Delving Into the Enchanting World of Winter Colors

Colorful illustration of forest landscape in winter

In our collective consciousness, every season has its own color palette. And while many people simply associate the winter season with Christmas colors, the colors of the season extend far beyond the holidays.

If you’re looking for some winter colors for a seasonal design or decoration, take a look below.

What Are Winter Colors?

Simply put, winter colors are shades inspired by the winter season — think deep greens inspired by pine and spruce trees, the vivid red of holly berries, and of course the rich, cool-hued white of a snowy landscape.

It’s easy to think of winter as a barren season. After all, the leaves fall from the trees, the grass turns a shade of yellow-brown, and many of the most colorful birds have flown south for the winter. But if you look closely, you can find a wealth of untapped inspiration in the colors of winter.

Winter Colors

Here’s a closer look at the magical world of winter colors and how you might use them in your own designs.

Bright Cardinal Reds

A bright red male Northern Cardinal perches on a branch in winter

Red is one of the most iconic Christmas colors. But even without taking Santa suits, holly berries, and candy canes into account, this is a color that pops up during the winter season.

Winter birds like the cardinal shown in the picture are a prime example. When the leaves have fallen off the trees and the ground is blanketed with snow, birds — and especially bright birds like this one — stand out. As a result, images of red cardinals against white snow have come to be emblematic of the winter season.

You sometimes see bright shades of red used alongside deep greens. But keep in mind that mixtures like this are sometimes more closely associated with Christmas than with winter in general.

Cardinal Red
Hex #C41E3A
RGB 196, 30, 58
CMYK 0, 85, 70, 23

Forest-Inspired Dark Greens

An aerial view of a vast evergreen forest filled with spruce trees

Along with red, green is one of the two main colors of Christmas. But shades of dark green are closely associated with winter in general as well.

It’s easy to see why: the only trees that retain their foliage are evergreens, and evergreens typically have deep, dark green leaves or needles. It doesn’t get more wintery than an evergreen forest shrouded in snow!

Forest Green
Hex #014421
RGB 1, 68, 33
CMYK 99, 0, 51, 73

Glistening Golds

A collection of gold glittering Christmas ornaments rests in front of a glistening golden background

If Christmas wasn’t in winter, gold might not be associated with the season. After all, as you can see in the picture, many Christmas decorations involve metallic gold and gold glitter.

But even without that association, you might notice a little more gold during the winter season. The sun sits fairly low on the horizon, and as it rises and sets, you might see that its light looks especially golden — especially when there’s snow on the ground.

Metallic Gold
Hex #D4AF37
RGB 212, 175, 55
CMYK 0, 17, 74, 17

Midnight Blues

A photo of a snow-covered Siberian forest at night below a large full moon

Many people associate shades of very dark blue with the winter season. Part of that might be because it captures the very essence of winter. The season is cold and dark, and midnight blue is a cool color that’s dark as well.

As you can see in the picture above, dark shades of midnight blue also capture the color of the winter night sky.

Dark Midnight Blue
Hex #003366
RGB 0, 51, 102
CMYK 100, 50, 0, 60

Stately Ivories

Three ivory candles situated in a Christmas wreath with a lit Christmas tree in the background

You might associate snow white with winter before you’d associate ivory with this season. But ivory does a great job of combining two elements of winter — white captures the colder weather, and the slightly warm tint of ivory captures the coziness we try to cultivate during this season.

Ivory is also commonly used in vintage-style designs, so you might see it used in winter decoration schemes like the one shown in the picture. It pairs beautifully with both gold and dark green!

RGB 255, 255, 240
CMYK 0, 0, 6, 0

Shining Silvers

A decorative silver bell is covered in snow and hangs from a Christmas tree outside

Gold isn’t the only metallic we often associate with winter. Silver is a winter color that shows up both in nature and in wintery decor.

If you’ve ever seen the sun shine onto ice-encrusted tree branches, you know the beautiful silvery glow it produces! Silver also might remind you of the look of snowflakes floating down from a gray-tinted sky.

Light Silver
Hex #D8D8D8
RGB 216, 216, 216
CMYK 0, 0, 0, 15

Snowy Whites

The golden light of the setting sun filters through snow-covered trees in a forest

White may be the color with the most obvious seasonal association. Winter is the season of snow, so white is naturally connected to it. As you might expect, winter whites tend to be cooler shades.

Because shades of cool white can really be connected to any season when they’re part of the right color palette, it matters what colors you pair with white. Combining snow white with dark green might make you think of a forest covered in snow. Pairing it with silver or light blue might make you think of a snowy, icy day.

Snow White
Hex #F3F6FB
RGB 243, 246, 251
CMYK 3, 2, 0, 2

Bold Burgundies

Knitted burgundy scarf on a dark wooden background

Burgundy is a deep, purplish-red shade that does well in both fall and winter designs. It has a distinctive appeal that is both vintage and upscale — you may have seen burgundy and gold Christmas decorations before!

Burgundy goes especially well with ivory, gold, and deep shades of green. While burgundy can be a successful background color, you don’t need a whole lot of it to make a statement. It’s also great for keeping your designs grounded.

For example, if the design you’re working on includes actual Christmas decorations, you could take some inspiration from a common decoration scheme and include a burgundy ribbon with metallic gold edging.

Hex #800020
RGB 128, 0, 32
CMYK 0, 100, 75, 50

Icy Blues

A pile of sharp, blue-tinted ice shards on Lake Baikal

Like water, ice can appear blue when there’s enough of it — you can see that fact illustrated in the image above.

In a different context, this particular shade of blue might be interpreted as the color of the sky. But if your design includes other wintery elements, shades of ice blue should make your audience think of a burst of chilly air.

Light Ice Blue
Hex #B4DDF9
RGB 180, 221, 249
CMYK 28, 11, 0, 2

Capturing the Seasonal Spirit: Using Winter Colors in Your Own Designs

Seasonal design in winter colors

Now that you’ve gotten a quick crash course in the types of colors you might use in a winter design, you’re ready to incorporate them into a design of your own. Whether you’re a seasoned graphic designer or just starting out, check out these helpful tips for successfully using winter colors in all of your projects.

Choose Your Tableau

Some winter colors (like shades of cool white and deep green) really go together. Others (like burgundy and icy blue) usually don’t. If you want your audience to take a look at your project and think instantly of winter, it might be helpful to draw inspiration from a traditional winter scene or environment. Here are a few examples you might try:

  • Wreaths/Christmas trees: Cardinal red, forest green, snowy white, and maybe even shades of burgundy, gold, and/or silver
  • Sunny winter day: Snowy white, icy blue, and bright sky blue (also add a shade of gray-brown to capture the color of bare trees)
  • Classic Christmas decorations: Ivory, cardinal red, forest green
  • Snowy forest: Forest green, snowy white

If you don’t have a mental picture of what you want your design to remind your audience of, it’s easy to accidentally create a design that’s simply a jumbled mess of color!

Make Sure the Colors You Choose Still Match Your Brand Identity

If you’re creating a winter marketing scheme or doing a seasonal update on a website, it can be hard to choose the right colors to include in your palette. However, you shouldn’t only focus on which colors go well together — you also need to ensure you choose colors that fit the general ethos of the person or brand you’re designing for.

For example, let’s say you’re creating a winter-themed ad campaign for a company that primarily manufactures tents, hiking gear, and other outdoor equipment. Even though burgundy and gold are both considered to be Christmas colors, their association with opulence makes them a questionable choice for this particular project.

On the other hand, if you choose a combination of snowy white, forest green, and bright sky blue, you can capture the essence of a forest hike on a winter afternoon. Add in a little brown, and you have the perfect seasonal color palette for an outdoor company!

Keep Your Energy Balanced

As you likely noticed on the list above, some winter colors are markedly brighter and more energetic than others. A burst of energy in design is often helpful, but at least when it comes to winter colors, there’s definitely a risk of bringing in too much of a good thing.

Take red and green for example. It’s pretty hard to take a look at this combo and not think of Christmas. But have you ever noticed that in nearly every red and green design, there’s more green than red?

Too much red can be overwhelming to an audience, and it might hurt your eyes if you stare at it for too long. Plus, red is hot and high-energy — two descriptors that we don’t usually associate with the winter season!

Don’t Overdo It

Winter offers us a surprising bouquet of different colors. And as you discover each one, you might find that it’s hard to choose which shades to use. Some people make the mistake of getting carried away and using every winter color they like.

There are a few contexts where this might actually work. But in the majority of cases, a design with large amounts of several different colors is going to look cluttered and generally unpleasant.

Some designers suggest using no more than three colors from any given palette. You don’t have to be that limited, especially if you’re working on a design that requires a lot of different accent colors. Just take a long, hard look with a critical eye. If your design looks overcrowded, it probably is.

Invigorate Your Next Design With Frosty Winter Magic

We all know the feeling of stepping outside on a brisk winter day and feeling instantly awake. When you choose the right winter shades, you can evoke that very feeling in your audience. Whether you’re beginning a digital design project or just deciding how to decorate your home for the season, you’ll find that wintery landscapes offer endless inspiration!

Learn More: Explore the four seasons and find out how seasonal colors affect us.