Combining Colors for Contrast and Purpose

High color contrast on a billboard is proven to improve recall by 38%, so advertisers need to pay special attention to color choices to maximize their advertising return. Color choices and combinations will enhance the readability of your billboard advertising , grab attention and create a strong visual memory of your message.


The chart shows a scale of readability with the first combination being the sharpest followed by other examples that still produce good contrast. These combinations work because they pair colors that can be strongly separated by the human eye. Color value is the relative lightness or darkness of a color. Black contrasts well with any color with a light value, and white works with colors of dark value.

   Color Strategies

Some pairing will not work because the colors are too similar in hue or value. Green on red creates a quivering optical distortion as the human eye tries to process the similar wavelengths of the colors and separate the images. Green and blue, alike in both hue and value, will blend together for a low visibility effect. Color pairings can be easily tested by making a black and white photo copy of the proposed colors together. If they can still be read, the pairing will work for outdoor designs.


Universal Color Associations


Why are stop signs red and hospital signs blue? Color messages are ingrained and carry their own subconscious meaning. Color will impact your target audience before the words and numbers so advertisers need to consciously choose colors that invoke positive responses and drive motivation around their advertising. Research shows that brightness and intensity of the colors strengthens the response. Colors have trend cycles that are identified by organizations like the Color Association of America that identify emerging color hues and others that have fallen out of favor. Advertisers are encouraged to research color meaning when defining their brand. Examples of common color associations for businesses are blue for healthcare, dark green for financial services, dark blue for business, light pink for romance, turquoise for cleaning products, etc. Example of motivational colors are red to invoke action, yellow to create optimism and orange to increase appetite.