Color Me Intrigued: e-Learning and the Psychology of Color

Color psychology is a fascinating field. With a little insight into the psychology of color, you can combine colors in your e-Learning course design to invoke certain emotions and engage your learners more.

Let’s take a look at a few basic colors and what they represent and what type of e-Learning you might want to use them for:


If you want to draw attention to a key concept in your e-Learning content, use red. The eye is drawn to red first. Red is the color of energy—associated with movement and excitement.


If your online training program includes physical tasks, consider using blue as the dominant color in your scheme. Some studies have shown that weight lifters can lift more weight in a blue gym and that blue surroundings lead to better performance in most sports. (Good thing for my alma mater’s blue and white colors!)


Green is commonly associated with finance and safety, so it’s a good color to use for courses on those topics. On the other hand, to avoid looking like every other safety training course out there, you might want to skip the green.


If you’re trying to boost office morale or get employees exciting about e-Learning, try some yellow. A person surrounded by yellow feels optimistic because the color stimulates serotonin (the feel-good chemical) in the brain.


Trying to encourage social learning at your workplace? Orange invokes feelings of sociability, enjoyable connection and happiness. It has an emotionally strong presence and promotes extroverted behavior, so this would be a great color to use for a social network or LMS like CourseMill® Wave.


You’re probably not designing e-Learning for adolescent girls, but if you were, I’d say use this color. Purple is the most common favorite color of girls. However, purple also stimulates the problem solving areas in our brain, and it promotes creativity, intuition and artistic ability. This would be a good color to use for soft skills courses.

Basic Color Schemes

All of the color schemes listed below are generated with a color wheel. A color wheel, based on red, yellow and blue, is traditional in the field of art—you probably studied one in your high school art class. Fun fact: Sir Isaac Newton developed the first circular diagram of colors in 1666!

These color schemes, called color harmonies or color chords, consist of two or more colors with a fixed relation in the color wheel.

Complementary—Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel (red and green)

The high contrast of complementary colors creates a vibrant look, especially when used at full saturation. Complementary color schemes are tricky to use in large doses without being jarring, but work well when you want to emphasize something. Beware—complementary colors can make text difficult to read.

Split-Complementary—A base color and the two colors on either side of its complement (green paired with fuchsia and orange instead of red)

This color scheme has the same strong visual contrast as the complementary color scheme, but with less tension.

Analogous—Colors that are next to each other (red, orange, yellow)

These usually match well and create serene and comfortable designs. Analogous color schemes are often found in nature and are harmonious and pleasing to the eye.

Make sure you have enough contrast when creating an analogous color scheme. Choose one color to dominate and a second to support. Use the third color (along with black, white or gray) as an accent.

Triple (Triad)—Colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel (green, purple, orange)

These schemes are quite vibrant, even if you use pale or unsaturated versions of your hues. It’s important to carefully balance your three colors—choose one color to dominate and use the other two as accents.

Rectangle (Tetradic)—Four colors arranged into two complementary pairs (red and green, orange and blue)

This rich color scheme offers so many opportunities for variation! Tetradic color schemes works best if you use one color as the main color. Remember to pay attention to the balance between warm and cool colors in your design.

Square—This is similar to the rectangle, but with all four colors spaced evenly around the color circle (red, blue, green, yellow)

The same advice holds true for square color schemes—let one color be your main focus and pay attention to the balance between warm and cool colors in your design.

I think it’s time to wrap up this art class and send you off to design some beautiful, engaging e-Learning! Have fun and don’t forget to subscribe to the Lectora® e-Learning Blog for more resources, product news and e-Learning trends.