Neutral Colors




The color that varies in meaning the most from culture to culture is black. Black can be used to signify authority, strength, power, sophistication, elegance, and class. This is apparent in the terms “Black tie” and “Black belt.” In western culture, black tends to be associated with death and is used as the color of mourning; however, in Egypt, black is used to represent life and rebirth. Other negative aspects that are associated with the color black are villains, fear, and evil. Popular terms include: “Black heart,” “Black death,” and “Black list.”  


Black is widely used in the financial industry, fashion, and cosmetics. In fashion, black is sleek and slimming. Black is associated with wealth because of its association with oil. It is associated with fear because of it is the color of darkness. In optics, black is the absence of light and therefore it is the absence of color. A black object is actually black because it absorbs all color and reflects none.

 FoldedColor Series on Color Neutral


White, like black, has very different meaning from culture to culture. White can be used to represent innocence, purity, light, neutrality, birth, winter, truth, cleanliness, freshness, hygiene, and efficiency. White is used widely in fashion, for brides, hospitals, and other medical offices.  


Some negative aspects that can be associated with white are unfriendliness, sterility, and in many cultures, death. Unlike black, white is the presence of the entire spectrum of colors united.  White objects reflect all colors and absorb none.



The most neutral of all colors is gray. Gray is used to signify lack of energy, depression, lack of confidence, defeat, fear, and exposure. Studies have shown that pure gray is the only color that has no direct psychological properties.



The color that you most likely may associate with neutrality is brown. Brown can be used to signify seriousness, nature, earth, warmth, support, history, wood, humility, familiarity, genuineness, conservatively, reliability, and steadiness. Brown is widely used in construction, the veterinary field, ecology, real estate, woodworking, and the leather industry. Some negative aspects that are associated with the color brown can be blandness, lack of sophistication, and dirtiness.  

Brown has been very popular for organic products over the past several years and continues to be an on-going trend. “Eco-friendly” packaging appeals to many environmentally conscious customers who are looking for recyclable products. You see this with a lot of Kraft/Bending Chip board materials and printing in earth-tones.

In creating your brand, think about these facts and how you can utilize this information in your packaging design. These details can be very helpful in catching the attention of potential customers and bringing back existing ones. Be sure to check back for our next blog in the series where we will be talking about how the perception of the color pink has changed over the past century.