Data-Backed Ways to Include Neutral Colors and Earth Tones In Your Ads


Neutral colors and earth tones invoke warm, nature-friendly vibes. Here’s how to make the most out of these clickable colors in your ads. 

Earth tones are often muted, but they can be show-stopping. According to Wikipedia, the term “earth tone” refers to any color that includes a shade of brown, referencing the Earth’s soil. Additionally, this term describes any color found in nature. Whether these shades are found in leafy greens, brown soil, or cloudy grays, earth tones can be truly stunning.

There’s a ton of variety of shades, when considering neutral and earth tone families. We see these colors everywhere outdoors.

They live beyond our natural world, as well, as creatives incorporate earth tones into interior design, graphic design, furniture design, and more.

Vogue even predicts an increase of earthy colors in design, as a reaction to our technologically-advanced lifestyles.

Images via Creative Travel Projects, Cavan Images, Cavan Images, and Daniel Waschnig Photography / Westend61.

So, which naturally colored items are most engaging for consumers? We’ve studied advertising data to find out.

Shutterstock.AI analyzed over 700 billion digital marketing data points in its study of earth tones. From this observation, the AI learned which neutrally-colored settings, objects, foods, and fabrics are most likely to drive clicks and conversions.

Want to see how you can best embrace Mother Nature’s color palettes in ways your audience will love? Keep reading.


Majestic horses running through a field in Australia
Image via Tobias Titz / fStop.

Show off Dusty Deserts and Warm Waters

First, let’s look at which settings are most-likely to increase click-through rates (CTRs) of images. Our AI observed all settings used within photos—both indoor and outdoor.

It’s fitting to see that dirt is the most clickable earth-toned object to include within imagery. Dirt is more clickable than any other object within the setting category, with its CTR having risen 451% since this time last year.

Men on a cow cart traveling down red dirt road in Cambodia
Image via Amazing Travel and Lifestyle.

Beyond simple dirt though, we see that deserts are also performing well. This goes hand-in-hand with Shutterstock’s 2022 “Way Out West” creative trend prediction.

Over the last year, we’ve seen the following settings and objects increase in clickability: 

  • Deserts’ CTR has risen 214%.
  • Cliffs’ CTR has risen 233%.
  • Rocks’ CTR has risen 248%. 
  • The CTR of sand has risen 463%, as well.

Images via Liya_Blumesser, Abbie Warnock-Matthews, Volha Vasilevich, Bill45, and corumov.

On the opposite side of the setting spectrum, several water landscapes are trending up right now. Include these objects, which show off earthy shades of blue and green, to increase engagement for your next campaign: 

  • Seaweed’s CTR has risen 32% since last year. 
  • Oceans’ CTR has risen 249% since last year. 
  • Rivers’ CTR has risen 344% since last year. 
  • Fog’s CTR has risen 589% since last year. 

Images via Johnér, Nowaczyk, Romanqu, Lyudmyla Pokryshen, Volodymyr Burdiak, travelwild, Ralf Siemieniec, and Olena Znak.


Image via Dinael Oropeza.

Neutral-Colored Food Can Be Flavorful and Clickable

It’s an established fact that a colorful diet can be a very healthy diet. After all, vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables are the richest in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Still, there are many foods of earth-toned shades that are staples in our diets.

When thinking about foods that fall into the earth-toned color category, we may default to grains—and rightfully so, as wheat is the most clickable neutrally-colored food. Wheat’s CTR has surged 1,047% over the last year.

Closeup of wheat ready for harvest
Image via Sebastian Dorn / Westend61.

Beyond grains though, there are other exciting and engaging earth-toned foods. For example, spices have risen in popularity, with a CTR that’s lifted 46% over the last year.

Berries have held a top spot among the most clickable foods, in general, for a long time. The clickability of berries continues to rise, with its CTR having increased 292% since last summer.

Mushrooms have increased 220% in clickability since last year. Tea’s CTR has gone up 150% over the same time period, too.

Images via art4stock, Andrija Petrovic, and Amazing Aerial Agency.

Data tells us that now’s the time to embrace whole grains in your food photos. You can still kick them up a notch, in terms of flavor and clickability.

Include close-up shots that show off spice rubs. Indulge the eyes with photos of delicious berries on decadent French toast. Top off your pizzas with fresh mushrooms.

Your creative decisions will certainly catch eyes . . and clicks.

Images via Esther Clemente / Addictive Creative, tareks79, Rujipart, Burcu Avsar, and Rawpixel.com.


Woman standing next to bucking white horse in the white desert sands
Image via conrado.

Opt for Earth-Toned Fabrics and Fashion

Several neutral colored textiles are trending right now, perhaps in reference to dark academia or fairycore fashion trends.

Sails are among some of the most clickable objects measured, with a CTR that’s up 925% since summer of 2021.

Alongside sails, we see that canvas is trending up, too. Canvas is 219% more clickable than it was one year ago. 

Other fabrics and fashions within this color family are on-trend this summer. Linen has seen its CTR rise 376% across the last year. Leather’s CTR has risen 231% since last summer, too. 

Images via CarlosDavid, Victoria Chudinova, Galina Zhigalova, HANUMAN_168, MeinaLiao, Ysbrand Cosijn, Victoria Chudinova, Visnja Sesum, and TONL.

Of course, other brighter, bolder, and bombastic shades are on-trend today. Still, AI indicates that if neutrals are more your style, there’s no need to shy away from them.

By trusting in the data discovered by artificial intelligence, including an earth-toned color palette in your ads can drive just as many clicks. 


Cover image via UliAb.



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