Not everything is either black or white. In design, this is not any different. There’s a whole range of different shades in between. Let’s talk about gray. A color which is often underrated but can be very useful in design.
The meaning of gray
When you think about the meaning of gray you probably come up with … nothing. Gray is mostly known for being neutral. But this doesn’t mean that it’s bland and doesn’t have any symbolic meaning at all.
You could say that gray is boring and not even a color. It’s not white but it’s not black either. And it definitely has a couple of negative associations we attribute to gray. Some negative meanings are fear, depression, lack of energy or pessimism.
But it also has a lot of positive attributes. It can stand for elegance, sophistication, intelligence, and efficiency. Further, gray is said to have a calming effect on us.
Related post: Colors meaning and symbolism
The usage of gray
As said above, gray is neutral. This makes the color very versatile. You can mix and match with any color you want. But mostly it’s the perfect color to replace black or white. Pure black or pure white can often be too harsh, so gray is a great alternative to create more balance.
Because of its subtlety gray is very popular in minimal design. It’s perfect for backgrounds and any bigger spaces of solid color. Gray can step back and let other elements shine. It doesn’t distract the eye. Use softer grays as a background to make your photos stand out. Create contrast with dark grays e.g. you can use it for long-form text. It’s said to be easier on the eye than black and better readable.
What are the different shades
First, let’s start with the shades of white. You can add more or less black to white and get lighter or darker shades of gray. These are called achromatic because they only consist of black and white. Or you could say “no color”. But gray doesn’t stop here. You can actually add color to gray and give it a completely different touch. To create cool grays you can add blue or green. If you need a warmer tone, add red, orange or purple.
14 shades of gray
Let’s look at a couple of different shades. You’ll see that each shade has a different touch. By adding color you can create something unique and adjust the color to your design needs.
Achromatic grays, the same amount of Red, Green, and Blue
Smoke | #F5F5F5
Gainsboro | #DCDCDC
Light gray | #D3D3D3
Silver | #C0C0C0
Gray | #808080
Jet | #343434
Spanish Gray | #989898
Add a touch of color
Platinum | #E5E4E2
Steel | #777B7E
Gunmetal | #2A3439
Charcoal | #35454F
Slate | #708090
Taupe | #483C32
Ash | #B2BEB5
What do you think? Will you use more gray in your designs?