A picture is worth a thousand words, and a color is worth a thousand emotions. Colors can represent anything from emotions to character traits and invoke these thoughts in the viewer. In this post, I outline the psychology of color from feelings and emotions to best uses for each color. Color is a powerful, non-verbal way to invoke reactions from your audience. Hopefully, you’ll be able to pick a few colors and build a color palette to create a strong, recognizable brand identity.
Why the Psychology of Color is Important
Choosing a color palette for anything from your brand identity to the color of your walls is a big decision. The color you choose will create different feelings and emotions, and you want to be sure to draw on the right ones! For interior decor, which is not actually my specialty, you may want some calm, subdued colors on your walls. For a billboard advertisement, you’re likely to choose bright, eye-catching colors to attract viewers. The psychology of color refers to the ability of a color to paint a picture or create an emotion in the viewer.
Red is a vibrant, powerful color that grabs attention quickly. It conveys drama, passion, romance, power, urgency and anger. This fiery color increases heart rate and encourages an appetite, making it a perfect color for restaurants. Think of your favorite fast food chain, and red is likely to be one of the colors in their logo and decor.
Best uses: Use red as an accent color on your website, rather than a primary or background color. Subtle is better with red, so you don’t overwhelm the viewer.
Orange is warm, playful, cheery and energetic. It maintains the vibrancy of red, but combined with the friendliness of yellow creates a happy medium. Orange is a positive color that is not too intrusive or overbearing. Oddly, orange is my least favorite color because it is easy to create an unappealing shade. Adding in slightly too much of a cool tone can create a muddy color, so be cautious when mixing colors.
Best uses: Use orange to bring a friendly, welcoming vibe to your designs. Similar to red, orange can be an overbearing, vibrant color if used too much. Stick to subdued tones for larger areas or use brighter oranges as accents.
Yellow is the happiest of colors, and is sunny, cheerful and positive. This warm color brings a joyful mood to your designs, so use it at will! From mustard yellow to sunshine yellow and everything in between, this shade is sure to put a smile on your face.
Best uses: Yellow makes a great primary color for your website, print material or social media designs. A lighter, muted yellow makes a great background color and can make your text pop. Use a dulled yellow rather than a bright, caution-tape yellow to create a warm, relaxed and friendly vibe in your designs.
Green is the color of nature, and comes in oh-so-many hues. Forest and hunter green are rich and vibrant, and olive green (my favorite color!) is muted and sophisticated. Green creates a a calm, one-with-nature emotion and can be used to represent anything from wealth and money to growth, tranquility and positivity. On a stoplight, green means go, so use this color to show an opportunity or positive transformation.
Best uses: I could go on and on and on about this color because I just love it! Olive green is my favorite color to wear, so I highly recommend it for an outfit choice. In terms of creative and design, use green pretty much anywhere you’d like. It’s an overwhelmingly positive color with a wide array of shades that can be incorporated into most situations.
Blue is the ultimate color of serenity, tranquility and peacefulness. When you see the color blue, you’ll immediately think of things like the sky or the ocean, creating a strong tie to nature. Shades of blue can invoke feelings of trust and reliability in the viewer, which is why so many businesses use this in their branding. A variety of industries are dominated by blue logos, but especially banking. Finances are tricky for people and want their bank and advisors to be dependable and trustworthy. Companies in this field often use blue in their logo to instill this feeling in their audience.
Best uses: Blue is a very common color in branding because of the strong, positive connotations it brings. Spas, social networks and finance companies are a few of the industries that utilize blue the most. Incorporate blue into your branding if you have a product that requires a lot of trust to purchase, or wish to instill loyalty in your audience. It’s a great color for logos, backgrounds, accents and social media images.
Purple is associated with royalty, so it’s no surprise that this color represents wealth, luxury, majesty and abundance. It’s a cool tone that is made up of blue and red, so it also brings about some of the emotions of those colors. It’s a calming color that is used to show serenity and spirituality.
Best uses: This classy color is a great one to use for logos and accent colors to bring a sense of luxury to your brand. It’s a calm and pleasing color that goes well with a variety of color palettes, so use it at will!
Pink is a soft and delicate color associated with femininity. It’s modern and playful, and brings a sense of fun and light-heartedness to your designs. This color is popular with blogs and social media moguls because of its feminine attributes and soft tones. It has the emotion of red, full of passion and love. It has the purity and delicacy of white, making it a perfect combination of beauty and modernism.
Best uses: Pink is a great color to use as the primary color for your brand. It can be bright and bold or soft and subdued, so use it in anything from logos to typography to social media. If your target audience is primarily made up of women, this is a great way to add a feminine touch to your brand.
Ah, brown, my other favorite color (I like neutrals, okay?) that comes in a wide variety of shades. Brown is often associated with nature as it’s a natural, soft tone. It’s not as harsh as black, but can still be used for text and headers. Rich, dark browns imply sweetness like chocolate and durable like a tree trunk. Light beiges and taupes are rustic, timeless and neutral, invoking organic vibes and a calming feeling.
Best uses: Use dark browns in place of black to create a warm, earthy and softer feel to text, headers and logos. This is a great substitute to make if you have a warm color palette because black can be a harsh contrast. Lighter browns should be used as accent colors because if it’s too light it won’t be readable.
Now that you’ve discovered the deeper meaning of these colors…
Think about your brand and the feelings you want to invoke in your audience. Refer back to my branding guide here to learn more about defining your brand. Once you’ve done that, you can take what you’ve learned about the psychology of color and apply it to your color palette.
Maybe your brand is something for hikers, so you’ll want to use earthy tones such as green and brown. Or, maybe your blog is about positivity and self care – you’ll see the connection between yellow and orange as friendly positive colors with your brand. Go through this exercise to define what you want your brand to convey without saying any words, and pick out the colors that say it best!