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Colour psychology: How do different colours make you feel?

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Created: 4 April, 2018

Updated: 4 May, 2018

The world is a colourful place and, whether you notice it or not, each of those colours has an impact and makes you feel a certain way.

Theories about colour psychology can be based on many things. For most people context is everything. Some of the factors that can influence how you interpret colours include:

  • Life experiences - Sometimes, even a traditionally happy colour can take on negative connotations if it’s connected to an unhappy memory.
  • Your mood - Most colours have both positive and negative associations. Your response to colour could depend entirely on how you’re feeling that day.
  • Your gender - In some cases, colour perception is different for men and women. This can be influenced by factors such as your upbringing - for example, some colours are traditionally seen as masculine or feminine.
  • Where you live - Colours can mean different things in different cultures. A colour that’s regarded as positive in the UK might be looked down upon in other parts of the world.
  • Association with brands - Some colours are very strongly linked to particular brand names, and this can have a significant impact on a person’s colour preferences.

Now let’s take a look at some popular colour associations. Can you spot your favourite?

Colour Psychology of Red


Red is a colour that arguably evokes a wider range of strong emotions than other colours.

It can signify warmth, heat, love, excitement, energy and confidence. Some cultures even regard it as lucky, and a 2004 study found that football teams who wore red kits were statistically most likely to win.

Red can alter people’s perception, too. One experiment found that red pills were more effective stimulants than blue pills, even though both pills contained a placebo.

It can even make people seem more attractive. A 2008 experiment found that men who were shown pictures of women on different coloured backgrounds were more drawn to the women on red backgrounds.

Of course, there are possible negative associations with red as well. For example, the phrase ‘seeing red’ is linked to anger, while red can also signify blood, danger or a warning.

Colour Psychology of Blue


Blue is often regarded as a calm, restful colour. It’s a cool tone, and studies suggest it can lower your pulse rate and body temperature, which in turn can help with sleep.

It’s a non-threatening colour, and its association with relaxing feature such as the sea and the skyline means many see it as very thought-provoking. This in turn has led some businesses to investigate the possibility that workers are more productive in blue rooms.

On the other hand, blue is also linked with coldness or sadness, so it’s not always positive.

Blue is also regarded as one of the least appetising colours. Eating off a blue plate can potentially put people off their food, but there is a positive spin to this - if you’re trying to lose weight, eating off a blue plate might be useful.

Colour Psychology of Yellow


Yellow is known as one of the happiest colours, given its association with sunshine. It’s a fun colour that attracts attention, so it’s the sort of colour an outgoing person would wear or decorate with.

Strangely, studies have found that despite its happy connotations, people are most likely to lose their tempers in yellow rooms. This is thought to be in part because a bright yellow can put a lot of strain on the eyes, which in turn can lead to a bad mood.

Colour Psychology of Green


Green is the colour of nature, so it can make you feel more at one with the world. It has connections with health and youth, while it can also be a very soothing, stress relieving colour.

Then there’s the association with money, which means green can sometimes be seen as a signifier of wealth. Of course, if you choose to use green for this reason, there’s always the possibility that people might think you’re showing off!

That brings us nicely to another less positive link to green; jealousy. This is mostly thanks to the phrase ‘green with envy’, which is the feeling you get when someone else has all the things you want.

Colour Psychology of Orange


Orange is a warm, fun, autumnal colour. It’s a combination of yellow and red, and it shares many of the positive associations enjoyed by those colours.

While yellow makes you think of the sun, orange is the colour of sunrises and sunsets, which many people find soothing and reassuring.

In other circumstances, orange can be quite an attention-grabber. The downside of this is that it can come across as overbearing, while it also has an association with budget brands.

Colour Psychology of Purple


Purple is a colour that doesn’t occur much in nature, so it can seem exotic, mysterious and even spiritual. It’s thought to be a sign of luxury, quality and creativity.

While these are positive qualities, some people associate them with a person who is impractical. Some of this negative perception can follow purple around.

Colour Psychology of Pink


While the idea of gender-specific colours is fast becoming outdated, pink is traditionally a feminine colour and this is something people might find it hard to get past.

For example, studies have found that prisoners are calmer when kept in pink cells, and one sports team famously painted the away dressing room pink because they felt it made their opponents less aggressive.

On the positive side, pink is a colour associated with love and a nurturing environment.

Colour Psychology of Black


It can be tempting to see black as a negative colour. After all, we can’t avoid the fact that it’s associated with things like death and bad moods.

However, while some see it as gloomy and intimidating, others see black as a sign of exclusivity, power and authority, particularly when it comes to brands.

Then there’s the fact that it’s often regarded as a ‘slimming’ colour when it comes to clothes is another positive connotation.

Colour Psychology of White


White is an interesting colour, given that in many ways it’s actually the absence of any colour at all.

This means that white is often associated with purity. It’s why white is the traditional colour for wedding dresses in Western culture. Alongside purity, white is linked to related ideas such as cleanliness and freshness.

Some see it as calming and serene, while for others it’s a stark, cold and clinical colour that can be associated with hospitals. Naturally, this doesn’t always bring to mind happy memories.

Colour Psychology of Brown


Brown is a warm. safe, reliable colour. Like green, it’s a natural colour that in this case reminds us of the Earth.

It’s practical and conventional, but this can lead some people to dismiss brown as boring and unadventurous.

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Topics: Health and Wellbeing