A critical element in creating powerful retail brands is proper selection of colors. Store owners need to abide by color scheme best practices in the industry.

How does a retailer decide on effective colors?  Consider the following:

  • Colors must correspond to or symbolize the quality of your brand
  • It should match characteristics of the merchandise
  • Try looking at the colors the competition use

Under the color codes best practices for retail, it is not advisable to be limited to a single color. On the contrary, select a variety of shades that will blend and produce the best effect. The colors you go for must be the reverse of what competitors choose. The brand’s strong points will make it become more conspicuous. You must be distinct from other companies that sell the same or similar products. This will make you different.

History of Color Theory

It will help to discuss first the so-called “Color Theory” before going deeper into the topic of color scheme best practices.

In interior design and visual arts, color theory is a realistic guide to the mixing of colors as well as the visual impact of detailed color combinations. Color categories are based on the standard color wheel. There are primary, secondary and tertiary. Fundamental principles of the color theory first came out in the journals of Leone Battista Alberti, an Italian artist and architect who lived from 1404 until 1472. The color theory was also explained by Leonardo Da Vinci, a well-known Italian painter sculptor and architect, during the 18th century.

In the 17th century, English natural philosopher Isaac Newton introduced his “Color Spectrum”. The spectrum was unbroken with no noticeable divisions between the colors. However, he divided this continuum into seven based on the ancient belief of Greeks that seven is a magical number:

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

The argument of Isaac Newton is that each of these colors has a distinct angle of refraction. This may be computed by way of an appropriate prism (transparent solid polygon object with smooth surfaces). He discovered that colors of all objects look the same because the ray of colored light illuminates the colors. The beam remains regardless of how many times these are reflected or angled off. Newton’s conclusion stated that colors are properties of light reflected from objects and not properties of these objects.

Monochromatic Scheme

The use of monochromatic or single color is an option in the color scheme best practices. The monochromatic design means there are various shades and tones in a particular hue. It is simple since the scheme comes from the same shade which eliminates an unattractive appearance.

In a store signage, the first tint can be utilized for the headline. The second is meant for the body text or background. The third will be for the background or text only. The last two shades can be used as accents or surrounded by graphics.

Analogous Method

Analogous or Parallel can be very easy to develop. It is produced with three different colors which come one after the other on the Color Wheel. The Chroma Level for this scheme is all the same but the addition of tints and tones make it more appealing.


The color theory was put together originally based on the concept of primary or primitive colors which are red, yellow and blue or (RYB). RYB primary colors are the basis of color vision theories of the 18th century. Such hypotheses were further developed following inquiries on different psychological color effects particularly the dissimilarity between opposite tones produced by after-images and in distinct silhouettes of colored light. This can also be a guide for retailers and store designers when they deal with the color codes best practices for retail.


The four-color process printing system is one wherein the image is divided into four distinct color values by screens and filters. In the printing industry, this is known as color separation. In the past, it was made using photographic films on a camera made especially for graphic arts. At present, this is done with digital software. The outcome is a color separation of four icons. It reproduces the original images once transferred to printing plates and printed with colored links; cyan or blue, magenta or red, yellow and black or k in CMYK.

The majority of the whole spectrum of colors are replicated with the four-process ink colors. This is used across the world in graphic arts and printing industry to reproduce text and color images.

Colors used by artists are completely different. An artist will blend yellow and blue to produce a tinge of green. The scientist will merge green and red to generate a yellow tint. The ability to classify two separate types of colors is the initial step in appreciating color systems. The color one can touch is the surface of any object. The color that cannot be touched is the ray of sunlight or shades seen on the monitor of desktop computers.

Many artists acknowledge RYB as the three primary colors. These cannot be created by combining other colors. Secondary tones are produced by blending any of two primary colors. Tertiary comes from the mixture of any two secondary colors.

In color codes best practices for retail, store owners and visual merchandisers can also adopt complementary schemes which are made by putting together colors from opposite sides of the wheel. Custom color schemes are the most difficult to craft since these do not follow the formal rules.


Retail selling and visual merchandising should not be limited to store layouts, lighting and space.  Retailers should not overlook the color scheme best practices. In other words, the right use of colors is an important factor in transforming any retail outlet into an attractive facility for consumers.