Colors are everywhere and they influence you throughout the day, without you being necessarily aware. Yet if you look around, you will see a pattern in the use of colors, whether you are at the supermarket, at the hairdresser, the hospital, the doctor, the florist, the perfumer or even at someone’s house…
Although the meaning of colors can vary from one culture to another, it is still recognized that there are some color effects that have universal meaning.
Which is why the psychology of colors is a very important aspect of branding.
Colors And Emotions
Colors are even present in every day life expressions, expressing a state or situation…
- To be green with envy/jealousy
- To be blue in the face
- To be browned off
- To give someone the green light
- To be white as a ghost
- To have a yellow streak…
- To see life in pink
What Is The Psychology Of Colors?
The psychology of colors assumes that each color can influence our mind/intellect and our emotions. We unconsciously associate thoughts or /and feelings to each color of the spectrum.
When you come to think of it, have you ever seen a hospital with black walls? Would you want to be hospitalized there? Or do you often buy food in blue packaging (expect maybe for fish? lol)?
When you see a color – any color – you receive a visual stimuli that will lead to a reaction (mental or physical) : well being, discomfort, heat, cold, calmness, excitement, concentration, stress… and many more!
The Importance Of Color In Branding
Marketing and advertising executives have clearly understood the impact and benefits of colors on people and now implement the color psychology for their branding and advertising.
Color is a very influential source of information when people are making a purchasing decision Think of it… would you feel the same way in a store if the color used on the walls was white, blue, red, black?
I have found myself at times not even walking into a store because I hated the colors : they made me feel stressed and oppressed. On the contrary there are places that make you feel peaceful and relaxed the moment you walk in…
Basically, color is always used in an attempt to make you hungry, calm, create a positive or negative reaction, encourage trust, caution or energy, and so on…
Favorite Colors By Gender
Least Favorite Colors By Gender
Color Coordination & Conversions
Some colors look really great together while others will appear repulsive and aggressive to the eye.
This may seem mysterious, but actually it’s quite simple to explain. Just take a look at the below wheel colors to get a better understanding of how colors work together.
Colors which are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Powerful contrast that allows web designers to choose a dominant color (background) and another to highlight the most important elements of the page (content)
Colors which lie on either side of any given color. Often found in nature and harmonious. They usually match well and create serene and comfortable designs.
Power of three colors which are situated 120 degrees from each other (equilateral triangle) on the color wheel. Considered by some to be the best color scheme. You can use one color for the background and the two remaining for content and highlighted areas.
Variation of the complementary scheme. Uses two colors adjacent to its complement. High degree of contrast which result in greater harmony than complementary colors.
Use of four colors arranged into two complementary pairs. Rich color scheme offers a lot of possibilities for variation. Works best if you let one color be dominant. Pay attention to the balance between warm and cool colors in your design.
Similar to the rectangular scheme. Offers the greatest number of possible color combination (can cause a problem for good harmony). Be careful when using square color schemes.
Psychological Properties Of Colors
RED : physical, love
Positive : physical courage, strength, warmth, energy, basic survival, fight, stimulation, masculinity, excitement, passion, action, ambition, determination, love, romance, gentle, intensity, life
Negative : defiance, aggression, visual impact, strain, danger, anger, sexual passion, lust, negative issues, blood
Being the longest wavelength, red is a powerful color. Although not technically the most visible, it has the property of appearing to be nearer than it is and therefore it grabs our attention first. Hence its effectiveness in traffic lights the world over. Its effect is physical; it stimulates us and raises the pulserate, giving the impression that time is passing faster than it is. It relates to the masculine principle and can activate the “fight or flight” instinct. Red is strong, and very basic. Pure red is the simplest color, with no subtlety. It is stimulating and lively, very friendly. At the same time, it can be perceived as demanding and aggressive.
BLUE : intellectual, peaceful, trustworthy, “corporate”
Positive : intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty, logic, coolness, reflection, calm, peace, loyalty, integrity, wisdom, truth, focused
Negative : coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion, unfriendliness, conservatism, frigidity, un-appetizing, uncaring
Blue is the colour of the mind and is essentially soothing; it affects us mentally, rather than the physical reaction we have to red. Strong blues will stimulate clear thought and lighter, soft blues will calm the mind and aid concentration. Consequently it is serene and mentally calming. It is the colour of clear communication. Blue objects do not appear to be as close to us as red ones. Time and again in research, blue is the world’s favourite colour. However, it can be perceived as cold, unemotional and unfriendly.
YELLOW : emotional, optimistic, cheerful, sun
Positive : optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extraversion, emotional strength, friendliness, creativity, mind, intellect, competence, happiness
Negative : irrationality, fear, emotional fragility, depression, anxiety, suicide, impatience, criticism, cowardice, jealousy
The yellow wavelength is relatively long and essentially stimulating. In this case the stimulus is emotional, therefore yellow is the strongest color, psychologically. The right yellow will lift our spirits and our self-esteem; it is the color of confidence and optimism. Too much of it, or the wrong tone in relation to the other tones in a color scheme, can cause self-esteem to plummet, giving rise to fear and anxiety. Our “yellow streak” can surface.
GREEN : balance, growth, nature
Positive : harmony, balance, refreshment, universal love, rest, restoration, reassurance, environmental awareness, equilibrium, peace, good taste, natural, money, fertility, calmness Negative : boredom, stagnation, blandness, enervation, envy
Green strikes the eye in such a way as to require no adjustment whatever and is, therefore, restful. Being in the centre of the spectrum, it is the colour of balance – a more important concept than many people realise. When the world about us contains plenty of green, this indicates the presence of water, and little danger of famine, so we are reassured by green, on a primitive level. Negatively, it can indicate stagnation and, incorrectly used, will be perceived as being too bland.
VIOLET : spiritual
Positive : spiritual awareness, containment, vision, luxury, authenticity, truth, quality, imagination, creativity, power, royalty, wealth, sophistication, wisdom, exotic, prosperity, respect, mystery
Negative : introversion, decadence, suppression, inferiority, immaturity, impractical
The shortest wavelength is violet, often described as purple. It takes awareness to a higher level of thought, even into the realms of spiritual values. It is highly introvertive and encourages deep contemplation, or meditation. It has associations with royalty and usually communicates the finest possible quality. Being the last visible wavelength before the ultra-violet ray, it has associations with time and space and the cosmos. Excessive use of purple can bring about too much introspection and the wrong tone of it communicates something cheap and nasty, faster than any other color.
ORANGE : social communication, optimism
Positive : physical comfort, food, warmth, security, sensuality, passion, abundance, fun, happy, excitement, enthusiam, change, stimulation
Negative : deprivation, frustration, frivolity, immaturity, pessimism, superficiality.
Since it is a combination of red and yellow, orange is stimulating and reaction to it is a combination of the physical and the emotional. It focuses our minds on issues of physical comfort – food, warmth, shelter etc. – and sensuality. It is a ‘fun’ colour. Negatively, it might focus on the exact opposite – deprivation. This is particularly likely when warm orange is used with black. Equally, too much orange suggests frivolity and a lack of serious intellectual values.
PINK : unconditional love, nurturing
Positive : physical tranquility, nurture, warmth, feminity, love, sexuality, survival of the species, sincerity
Negative : inhibition, emotional claustrophobia, emasculation, physical weakness, immature, silly, girlish
Being a tint of red, pink also affects us physically, but it soothes, rather than stimulates. (Interestingly, red is the only color that has an entirely separate name for its tints. Tints of blue, green, yellow, etc. are simply called light blue, light green etc.) Pink is a powerful color, psychologically. It represents the feminine principle, and survival of the species; it is nurturing and physically soothing. Too much pink is physically draining and can be somewhat emasculating.
GREY : neutrality
Positive : psychological neutrality, compromise, timeless, practical
Negative : lack of confidence, dampness, depression, hibernation, lack of energy
Pure grey is the only colour that has no direct psychological properties. It is, however, quite suppressive. A virtual absence of colour is depressing and when the world turns grey we are instinctively conditioned to draw in and prepare for hibernation. Unless the precise tone is right, grey has a dampening effect on other colours used with it. Heavy use of grey usually indicates a lack of confidence and fear of exposure.
BLACK : unknown, secretive, mysterious
Positive : Sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance, luxury, authority, power, strength, slimming
Negative: Oppression, coldness, menace, heaviness, grief, fear, evil, death
Black is all colors, totally absorbed. The psychological implications of that are considerable. It creates protective barriers, as it absorbs all the energy coming towards you, and it enshrouds the personality. Black is essentially an absence of light, since no wavelengths are reflected and it can, therefore be menacing; many people are afraid of the dark. Positively, it communicates absolute clarity, with no fine nuances. It communicates sophistication and uncompromising excellence and it works particularly well with white. Black creates a perception of weight and seriousness.
WHITE : purity
Positive : perfection, innocence, wholeness, completion, sincerity, purity, cleanliness, sense of space, neutrality
Negative : mourning (in some cultures), cold
Just as black is total absorption, so white is total reflection. In effect, it reflects the full force of the spectrum into our eyes. Thus it also creates barriers, but differently from black, and it is often a strain to look at. It communicates, “Touch me not!” White is purity and, like black, uncompromising; it is clean, hygienic, and sterile. The concept of sterility can also be negative. Visually, white gives a heightened perception of space. The negative effect of white on warm colours is to make them look and feel garish.
BROWN : friendly, down-to-earth
Positive : security, protection, comfort, material wealth, reliability, stability, friendship, warmth, natural, organic
Negative : serious, ruggedness, sadness, mourning (in some cultures)
Brown usually consists of red and yellow, with a large percentage of black. Consequently, it has much of the same seriousness as black, but is warmer and softer. It has elements of the red and yellow properties. Brown has associations with the earth and the natural world. It is a solid, reliable colour and most people find it quietly supportive – more positively than the ever-popular black, which is suppressive, rather than supportive.
Positive : achievement, triumph, abundance, prosperity, luxury, quality, prestige, sophistication, value, elegance, affluence, material wealth, extravagance
Negative : cupid, cheap
The color gold is the color of success, achievement and triumph. Associated with abundance and prosperity, luxury and quality, prestige and sophistication, value and elegance, the psychology of this color implies affluence, material wealth and extravagance.
Gold in its physical state, by its very nature, denotes wealth and prestige in every country, culture and market in the world today – it is probably the most valuable and easily traded commodity available in the global market place.
This color is linked to masculine energy and the power of the sun, compared to silver which is associated with feminine energy and the sensitivity of the moon.
SILVER : feminine energy
Positive : fluid, emotional, sensitive, mysterious
Negative : dull, melancholy, lonely, lifeless and colorless, rigid, negative, neutral, indecisive, insincere, deceptive
The color silver has a feminine energy; it is related to the moon and the ebb and flow of the tides – it is fluid, emotional, sensitive and mysterious. It is soothing, calming and purifying.
From a color psychology viewpoint, it signals a time of reflection and a change of direction as it illuminates the way forward. It helps with the cleansing and releasing of mental, physical and emotional issues and blockages as it opens new doors and lights the way to the future.
With its reflective and sensitive qualities silver inspires intuition, clairvoyance and mental telepathy. It reflects back any energy given out, whether it is positive or negative.
In the meaning of colors, it is associated with prestige and wealth. It is seen as a glamorous, sophisticated color related to female energy, prosperity and modernity.
Website Themes And Colors
I decided to do a little and simple experiment. What happens if you type “music websites themes” or “fashion website themes” on google images? Is there going to be a dominant color for each topic?
So, here are screenshots of many websites home pages, according to their niche (market segment).
As you will see, each theme has a recurring color (green, black, purple, red, etc.). It is not a coincidence and I do not recommend trying to be too creative or marginal in terms of colors.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to copy everyone else, but usually, when something works well, I like to leave it as it is.
The colors you choose for your website can increase your chance of reaching your goals because they greatly influence human emotions and behaviors.
By using color psychology, you can send a positive or negative message, encourage sales, calm a crowd, or make an athlete pump iron harder.
Haven’t you ever opened a web page and closed it instantly because it looked something like this :
I know I have. lol So, besides content (which should be your number 1 focus), colors are something you definitely want to leverage.
Thank you for dropping by and feel free to leave a comment below ; I’ll be more than happy to connect!