Colors and emotions are closely linked. Warm colors can evoke different emotions than cool colors and bright colors can create different feelings than muted colors. It all depends on how the psychological effects of color are being used.
Colors can make us feel happy or sad, and they can make us feel hungry or relaxed. These reactions are rooted in psychological effects, biological conditioning and cultural imprinting.
That’s why it’s important to understand the psychological effects colors might have on an average person as well as the fundamentals of color theory and the meanings of colors.
In this article we explain how colors make you feel and what impact colors can have on our emotions.
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Colors and emotions
The way different colors can affect emotions depends largely on a color’s brightness, shade, tint or tone and whether it’s cool or warm toned. Let’s take a look at some of the effects colors can have on how you feel:
Red, orange and yellow are next to each other on the wheel and are all warm colors. Warm colors often evoke feelings of happiness, optimism and energy. However, yellow, red and orange can also have an attention grabbing effect and signal danger or make you take action (think stop signs, hazard warnings and barrier tape). Red can also increase a person’s appetite.
Cool colors include green, blue, and purple. Cool colors are usually calming and soothing but can also express sadness. Purple is often used to help spark creativity as it’s a mixture of blue (calm) and red (intense). If a company wants to display health, beauty or security, incorporate these colors.
Warm colors. Illustration by MWart.
Cool colors. Illustration by Marrieta.
Happy colors are bright, warm colors like yellow, orange, pink and red. Pastel colors like peach, light pink or lilac can also have an uplifting effect on your mood. The brighter and lighter a color, the more happy and optimistic it will make you feel. Another way colors can create happy emotions is by combining multiple primary and secondary colors together for a youthful, colorful effect.
Sad colors are colors that are dark and muted. Black and grey are the quintessential sad colors, but dark and muted cool colors like blue, green or neutrals like brown or beige can have a similar effect on feelings and emotions depending on how they’re used. In Western cultures black is considered the color of mourning, whereas in some East Asian countries it’s white to emphasize purity and rebirth.
Sad colors. Illustration by Znik.
Happy colors. Illustration by Daria V.
Cool colors like blue and green can make you feel calm. Pastel colors and particularly cool toned pastels like baby blue, lilac and mint have a calming and relaxing effect. Neutrals like white, beige and grey can also make you feel calm. The fewer colors you combine and the more simple and pared back a design is, the more calming it will feel.
Strong, bright colors and neon colors can have a powerful effect on emotions. Colors like bright red, bright yellow and neon green can feel energizing and make you feel more alert, but can also be irritating on the eyes. These colors will grab your attention and stand out from their surroundings. Highly pigmented, strong colors like royal blue, turquoise, magenta and emerald green can also have a stimulating effect and make you feel refreshed and energized.
Calming colors. Illustration by Marrieta.
Energizing colors. Illustration by Daria V.
How colors make you feel
Next, let’s dive into the emotions and feelings different colors can evoke.
Photograph: Cas Cornelissen (via Unsplash)
Red makes you feel passionate and energized.
Red is the warmest and most dynamic of the colors—it triggers opposing emotions. It is often associated with passion and love as well as anger and danger. It can increase a person’s heart rate and make them excited.
If you want to draw attention to a design element, use red. But use it as an accent color in moderation as it can be overwhelming.
Photograph: Afroz Nawaf (via Unsplash)
Orange makes you feel energized and enthusiastic.
Orange enhances a feeling of vitality and happiness. Like red, it draws attention and shows movement but is not as overpowering. It is aggressive but balanced — it portrays energy yet can be inviting and friendly. Orange is great for a call to action to buy or subscribe to a product.
Photograph: Alexander Shustov (via Unsplash)
Yellow makes you feel happy and spontaneous.
Yellow is perhaps the most energetic of the warm colors. It is associated with laughter, hope and sunshine. Accents of yellow help give your design energy and will make the viewer feel optimistic and cheerful. However, yellow tends to reflect more light and can irritate a person’s eyes. Too much yellow can be overwhelming and should be used sparingly. In design, it is often used to grab attention in an energetic and comforting way.
Photograph: Buzo Jesús (via Unsplash)
Green makes you feel optimistic and refreshed.
Green symbolizes health, new beginnings and wealth. Green is the easiest on the eyes and should be used to relax and create balance in a design. It is a great color to use if a company wants to depict growth, security or inspire possibility. Green can also feel calming and relaxing.
Photograph: J DuClos (via Unsplash)
Blue makes you feel safe and relaxed.
Blue evokes feelings of calmness and spirituality as well as security and trust. Seeing the color blue causes the body to create chemicals that are calming. It is no surprise that it’s the most favored of the colors. Dark blues are great for corporate designs because it helps give a professional feel, but using too much can create a cold, disengaged feeling. Light blues give a more relaxing, friendly feel. Great examples are social sites like Facebook and Twitter who use lighter blues.
Photograph: Sandro Katalina (via Unsplash)
Purple makes you feel creative.
Purple is associated with mystery, creativity, royalty and wealth. Lighter shades of purple are often used to soothe or calm a viewer, hence why it is used in beauty products. Incorporate purple to make a design look more luxurious and wealthy or a lighter purple to show romance and mystery.
Photograph: Miroslava (via Unsplash)
Pink makes you feel playful and romantic.
Pink represents femininity and romance, sensitivity and tenderness. It’s inherently sweet, cute and charming.
Photograph: Bruno Nascimento (via Unsplash)
Brown makes you feel down to earth.
Brown creates a sense of stability and support. It’s warm and friendly, practical and dependable, and can also represent the old fashioned and well established.
Photograph: Hannah Troupe (via Unsplash)
Black feels sophisticated and serious.
Black evokes power, luxury, elegance, professionalism and simplicity. It’s bold, powerful and a little mysterious. But black can have some negative connotations—it’s the color of mourning, fear and sadness and it can feel intimidating and unapproachable as well.
Photograph: Philipp Berndt (via Unsplash)
White makes you feel pure, fresh and clean.
White evokes purity and innocence and creates a minimalist aesthetic. It can be very simple, clean and modern. It’s also the most neutral color of all.
Photograph: Tobias van Schneider (via Unsplash)
Gray feels serious and professional.
Gray is a more mature, responsible color. Its positive connotations include formality and dependability, while the negative side can mean being overly conservative, conventional and lacking in emotion. It’s safe and quite subdued, serious and reserved.
Colors and feelings are inextricably linked
It is important to note that colors can be subjective—what might make one person feel cheerful can make another person feel irritated depending on the viewers’ past experiences or cultural differences.
Color is not completely agreed on universally and can appeal differently to individual countries. But colors and emotions are closely linked no matter what, so you need to take their effects into account whenever you are using colors. Now that you know how colors and emotions are connected, you can choose colors accordingly and get the results you’re looking for.
Warm colors like red, yellow and orange evoke higher arousal emotions, such as love, passion, happiness, and anger. Cool colors, like blue, green and purple are linked to calmness, sadness and indifference. Colors can trigger these arousal states and emotions.What color makes most people feel good? ›
Yellow is usually the color of happy, joyful emotions.What colors make you feel comfortable? ›
Colors in the red area of the color spectrum are known as warm colors and include red, orange, and yellow. These warm colors evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility.How colors are important in our life? ›
Colors play a vital role in the design and everyday life and they are the reason why color theory even exists. Color can make us feel a certain way when we see it depending on whether we like that particular color or not. We can also associate memories and thoughts with certain colors.What color makes you feel smart? ›
Blue is a soothing color, helping calm the mind and aid concentration. It's no wonder then that blue is a popular color to use in office spaces. It enhances wakefulness and supports clear communication.
Red. Red attracts the most attention and is associated with strong emotions, such as love, passion, and anger.What color do people trust most? ›
Overall, the blue color scheme was perceived as most trustworthy and black as least trustworthy.What colors calm people most? ›
New research claims that dark blue is the world's most relaxing colour. Research carried out by the University of Sussex and paper company G.F Smith, draws on a survey of 26,596 people, from more than 100 countries.What color can calm you? ›
Green – Quiet and restful, green is a soothing color that can invite harmony and diffuse anxiety. Blue – A highly peaceful color, blue can be especially helpful for stress management because it can encourage a powerful sense of calm. Purple – In many cultures, shades of violet represent strength, wisdom and peace.How Colours affect your mood? ›
The color green seems to make positive emotions stronger and negative emotions weaker. White and pink may have similar effects, but researchers are still studying those. Meanwhile, the color red seems to have the opposite effect and make negative emotions -- like those linked to failure and danger -- more intense.
Yellow can work great in your living room or working space because it is a fresh and energetic color. Red or purple can go in the bedroom. Red, used in a proper amount and the right shade is a passionate color, indicating love and affection. Purple, especially the lavender shades bring states of calmness and peace.What are the benefits of colors? ›
Studies have shown that blue and green can create a calming atmosphere; orange and yellow can stimulate appetite; red and pink can inspire passion and energy; while purple can boost creativity and productivity.What's the most important Colour and why? ›
Red is the most powerful color amongst all. It has a tendency to stimulate mind and attract attention. See the red chilies and you will feel the craving to eat them all. Red is also a symbol of youthfulness which makes it a favorite for the youngsters.What color makes the mind happy? ›
Happy colors are bright, warm colors like yellow, orange, pink and red. Pastel colors like peach, light pink or lilac can also have an uplifting effect on your mood. The brighter and lighter a color, the more happy and optimistic it will make you feel.What color make people focus? ›
1) Green: Concentration
Low wavelength colors promote restfulness and calm, and they improve efficiency and focus. So that's why green is an excellent color for improving concentration.
Pink however, uniquely represents love of self; green representing love of others. Because we must love ourselves before we can love others, pink is a very important color and when used properly, can have a huge impact in our lives. Pink provides feelings of caring, tenderness, self-worth and acceptance.What colour is anger? ›
Undoubtedly, the strongest link between an individual emotion and color is “red” and anger, which has been noted across studies and formats (e.g., Kaya and Epps, 2004; Sutton and Altarriba, 2016).Do colors affect our behavior? ›
Color can have psychological effects on everything from human behavior to mood to performance. Prisons in Europe have started painting their walls pink in an effort to calm aggressive inmates. Red sports uniforms have been linked to higher win rates. Blue has been linked to higher rates of creativity.What colour is fear? ›
Each one is colored uniquely (e.g., anger is “red”, fear is “purple”, and disgust is “green”).What color is most honest? ›
Honesty: Blue is the colour of the truth.
Blue. Blue is one of the most common colors brands choose because it's the most trustworthy. It communicates wisdom, freedom, loyalty, and honesty.What color is respect? ›
Red: A red flower is a favorite of youth as it represents an essence of emotions such as love and passion. It is also a symbol of courage, desire, admiration, constancy and respect.What color is positive energy? ›
Red. Red is one of the quickest colors our brain reads. Shades of red are associated with energy, strength, and fascination. Hence, some light shades of red are associated with positivity.What color means confidence? ›
The color red is often used to send messages of confidence to the public. In color psychology, red elicits the greatest feelings of any color.What color means peace? ›
Blue: Peace, tranquility, cold, calm, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, confidence, conservatism, security, cleanliness, order, loyalty, sky, water, technology, depression, appetite suppressant.What color is stress? ›
Red As The Color Of Stress. Red is an intense color that reminds people of blood and passion. It is strong, aggressive, invigorating, and stimulating, that it why it is used in warning signs and traffic signals.What color is jealousy? ›
Green has a long history of symbolizing jealousy dating all the way back to the Ancient Greeks and Shakespeare. Yellow, a color similar to green, can also sometimes be a symbol of jealousy or envy.What color makes hungry? ›
Yellow and orange are colors that make people feel hungry. The color red is associated with emotion and passion. So when one sees red combined with yellow and orange, they become passionately hungry.How does blue make you feel? ›
Blue calls to mind feelings of calmness or serenity. It is often described as peaceful, tranquil, secure, and orderly. Blue is often seen as a sign of stability and reliability. Businesses that want to project an image of security often utilize blue in their advertising and marketing efforts.How does green make you feel? ›
Green evokes a feeling of abundance and is associated with refreshment and peace, rest and security. Green helps people feel rested and secure. People are invited to wait in the “green room” before going on camera to relax. Many doctors even use green in their offices to put patients at ease.
In color psychology, black's color meaning is symbolic of mystery, power, elegance, and sophistication. In contrast, the color meaning can also evoke emotions such as sadness and anger. Many fashion retailers have used black in their logos. Black is also a popular color for text as it's an easy color to read.What color is the saddest color? ›
Sadness. “Gray” was the most frequent color indicated for sadness, followed by “indigo” and then “black” (Figure 1). The intensities for all three colors were moderate (Table 2).What is the saddest Colour? ›
Black is the hallmark color of sadness. In western cultures, this is one of the sad colors associated with mourning, hence why people wear black to funerals and when they are in mourning. Black also brings up feelings of sadness and fear.What is the saddest color ever? ›
Grey is the quintessential sad color, but dark and muted cool colors like blue, green or neutrals like brown or beige can have a similar effect on feelings and emotions depending on how they're used. In Western cultures black is often considered the color of mourning, whereas in some East Asian countries it's white.What color makes anxiety? ›
For instance, red shades tend to trigger your stress response, making you more anxious, while lighter shades calm you down. If you are feeling overly stressed, you can use color as a stress management tool.What colour means love? ›
Pink symbolizes love and romance, caring, tenderness, acceptance and calm.What is the true color of love? ›
Throughout history, red has been the color of passion, romance, and sexual energy. Red lips and blushed cheeks stimulate arousal. A red dress attracts attention and captures the imagination.What is the most stressful color? ›
According to color psychologists, the most stressful and anxiety-inducing color is 'red'. Red room ideas can be too intense for some people – could your red decor be one of the reasons why your friends hate your house? It reminds us of danger and is a color that makes you angry.What color means tired? ›
Gray: Sad (30), Depressed (23), Bored (14), Confused (6), Tired (5), Calm (5), Lonely (4), Angry (3), Fearful (3), No emotion (3), Powerful (2)