Liking versus harmony rating

People generally dislike pairs including dark oranges (browns) and dark yellows (olive-colors), even if they are considered harmonious.

Left: Least liked and least harmonious. Right: Disliked despite harmonious

The most liked combinations are also the ones considered most harmonious. We can see harmony has been interpreted as low contrast (in all the respects: hue, lightness, saturation):

Most liked and most harmonious. Differences in lightness are in the range of 10—30%.

However, some pairs that have been rated rather disharmonious were liked above average. They have high lightness contrast and high hue contrast.

Liked despite not harmonious


In conclusion, if you want to appeal to a large audience:

  1. Stay away from the pesky side of brown/dark orange and olive/dark yellow and step in the clear realm of the saturated blues and cyans, with touches of magenta and green.
  2. Choose a similar hue
  3. Dial the lightness contrast to a range of 10-30% difference.

Thank you for reading and I hope you found this summary useful!



  • Palmer, S. E., & Schloss, K. B. (2011). Aesthetic response to color combinations: preference, harmony, and similarity. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 73(2), 551-571.
  • Palmer, S. E., & Schloss, K. B. (2010). An ecological valence theory of human color preference. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(19), 8877-8882.
  • Terwogt, M. M., & Hoeksma, J. B. (1995). Colors and emotions: Preferences and combinations. The Journal of general psychology, 122(1), 5-17.