Psychology of Color – A Breakdown

by / Thursday, 13 June 2013 / Published in General, Graphic Design, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

The Psychology of Color

What Is Color?

When you’re selecting colors for a project do you always consider the psychology and emotional impact of the hues you use?

In 1666, English scientist Sir Isaac Newton discovered that when pure white light passes through a prism, it separates into all of the visible colors. Newton also found that each color is made up of a single wavelength and cannot be separated any further into other colors.

Further experiments demonstrated that light could be combined to form other colors. For example, red light mixed with yellow light creates an orange color. Some colors, such as yellow and purple, cancel each other out when mixed and result in a white light.

If you have ever painted, then you have probably noticed how certain colors can be mixed to create other colors. Marion Boddy-Evans,’s Guide to Painting, has an excellent overview of color theory basics including how different colors can be mixed.

Do you feel anxious in a yellow room? Does the color blue make you feel calm and relaxed? Artists and interior designers have long understood how the psychology of color can dramatically affect moods, feelings and emotions. It is a powerful communication tool and can be used to signal action, influence mood, and cause physiological reactions. Certain colors can raise blood pressure, increase metabolism, or cause eyestrain.

Of course, your feelings about color can also be deeply personal and are often rooted in your own experience or culture. For example, while the color white is used in many Western countries to represent purity and innocence, it is seen as a symbol of mourning in many Eastern countries.

Why is color such a powerful force in our lives? What effects can it have on our bodies and minds?

Many colors have strong ties to human emotions. Some assocations are obvious. We probably all know that green evokes ideas of freshness, renewal, and health, white is purity, and red means passion (whether love or hate). But would you be able to name the most child-like color off the top of your head? Here’s a hint.


The folks at Carey Joliffe, a full-service design boutique in Denver have put together a very handy (and free) chart called The Psychology of Color. It lists nearly 50 PMS colors with positive associations for each, and negative associations in some cases as well.

The Psychology of Color


Also worth checking out is a related infographic at the marketing blog Kissmetrics, How Do Colors Affect Purchases?

How Color Affects Purchases