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What is color psychology?

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What is color psychology?

Psychology of Color has become a potent tool in marketing and branding. The color choices can affect your brand image and even influence sales. And this is why Color psychology has become a part of our lives. From clothing to food packaging, color plays a crucial role in our daily life. The question is, why does color psychology matter?

Colors play a significant role in our lives. They can either bring us joy or sadness, happiness or anger. We all have a favorite color, and specific colors can also trigger certain emotions, affecting us emotionally and psychologically. They can influence our mood, behavior, and even our health. Colors can also change our perception of reality.

We live in a visual world. Colors can convey information to us subconsciously. Thus, they play a vital role in advertising and marketing, hence the importance of color and color theory in our marketing efforts.

Several psychological theories explain why colors evoke certain feelings in us. These include the idea of complementary colors, the theory of contrast, and the theory of proximity.

Color psychology is the study of how colors impact our emotions and behavior. Designers and advertisers use it to create products and services that appeal to consumers. Some examples include red to increase blood pressure, blue to calm people down, yellow to stimulate appetite, and green to promote growth.


Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors

Primary colors are the three basic colors that combine to make all other colors. They are red, blue, and yellow. These three colors are also referred to as additive primaries because they add together to form any color.
A secondary color is produced by mixing primary colors. For example, if you combine red with blue, you get purple. If you mix yellow with magenta, you get the secondary color orange. We can use these colors to make other colors.

Tertiary colors are those colors that fall between primary and secondary colors. They can be created by mixing red with green or blue. Red-green creates yellow, while red-blue creates purple.

Color Combinations

According to Canva, the possible color combinations are:

  • Complementary. Colors on opposite sides of the spectrum are complementary. Together, these colors provide high contrast and high impact. These colors will appear brighter and stand out more.
  • Monochromatic colors are three shades, tones, or tints of one base hue. It provides a subtle and conservative color scheme. It’s a versatile color combination that’s easy to use when designing projects.
  • Analogous: Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. This color combination is very versatile but can be overwhelming at times. To balance an analogous color scheme, choose one dominant color, and use the others to accentuate that color.
  • Triadic: Three equally spaced colors on the color wheel. This color palette provides a high contrast color combination, but less so than the complementary color combination, making it more versatile. Combining these colors creates bold, vibrant color schemes.
  • Tetradic: Four colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel. Triadic color schemes are bold and effective when you let one color be the main focus and use the others for accents. The more colors you use in your palette, the harder it is to achieve a balanced color scheme.

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Examples of Visual Cues


  • Red is a mighty color when it comes to personality and visuals. It evokes strong emotions, makes us hungry, symbolizes passion and romance, and increases our love and intensity. It’s most commonly used for impulse purchases. Red creates urgency, which is often used during clearance sales. It stimulates appetite glands and is therefore primarily used in restaurants. It’s related to health, alertness, safety, and physical well-being. It’s used by Amazon, Target, Heinz, and YouTube. This powerful tone evoked several strong emotions. Brands used it to represent specific characteristics like courage, boldness, action, and passion.
  • Yellow. This color helps stimulate mental processes, encourages communication, strains the eyes, and increases cheerfulness. Optimism, youthfulness, and clear thinking are often associated with this. It’s used to attract the attention of passersby. Research shows that it’s the first color that infants react to, and that’s why it’s the color used on most baby products and toys. It’s one of the most psychologically appealing colors because it has one of the longest wavelengths. It’s also very noticeable and draws attention to itself. Too much yellow can cause anxiety, so you need to find the right balance. Nikon, Ikea, and DHL use it. Companies may use yellow to express feelings of happiness, positivity, and optimism and to recall the summer.
  • Blue is mainly associated with water and is the preferred color for men, but exceptions exist. It calms the mind and represents peace and tranquility. It increases productivity, especially in office spaces. It builds a sense of security and confidence in a brand. Blue’s sense of self-confidence makes it the favored color for financial institutions and management consultants. The color is also associated with loyalty. JP Morgan, American Express, Facebook, LinkedIn, and McKinsey use this color on their visual identity.
  • Orange reflects enthusiasm, excitement, and warmth. It’s also the color of caution. It means “aggressive” and is used to influence impulsive consumers. Brands with orange are seen as cheerful and confident. It’s used to generate a call to action, such as subscribe, buy or sell, etc. People associate color with affordability and good value. That’s why it’s used in thrift stores such as Payless and Amazon or value airlines like EasyJet.
  • Green signifies health, peace, and tranquility. It means nature and relieves depression. Humans can distinguish between the most shades of green, so we use them for color-coding. It represents new growth opportunities. It is used in stores to help create a relaxing atmosphere. It is associated with wealth. It has long been associated with fertility. Marketing professionals use it to attract eco­friendly clients to their stores. Spotify, Land Rover, and Wholefoods use this color.
  • Purple is the color of royalty, wealth, and wisdom, but no success. It is used to soothe or calm people down. It’s often used for cosmetic and anti-aging products. Purple represents a creative and imaginative brand. Yahoo, Craigslist, Hallmark, and others use this color. Blue is the most popular color for luxury brands because it’s the best balance between the energy and power of the red color and the stability of the blue color. It’s the most widely used color in the creative industry because it symbolizes creativity, mystery, and renewal. Too much purple makes people think about their own lives and distracts them from the task at hand.
  • Pink. Pink has long been associated with femininity. Brands today use the tone when they want their audience to feel gentleness, love, immaturity, and affection. Brands looking to connect to female audiences and evoke youthful playfulness may use pinks in their marketing. Victoria’s Secret and Barbie have used pink for decades. As the shift away from traditional gender roles continues, other companies, like Instagram, have also begun to use different colors to communicate their brand identity beyond femininity.
  • Black is the darkest color. It represents authority, elegance, and sophistication. It can be intimidating for consumers who feel threatened by the darkness. However, black is not the only color that doesn’t stimulate hunger. It’s used to communicate seriousness, professionalism, and authority. It’s often used for uniforms, suits, and dress shirts.
  • White is the light­est color. It represents purity, innocence, and clarity. It’s often used to communicate honesty, transparency, and sincerity. It’s the preferred color for wedding dresses, baby clothing, and bedding. White is often paired with other colors like yellow and green.

Caveat: The problem with the psychology of color in marketing and branding

Color has been proven to impact our emotions significantly and how we perceive things. It can influence people’s behavior, whether they are aware of it. For example, if you want to make someone feel more confident about their appearance, you could choose a bright yellow shirt instead of a dark blue one.

It’s no secret that people have different reactions to color. Some are more sensitive to certain hues than others. The psychology behind why we react differently to colors has been studied since the 19th century. We all have our preferences when it comes to what we find attractive. And some people don’t care about color at all.

Studies have shown a measurable difference between men and women when it comes to their perception of colors. For example, both men and women might prefer blue over all other colors, but men have a stronger preference for this color. Both men and women tend to favor cool colors like blues and greens, but women show a much stronger appreciation. Some of these nuances may be due to science, as women perceive colors differently from men.

Marketers may be keen to apply theories of color psychology to campaigns that span across multiple countries or even the whole world. Different countries may respond to colors differently. While the target audience in North America might typically associate yellow with optimism and purple with soothing, shoppers in other regions might have different perceptions of those colors.


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