Rethink Your Ink: How the Meaning of Colors Affects Your Ink Choice

The meaning of colors extends to all things, from the energizing glow of a yellow smiley face to the ink we use to sign a check or write a love note. Is there a hue for happiness? Will blue ink bring blue-sky thinking? Read on to learn more. And grab a pen (we recommend a promotional colored pen) in case our ink color guide inspires you to take a few notes. 

What’s In an Ink Color?

When you’re signing the check after dinner, you might be slightly uplifted to find that the pen writes in blue ink. If the ink is black, you may find yourself upgrading your dining experience—maybe half a star more for sophistication? Colors, including ink colors, are attached to emotions, motivations, and memories. Whether you choose a promotional colored pen with black ink, a customized multi-colored pen with the three or four options, or a set of markers with a whole spectrum of ink colors, ink type sets a tone and has an impact. 

Different Colors for Different Tasks

When you put pen to paper, which ink color do you grab? Should you care? Does it matter? Research shows that it does. Different ink colors work best for different purposes, including task completion, creative brainstorming, solving, listing, doodling, and documenting. 

  • Red Ink: We associate red with danger and failure. It can activate a prevention focus as in, “There’s a red light—I’ve got to stay alert and stop,” or, “Ack! My grade on that test is written in red—I must have failed.” Likewise, a red ink pen can activate a detail orientation, enhancing performance on tasks like proofreading, memorizing, and accuracy. Red ink gets our attention and heightens persuasion (as in, “Stop! These prices won’t last!). Our eyes and ears perk up at the color red! Customize a red ink pen or pencil to make corrections and important notations, underscore errors, and draw attention to edits.
  • Blue Ink: Blue is associated with openness and freedom. A blue ink pen can encourage a focus on positive outcomes and creative solutions. Add your logo to a blue ink pen for distribution ahead of that team-building session or blue-sky brainstorm. Also, notes written in blue are easier to recall. This could be because blue contrasts with what is typically black ink in a book or document, or because blue ink helps us feel open to new ideas and information.
  • Yellow Ink: Though there’s no ink color associated with boredom, there is one associated with energy and arousal—and that’s yellow! Think highlighters and sticky notes. Personalize a yellow highlighter or marker when it’s time to hit the books, plow through reading, and study for that test tomorrow.
  • Green Ink: Green is associated with calmness. Use green ink for creative tasks like journaling and sketching.
  • Black Ink: Black is somber, sophisticated, and formal. Use a black ink pen for serious signing and for handwritten notes that are intended to be thoughtfully considered and carefully kept.

In general, use warm, arousing ink hues (like red, orange, and yellow) to get attention and encourage alertness. Use cold, passive ink hues (like green and blue) to encourage calm and creativity. 

Ink Colors and Learning

A blue room might calm you down, while a bright red one might put you on high alert. But color doesn’t just affect mood and emotions—it also impacts how we learn. Studies have shown that certain colors can improve the absorption and retention of information (short-term and long-term memory). If a learner sees a color they associate with good feelings or engagement (like yellow, for instance) they’re likely to consume and recall the content more easily.  

  • Increased Engagement: Use different colors to code all kinds of academic, professional, and personal content including texts, planners, notes, edits, drawings.
  • Easier Learning: Leverage the connection among colors, emotions, and learning to make any new material more easy to absorb and recall.
  • On-Target Branding: When you customize your promotional colored pen, pencil, or highlighter, keep the meanings of colors in mind.

Ink Color Adds to an Engaging Environment

Use of ink color helps to accommodate all the different ways we absorb content. The more options given to engage different parts of the brain (like verbal, pictorial, and spatial), the lower the learner’s “cognitive load,” i.e., the easier it is for them to absorb and recall info. Think of a presentation that 1) takes place live, 2) features a speaker or speakers, and 3) includes background visuals like a PowerPoint or other written words. Add to that an audience member taking notes with a promotional pen with multi-colored ink, and the options to reach all audience members are nearly limitless. Each audience member has multiple processing systems available to absorb content, thus increasing learning, recall, and success.  

Special Mention Goes to the Multi-Ink Pen

Perhaps in a nod to color-coding gone wild (and emotions as well?), multi-colored pens are here to stay, and the reasons for that are many. With their range of colors and associated emotions, pens with multi-colored ink offer several advantages. 

  • Any Job, All in One: No need to carry a clutch of pens to work, school, or while journaling.
  • Engage the Brain with Kaleidoscope of Colors: Kids with ADHD or other focus-related differences sometimes find that switching colors while taking notes helps with real-time focus as well as post-class review.
  • Memory Made Easier: Students learning English as a second language can memorize and retain English word combinations more effectively when different word types are color-coded. In addition, color coding improves both short-term and long-term memory of the word combinations.

The meaning of colors is a particularly relevant topic when you’re choosing ink color for your promotional pen. Pick the ink that suits your branding style and use case, and when it doubt, the mighty     and multi-colored ink pen deserves a shout out! 

A Few Pens Whose Ink (and More) We Love

Looking to add your imprint to a promotional pen with just the right ink color? Consider these options: 

Mineral Soft Touch Lucina 4-Ink Stylus Pen: You’ll find all the most popular ink colors in this mineral finished pen, including a stylus for touchscreens.

Paper Mate® InkJoy RT Pen – Translucent: All the ink colors you can imagine, and a hybrid ballpoint-gel ink that’s as vivid as can be. 

Full Color Bright Soft Touch Alpha Stylus Pen: Pick black or blue ink, and enjoy a range of barrel colors to match any mood and inspire any crowd. 

Satin Finish Paragon Pen with Rose Gold Trim: For sophisticated signing and serious notes, this stylus pen combines sleek black ink with a soft touch barrel in rich earthy tones and rose gold trim.  

Apply the meaning of colors to things large (like cars) and small (like promotional pens). Perhaps life becomes a little more engaging, and filled with memories that last a little bit longer.  


Karleen Wise Andersen

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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