Colour Usage In The Office

Colour printing equipment has become relatively inexpensive. The issue arises that when colour printing/copying is widespread and uncontrolled, it can become a significant hidden expense. Managed Print Services (MPS) can be used to introduce measures to restrain colour usage in standard cases yet allow it for special cases such as when sales wants to produce customer-facing documents.

Historical background

It has long been established that the use of colour in documents is a powerful tool for enhancing communication. Colour usage over black and white improves comprehension, information retention, and many other points based on many studies. Another strong reason companies now use colour is to establish their credibility in the marketplace and in the eyes of their customers.

Technological developments in colour reproduction on paper

has largely made the many intractable problems of colour in the office or in graphics settings quite manageable today. It can still be difficult to produce colour faithfully on hard copy documents. Realistically representing what is seen on screen is close but not quite there, for example.

Office colour laser printing and copying is now very widespread. In the early 1980s colour printing was rarely used due to high costs both for the equipment and the cost of the consumables needed to produce the pages.

By the early 1990s as costs came down, larger companies were the first to be able to afford to bring colour printing and copying equipment in-house. Small companies wanting colour would outsource to a service bureau who had a colour copier and paid them as much as $2 to $3 per page to create photocopies of colour documents first created with colour photographs and typed text.

By the mid-late 1990s network connected colour printers arrived on the market along still lower prices. Nevertheless, a simple colour laser cost over $5,000 and worked out in consumables costs to about 20 cents per page. As of this writing, a better and faster colour printer costs only $449 with a 15 cents per page operating cost. Sepnd more on the equipment (say $2,000) and the cost of operation can drop to below 10 cents per page. (as of January 2011)

The value of colour

Colour should be understood and appreciated for its psychological effects. When considering colour in a document there are 3 areas to address:

  • the intent of the designer
  • the reaction the audience
  • your ability to render the actual colour on paper

To understand how colour on paper can bring these areas together, it helps to understand what emotions colours may invoke.

Recent neurological and psychological research has shown that the impact of colour is significant and largely unconscious. Studies have shown that as much as 60% of consumers decide to purchase a new product based on its colour, as opposed to quality, workmanship, or price guarantee. It is also important to take into consideration that a person will respond to and evaluate most products in less than 60 seconds. Therefore, presentation is key to the success or failure of any printed document, whether that document is for internal use or for external marketing.

Much more on the topic of colour can be found at:

Here are a few examples of what colours represent. This varies by culture, the following applies to “western” culture

Primary Colours


Red is a very emotionally charged colour. It tends to increase the respiration rate and can even raise your blood pressure. It creates excitement and can be associated with danger, war, power, strength passion, desire and love. It can even increase your appetite.


Yellow is the happy colour… it is the colour of sunshine. It creates a sense of cheerfulness and helps to stimulate mental activity. When yellow is very bright, it can attract attention. It can also provide a very sharp contrast to dark colours. Yellow can have the appearance of being brighter than white if over used and can be disturbing if used too much. Requires the most complex visual processing, and is recognized by humans faster than any other colour. Companies with products associated with energy and technological innovation combine yellow’s spontaneity and red’s impulsiveness and power for their trademark.[/expand]


Blue is a trusted colour. It can provide a sense of tranquility and security. It tends to symbolize loyalty, wisdom, trust, faith, confidence, and intelligence. While red can help to increase the appetite, blue tends to have the opposite affect and can actually suppress the appetite.

Secondary Colours


Orange is the combination of the happiness of yellow and the energy and strength of red. It symbolizes creativity, determination, enthusiasm and success. In addition orange indicates affordability. Because of its similarity to red, it is great to promote food.


Green tends to suggest endurance and stability. It represents harmony, growth and freshness. Green indicates safety. Obviously, it is associated with money and wealth. With the interest in “green” products, it is the only colour that can promote organic foods and products effectively. Certain shades of this colour are used in interior design to make people feel “tended” and secure.


Violet or purple combines the energy and strength of red with the stability of blue. It represents nobility, ambition, power and luxury. It symbolizes extravagance and wealth and is often associated with dignity, independence, wisdom and magic.

Other Colours


White is purity, goodness, light and innocence. It is considered perfection. White is generally positive and simple. Often it is the colour of charitable organizations, low-fat foods and dairy products.


Black is elegant, powerful and formal, but can also be associated with death. In marketing, it is dignified. In certain contexts, black is very negative (blacklist, black humor, etc). It can also denote prestige.

Knowing how colour can help your printed documents can help you to communicate more effectively. Our colour multi-function systems and printers provide quality colour reproduction so you can be sure to create the most effective presentation possible. Your audience will notice.

To learn how Modesco can help you get the most out of your business printers, contact us today.