header pattern
Home > Blog > Colours and connotations: a printer’s guide

Colours and connotations: a printer’s guide

When you hit send on a project to the printers, how much have you considered the colours you’ve chosen and their emotional and cultural significance? As this impressive infographic shows, colours by no means hold universal meaning. If you plan to distribute your print project across the globe, it’s important that you take the time to consider the cultural importance of colour in your work, otherwise you might cause confusion, unintended humour, or even offence. Some colours may have obvious associations in some cultures (orange in Northern Ireland, for example), but other cultural differences in the connotations of colour are less widely known. Whilst it might not seem like an important factor to take into account when choosing colours for your print project, a sound understanding and appreciation of different cultures’ values could set you apart from the competition in the global market.


Black & White

White, the complete absence of colour, symbolises purity, wisdom and virtue in Western cultures, where you’ll often find the good guys adorned in no other colour. However, in China and India, traditionally white is the colour of mourning, and it is associated with death in both China and Japan.  By contrast, in Western cultures we understand black to symbolise death and evil whereas it was known of the ‘King of colours’ in Ancient Chinese culture, often associated with heaven. Despite these different associations, all of the mentioned cultures will frequently wear both black and white in their everyday attire.


In the west, we associate red with heat, love, passion and danger. Red brings an intensity to things, and as such may be used to draw attention to key design features on your print projects. The association of red with luck and good fortune in China is well known even to westerners. Red also symbolises happiness in China, which is why it is commonly worn by the bride at weddings and is virtually forbidden at funerals. Each of these different associations makes it a fairly safe choice for most printed marketing materials.



Green represents life, luck, fertility and youth in many cultures. It has become tightly bound to the idea of environmentalism, ecology and resource conservation, although it’s also worth remembering that in the Middle East it is most closely associated with Islam.


Green packaging or print projects inevitably imply that your product is environmentally friendly, or at least symbolises eco-friendliness. This can obviously have positive effects on how your work is perceived and goes on to influence buying decisions.



Western culture views blue as symbolic of calmness, trust and authority. It can be associated with masculinity, but also sadness. In China, blue symbolises immortality.  Blue is also the colour of the Hindu deity Krishna, and can often represent strength in India. Depending on the shade, blue tends to give a neat, efficient, corporate impression. Use this knowledge in your print project if it matches your brand and the are you plan to target in your next print marketing project.


Last but certainly not least, purple has long symbolised royalty and luxury in Western and most Asian cultures, which harks back to the expense of producing Tyrian purple dye. Possibly also related to this cost and its associated value, purple is the colour of mourning in Thailand and some South American countries such as Brazil. Interestingly, shades of purple are the hardest for our eyes to discriminate between, and it is only used in two countries’ flags. If you’re planning on using purple in any printed material, it’s worth working with a talented design and print team who can ensure the shades translate well from screen to page.

Colour symbolism can be subtle but powerful, and allows the use of colour in your projects to allude to different associated attributes. In order for a colour to have a significant impact on overall design and impression, it must usually be combined with other complementary design elements – a typeface or a logo, for example. Together, this conscientious use of colour and design can earn you respect and credibility in international markets, as well as adding another layer of sophistication to your design.

We’d be happy to advise you on colour choices in your print projects. We offer clever print management services alongside an experienced design team and aim to get you the best possible deal for your project. Call us on 01924 284330 today to discuss the project you have in mind.

pattern up green pattern down