Black is a classic color not only in fashion but also in design. It’s neutral enough to work together with all kinds of colors but can equally be used to attract the eye and make something stand out from the rest. But black doesn’t please everybody. At times it can be too harsh or you might prefer something less classic or less cold for your design. There are several colors you can use instead of black. So which color is the new black?
The color black and its meaning
Black is what we often call a non-color or negative color. But black isn’t only negative. It’s also sophisticated, classic, powerful and safe. On the other hand, it can very well evoke negative feelings, be cold and depressive and very heavy.
If used right it will give your design a professional or even luxurious touch. When it’s overused or not used right chances are it will downright overpower all other colors or communicate the wrong mood. Remember that black is often used in relation with death. The negative connotation of black might be a reason for you to step away from the classic color and look for alternatives.
Why you should consider an alternative to black
Apart from individual taste every color has its advantages and disadvantages. While black is used often to create contrast it can quickly make your design look flat if you overdo it. For bigger surfaces or backgrounds a slightly softer color is recommendable.
Black is such a strong color it can easily overpower other colors in your design if you don’t use it sparingly. In order to achieve a balanced design sometimes an alternative color is necessary.
While black is a basic color and often found in color palettes (e.g. brand colors) it’s not a natural color which means you won’t find pure black in nature. If your color palette is based on natural tones black might not be the best choice for you. Same goes for all other designs which don’t blend with the mood black can evoke.
Related post: Make your own brand board
6 colors you can use instead of black
Charcoal is a great neutral option if you don’t want to use black. Also called off-black it has the same elegant and glamorous effect without being too overpowering.
Purple always has a slightly mystical touch to it. You can use it instead of black to create a luxurious, sensual and even visionary mood.
Navy or dark blue is the best option to evoke trust, modernity, and intelligence. In short dark blue tones look professional and are therefore used for all kinds of businesses.
Emerald in contrast to black gives your design a natural and harmonious look. It can balance out designs using warm tones like red as well as colder ones like blue.
Chocolate and umber have an organic and natural feel. These colors communicate stability and authenticity and are great if you’re looking for a warmer alternative.
Burgundy is strong and energetic but much softer than bold red and therefore a good replacement for black. Burgundy can create impact without being too outrageous and without absorbing the other colors.
Where and how to use alternative colors
Black is often used for text especially long pieces of copy on a white background because it creates a good contrast to be more readable than other colors. Dark gray is said to be easier on the eye when reading long texts.
For backgrounds, all alternative above can be a good choice but it’s important to look at your whole color palette and decide which color can best be combined with the others and aligns with the overall mood of your design.
A good way to find the right color is to take your main color and add the *complementary color to it. The two colors mixed will automatically provide you with a darker shade. Example: yellow + its complementary color green = blue
*Complementary colors are colors which lie opposite of each other on the color wheel.