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A Quick Review of Color Theory and the Psychology of Color

Have you ever wondered what impact color had on marketing, or the importance of color in advertising? There is a real visual and behavioral impact, called the psychology of colors, that advertises use in the business and retail world across many different advertising channels to influence your emotional feelings towards an advertisement or brand.

So, as a designer, how do you choose the best color combinations for your web design, marketing material, billboards, or your logo, so that you are hitting the correct emotions of your users? To better understand color selection, let’s first explore color theory. – Bill Ross, CEO of Linchpin

What is Color Theory

Color Theory is the interaction of colors in a design through complementation, contrast, and vibrancy. Color theory is both the science and art of using color. It explains how humans perceive color; and the visual effects of how colors mix, match or contrast with each other .

In color theory, colors are organized on a color wheel and grouped into 3 categories: primary, secondary and tertiary colors.

Below are 3 of the commonly accepted structures for a good color scheme within the idea of Color Theory:

  • Triadic Color Scheme: Composed of 3 colors on separate ends of the color spectrum. Triadic colors are evenly spaced around the color wheel and tend to be very bright and dynamic.
  • Compound Color Scheme: The Compound color scheme is based on providing a range of complementary colors. Complementary colors are opposites on the color wheel—red and green, for example.
  • Analogous: An Analogous color scheme is based on a careful selection of colors in the same area of the color spectrum. Analogous colors sit next to one another on the color wheel—red, orange and yellow, for example.

The Psychology of Color

Below you will find a color guide, color psychology chart, and cheat sheet for website design companies and designers of all types. This infographic outlines what each color means, the psychology of colors in marketing, and how to best choose the color for your project based on the psychological impact it has.

color theory

Psychology of the Color Yellow

Yellow shines with optimism, enlightenment, and happiness. Shades of golden yellow carry the promise of a positive future. Yellow will advance from surrounding colors and instill optimism and energy, as well as spark creative

  • Stimulates mental processes
  • Stimulates the nervous system
  • Activates memory
  • Encourages communication

Psychology of the Color Green

Green occupies more space in the spectrum visible to the human eye, and is second only to blue as a favorite color. Green is the pervasive color in the natural world, making it an ideal backdrop in interior design.

  • Soothes and relaxes mentally
  • Helps alleviate depression & anxiety
  • Offers a sense of renewal & harmony

Psychology of the Color Blue

Blue is seen as trustworthy, dependable, and committed. The color of ocean and sky, blue is perceived as a constant in our lives. As the collective color of the spirit, it invokes rest and can cause the body to produce calming chemicals.

  • Calms and sedates
  • Cools
  • Aids intuition

Psychology of the Color Purple

With a sense of mystic and royal qualities, purple is a color often well liked by very creative or eccentric types and is the favorite color of adolescent girls.

  • Uplifts
  • Calms the mind and nerves
  • Offers a sense of spirituality
  • Encourages creativity

Psychology of the Color Pink

Brighter pinks are youthful, fun, and exciting, while vibrant pinks have the same high energy as red; they are sensual and passionate without being too aggressive. Toning down the passion of red with the purity of white results in the softer pinks that are associated with romance.

  • Bright pinks, stimulate energy and encourage action & confidence.
  • Pink has been used in prison holding cells to reduce erratic behavior.

Psychology of the Color Red

Red has more personal associations than any other color. Recognized as a stimulant, red is inherently exciting and the amount of red is directly related to the level of energy perceived. Red draws attention and a keen use of red as an accent can immediately focus attention.

  • Increases enthusiasm
  • Stimulates energy
  • Encourages action and confidence
  • Provides a sense of protection

Psychology of the Color Orange

Orange, a close relative of red, sparks more controversy than any other hue. There is usually strong positive or negative association to orange and true orange generally elicits a stronger “love it” or “hate it” response than other colors.

  • Stimulates activity
  • Stimulates appetite
  • Encourages socialization

Psychology of the Color White

White projects purity, cleanliness, and neutrality. Doctors don white coats, brides traditionally wear white gowns, and a white picket fence surrounds a safe and happy home.

  • Aids mental clarity
  • Encourages us to clear clutter
  • Evokes purification of thoughts

Psychology of the Color Grey

Gray is the color of intellect, knowledge, and wisdom. It is perceived as long-lasting, classic, and often as sleek or refined. Gray is a perfect neutral, which is why designers often use it as a background color.

  • Unsettles
  • Creates expectations

Psychology of the Color Black

Black is authoritative and powerful; because black can evoke strong emotions, too much can be overwhelming. Black represents a lack of color, the primordial void, emptiness.

  • Makes one feel inconspicuous
  • Provides a restful emptiness
  • Evokes a sense of possibility