive a lot through the principle of contrast, which can be used to make colors stand out even more.

So what?

To grab attention, use color carefully. A person in a red dress in a room full of grey suits will stand out strongly. Yet if everyone else is wearing red, the dress will be less noticeable. Within an image, have one main area of red (or other bright color) to grab the eye from the start. Then offer a direction away from this, perhaps via more muted colors.

See also

The Meaning of Colors, Contrast and Attention

 

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