Color Psychology: Evoking Emotion and Physicality with Basic Colors


Color evokes emotion, and emotion inspires color. If you enter a room with black-painted walls, do you imagine your mood being markedly different had you entered the same room, but with bright blue walls? Meanwhile, do you find that your mood affects what color clothing you wear on any given day? These are simple illustrations of how the mood reflects color, and vice versa.

Color relates to the mind, body and emotions. Learn what the following 11 basic colors stand for and express to the world and to yourself, so you can use color psychology to your advantage.

1. Red

Red has the longest wavelength and is an emblem of physical courage, strength, warmth, energy, survival, stimulation, masculinity and excitement. It also expresses defiance, aggression, visual impact and strain.

Red is strong, basic and attention grabbing. These qualities make it ideal for traffic lights and other alarming notices. Physically, it stimulates the heart rate and gives the sensation of time moving faster than it actually is. Red can be perceived as either lively and friendly or demanding and aggressive.

2. Blue

Blue stands for intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty, logic, coolness, reflection and calm. Its negative attributes include coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion and unfriendliness.

Blue generally has a very soothing effect. Imagine looking up at a blue sky and think about the associated emotions – clear thought, lighter mind, calmness and serenity. No wonder blue is the planet’s favorite color!

3. Yellow

Defined by optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extroversion, emotional strength, friendliness and creativity, yellow is also a sign of irrationality, fear, emotional weakness, depression, anxiety and even suicide.

Yellow offers an emotionally stimulating effect and is the strongest color in the realm of color psychology. Yellow can lift the spirits and lighten the mood, but too much of it, or the wrong tone of it, can have an entirely opposite effect, delving you deeper into fear and anxiety.

4. Green

Positive aspects of the color green mimic nature’s – harmony, balance, refreshment, universal love, rest, restoration, reassurance, environmental awareness, equilibrium and peace. Negative effects of green include boredom, stagnation and blandness.

Green is for the most part a symbol of balance and peace, which many of us can use in this technology-ridden world. A walk outdoors among green foliage can change your disposition in a positive way.

5. Violet

Violet encompasses spiritual awareness, containment, vision, luxury, authenticity, truth and quality. It can also evoke introversion, decadence, suppression and inferiority.

Violet can take you to a higher level of spirituality and thought. It is also a sign of quality and luxury. Violet has the shortest wavelength of all other colors, so if it is paired with a negative object or person, the color can communicate a negative emotion faster than any other color.

6. Orange

Orange signifies physical comfort, food, warmth, security, sensuality, passion, abundance and fun. Similarly, it can evoke deprivation, frustration, frivolity and immaturity.

Orange is created by combining the colors red and yellow. Orange thus takes on the sensory experiences that are both physical and emotional, such as food, warmth and shelter. Meanwhile, its purpose can backfire and cause feelings of deprivation, frivolity and childishness.

7. Pink

Pink is a feminine color that holds many of the qualities commonly associated with women, such as tranquility, care, warmth, love, sexuality and survival of the species. In this same vein, it can refer to inhibition, emotional claustrophobia, emasculation and physical weakness.

Pink is a lighter tint of red, but has soothing effects, as opposed to red’s stimulating ones.

8. Grey

Grey can indicate psychological neutrality or, on a more negative note, lack of confidence, dampness, depression, hibernation and lack of energy.

Grey is very neutral and thus is the most unexciting in the field of color psychological. However, it can veer to the negative side if not presented properly. It can take away the positive forces of other colors and indicate a fear of exposure and weakness.

9. Black

Black is timeless and for good reason. It signifies sophistication, glamor, security, emotional safety, efficiency and substance. On the other hand, it can also evoke oppression, coldness, menace and heaviness.

Black is a result of all the colors having been fully absorbed. It is protective, definitive, decisive and clear. At the same time, it can come across as too bold for comfort.

10. White

If black is a total absorption, white is a total reflection. White stands for hygiene, sterility, clarity, purity, cleanness, simplicity, sophistication and efficiency. On that same note, it can also give off a sterile, cold, defensive, unfriendly and elite vibe.

White gives a heightened sense of space and can be difficult to look at for too long. It is clean and pure but can also feel too sterile and cold.

11. Brown

Brown indicates seriousness, warmth, nature, earthiness, reliability and support as well as humorlessness, heaviness and a lack of sophistication.

Brown is black’s softer cousin. It is a dependable color, as it reminds us of the earth.

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Photo Credit: Melissa Hincha-Ownby