How to Use the Color Gold in Graphic Design

Champaign Gold Colored Paper Stacking
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Like yellow, gold versatile in graphic design, able to convey a wide range of meanings and associations. This warm color can be cheerful and optimistic, or more traditionally, associated with opulence and elegance. Depending on the context, it can even convey garishness and materialism.

A cousin to yellow (and orange and brown) is gold. While green may be the color of money (U.S. money, that is) gold is the color of riches and extravagance.

— Jacci Howard Bear, Desktop Publishing Colors and Color Meanings

The Meanings of the Color Gold

Gold's association with wealth owes to the fact that it shares the color and name of a precious metal. Although all that glitters is not gold, the color gold still suggests grandeur and, on the downside, the excesses of the rich. It's also the traditional color and gift for 50th wedding anniversaries. It also signifies success: First-place medals and trophies are typically gold-colored, if not genuine gold.

Outside of the U.S., gold has different meanings. To Hindus, gold represents knowledge and learning. In China, gold represents the element of Earth.

Using Gold in Graphic Design

Add a small amount of metallic gold ink to a project for rich touch. Choose bright gold to catch the eye, and subdued shades to lend richness and warmth. Accent a logo or other design elements with gold-foil embossing. Use gold ribbons or braids on formal invitations, certificates, and diplomas to create the impression of formality. Add a golden glow to an earthy palette of orange, green, and brown; magnify the richness of a burgundy red or purple palette with glittery gold.

Gold Selections for Graphic Designers

Even when a print project calls for gold ink and metallic gold isn't in the client's budget, non-metallic gold colors can go a long way toward adding a rich feel to the project. Below are the CYMK formulations for print, RGB percentages for a document that will be viewed onscreen, and Hex numbers when working in HTML and CSS for a few common gold colors:

Color Hex RGB CMYK
Dark gold #AA6B39 170, 107, 57 0, 7, 56, 65
Sunglow #ffcc33 255, 204, 51 0, 20, 80, 0
Goldenrod #daa520 218, 165, 32 0, 24, 85, 15
Dandelion #f0e130 240, 225, 48 0, 6, 80, 6
Pale Gold #e6be8a 230, 190, 138 0, 17, 40, 10

Use hex codes in CSS and HTML for websites; RGB for projects to be viewed on screens; and CMYK for print.

Spot Color Golds

Nothing catches the eye quite like metallic gold ink used as an accent on a printed logo, packaging or signage. If the design budget allows, go with Pantone Metallic 871 C, one of the hundreds of other metallic inks available. The non-metallic spot colors include:

  • Gold: Pantone Solid Coated 871 C
  • Sunglow: Pantone Solid Coated 129 C
  • Goldenrod: Pantone Solid Coated 128 C
  • Dandelion: Pantone Solid Coated 120 C
  • Light Gold: Pantone Solid Coated 1245 C

The Language of Gold

The use of gold in familiar phrases illustrates the various meanings of gold:

  • "Gold star" indicates praise and commendation.
  • Anything that is as "good as gold" is valuable or positive.
  • "Solid gold" refers to something that is superior, outstanding, best of the best.
  • A "gold standard" is a measure of quality and excellence.
  • A "golden child" is​ a favored person.
  • A "golddigger" feigns genuine interest but is after a person's money.
  • "Fool's gold" appears valuable but is actually worthless.