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Dark Colors: What They Are, Meaning, Tips & Examples

Dark colors are the slightly somber yet powerful and sophisticated versions of the brighter hues on the traditional color wheel.

Darker shades aren’t solely black but can range from dark yellows to dark blues and everything in between. 

In design, darker colors fulfill aesthetic and practical roles, making them a vital addition to any color scheme.

These dark shades hold much potential in the design industry if you know when and how to use them. Let’s check them out!

Modern classic black interior with brown couch

What Are Dark Colors?

Typically, black comes to mind when you think of dark colors – and you won’t be completely wrong. 

Black is dark because it absorbs light. However, pure black is almost nonexistent in our world, so it would be correct to say black reflects very little light. 

In short, it is this lack of light that makes it dark. However, some people don’t technically consider black (or white) a color

It doesn’t appear on the color wheel, nor does a black color have any wavelengths (i.e., it is devoid of light and thus color).

But black isn’t the only dark color. A dark color is called a shade. In art, a shade is any pure color mixed with black. For example:

Red + Black = Maroon

Blue + Black = Navy

Yellow + Black = Mustard

Green + Black = Dark green

Purple + Black = Eggplant or deep purple

Orange + Black = Rust

White + Black = Gray 

A dark shade can therefore be any hue, even yellow, given a darker value due to adding black.

Royal blue armchair next to a fireplace in a blue living room

Psychological Meaning Of Dark Colors

Colors evoke particular feelings and, as such, have forged specific associations in our brains. For example:

  • Bright colors link to high energy, fun, and youthfulness. 
  • Light colors are related to stillness, peace, cleanliness, and softness.
  • Pastel colors are linked to playful calmness and friendliness.
  • Muted colors are related to safety, familiarity, and genuineness.
  • Metallic colors are associated with power, luxury, and regality.

Dark and deep shades are typically associated with stability, competence, power, and sophistication. 

For this reason, you will often find a navy or black outfit more suitable for an interview.

Dark-colored products, like a cognac sofa or a granite gray sportscar, also appear more luxurious and classier.

Black, specifically, conquers associations with evil, moodiness, and rebellion, the color of choice for many movie villains and emotional teenagers alike. 

In Western cultures, black is also the most common color to wear when you are mourning the passing of others since it symbolizes misery and works like a shell in such a reflective moment.

An interesting fact is that white is a more appropriate color to wear to a funeral in Eastern countries like Japan.

Two burgundy armchairs placed in gray living room

Pros And Cons Of Using Dark Colors

Here are some pros and cons of using dark colors in designs.

Dark Colors Pros

In interior design, adding dark colors in a bedroom can add a touch of elegance, refinement, and confidence to a space.

Dark colors have also become prevalent in bathrooms in modern times. Many interior designers recommend dark walls in rooms with good natural light.

Wearing dark clothes can convey a sense of confidence, determination, and accomplishment, making it the perfect color for a politician’s suit or an interview–like deep blues.

Wearing darker shades in the workplace can also make you blend in more easily.

In marketing, designers use darker colors to create powerful combinations with other hues.

For example, pink and black evoke wittiness, while white and deep blue create a timeless design—neutral colors create a welcoming contrast with deep colors. Bold colors also balance saturated shades that risk being too overwhelming.

For UX designers, it is vital to note that most people prefer to view websites and apps in dark mode (dark background color, light text color). Users find it results in less strain on their eyes. 

Dark Colors Cons

Dark tones in an interior space can make an area feel significantly smaller and closed-in.

Because dark paint colors absorb more sunlight when used on a house’s interior or exterior walls, they will fade faster than lighter colors. It thus requires more maintenance.

Frequently wearing dark types of colors can negatively impact your mood and come across as unadventurous and boring in terms of style.

Dark clothing can also wash out and appear dull after a short time, compared to white and lighter colors.

Darker colors can often get lost in advertising. Therefore, you must pair them with brighter hues to catch an audience’s attention.

Dark Color Codes and Examples

Here are a few collections of dark color hex codes to inspire and help you create your next design:


This dark color palette has beautiful shades of brown, don’t you think?










In the woods

On the other hand, this palette has gorgeous dark shades of green.






Fall night







Dark ocean





High wine






Witches on the loose









From dark to medium, these are elegant shades of gray.









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Drop the name of your favorite dark color in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!