The Color Psychology of Blue

Color Meaning and Psychology

The Color Psychology of Blue


Unless you are a professional artist or art critic it is fair to say that the color meaning and psychology is based primarily on instinct and emotion.

How someone feels about a color or design is entirely up to the individual and there are no right or wrong answers.

However the way we feel about color can often be attributed to our subconscious and history, as well as personal preference.

Color meaning and psychology poster will be your most useful reference giving you detailed information that will enable you to quickly identify and select the most appropriate color for any project, occasion, or activity. 

Throughout the history color schemes has often been used to define different feelings, seasons and ceremonies depending on one’s culture and origin.

For example early Native Americans used different colored paints to symbolize times of war and death, as well as for spiritual ceremonies and seasonal harvests.

Steeped in history throughout many cultures, certain colors are associated with particular feelings and emotions that are still very relevant in modern design.

Colors can affect how we feel subconsciously. This means that one may not even know they are being affected by the color of an environment or artwork. The feeling behind meaning of the colors sees hues grouped into two main groups commonly known as warm colors and cool colors.

Red Color Meaning

The color of passion and drama. This color attracts the most attention and is associated with strong emotions such as love and anger. Red is the color used universally to signify danger, courage, strength, and power. Red is stimulating, vibrant and exciting.

Red inspires desire with a strong link to sexuality and increased appetites. In Chinese culture red represents luck and prosperity.  Use red when you want to get pulses racing and to inspire action.  However, use carefully as red can evoke feelings of aggression and cause visual strain.

Lovers of red are passionate with an enthusiasm for life.

Orange Color Meaning

The color of encouragement. The combination of yellow and red makes orange convey excitement, warmth and enthusiasm. Social and inviting, this is the color of the extrovert, exuding happiness and joy, releasing inhibitions.

Need to be inspired into action or have a positive outlook on life? Orange is a motivating and encouraging color. Orange is appealing to young people. It stimulates the appetite and is associated with healthy good.

 However, the negative connotations of orange include insincerity, exhibitionism and self indulgence.

Yellow Color Meaning

The color of optimism. Yellow is a compelling color that conveys youthful, fresh energy. This color of sunshine is uplifting and illuminating and associated with success and confidence.

Yellow stimulates the left side of the brain, helping with clear thinking and quick decision making. Yellow grabs attention because the eye sees yellow first.

The downside of yellow is that it can induce anxiety and cause one to be over-critical. It also signifies cowardice.

Pink Color Meaning

The color of sensitivity – The passion of red combined with the purity of white create this color associated with love, tranquillity and femininity.

Pink has associations with tenderness and nurturing while conveying a sense of safety and even vulnerability.

Seeing the world through “rose (pink) colored glasses” is holds a negative connotation as being associated with being unrealistic and overly optimistic.

Blue Color Meaning

The color of trust. Blue, the shade of the sea and the sky, is thought to induce calm and convey tranquillity, serenity and peace.

The popular color instils confidence and inspires feelings of trust, loyalty, integrity and responsibility.  Cool blue is conservative and can also be perceived as aloof.

Blue tends to suppress the appetite – there are not many foods associated with blue in nature.

Green Color Meaning

The color of growth and health. Think of nature and see green in all its glory expressing renewal and life. Green has a strong association as a refreshing and peaceful color. It evokes feeling of abundance and a plentiful environment while providing a restful and secure feeling. The prosperity signified by green can be negatively perceived as materialistic and possessive.

Violet Color Meaning

The color of spirituality. The energy of red with the calm of blue combine to create violet, a color that inspires reflection and self awareness. It is the color of the sensitive, compassionate intuitive soul – the introvert. Also, violet has long been associated with royalty, and characteristics of quality and luxury. Overuse of violet can invoke irritability and arrogance.

Brown Color Meaning

The color of the earth. Stability and a solid foundation is the message that emanates from the color brown. This color relates to things that are natural and simple. Brown is thought to be dull, but is reliable and wholesome.

Although frugal and stingy, brown is a color of safety and quiet confidence; warm and reassuring.  Sadly, brown is among the least favourite colors, but conveys honesty and sincerity.

On its own, brown seems unsophisticated, but when combined with others can become quite elegant.

Grey Color Meaning

The color of compromise. Grey is considered to be an unemotional, detatched color seeking to avoid attention. It conveys gloom and depression.

Very conservative, grey has a stabilizing effect as it is very neutral, but can also conjure up feelings of frustration. Grey is linked with maturity and protection, being reliable and practical.

Grey would not be considered a glamorous colour, yet is still elegant.

Black Color Meaning

The color of mystery. Black is actually the lack of colour. It covers, hides and implies that there is a barrier. A strong and powerful color, black is formal and sophisticated, sexy and secretive. It is the color of things that are scary and evil.

Black conveys pessimism and a lack of hope. While black has many negative associations, it is a colour that signifies power and control. It is considered unfriendly and intimidating, yet still refined, elegant and confident.

Black is helpful to other colours, being a strong contrast and making them stand out more.


Meaning of the Color Blue: Symbolism, Common Uses, & More

The Color Psychology of Blue

Blue is the color of trust, responsibility, and relaxation

Today’s article is about not only the symbolism but also the meaning of the color blue as part of the Color Meaning Series.

For the other hues, check out our guide on color meanings.

Color blue meanings

Where do we find the meaning of the color blue?

In the bright blue of the sky in the spring or dark blue of a starry night? Or can we find it in the deep blue hues of the ocean?

Blue is everywhere. In the modern world, at least. The intangibility of blue is a key to many of its symbolic meanings.

Most people’s favorite color is blue, just most company’s logos are blue as well.

There is a reason for that, and we will talk about it in this article. Beyond the symbolism and meaning of blue, we’ll cover its most common uses, company logos, chakra, gemstone, facts, quotes, and idioms–all about blue.

Blue Color Symbolism in Different Cultures

As you’ll learn here, blue has a wide range of meanings in different cultures.

  • In Chinese culture, colors are associated with the five primary elements, the directions, and the four seasons, among others. The Chinese associate blue with wood, east, and spring.
  • Blue, blue-green, and green are considered sacred colors in Iran, where they symbolize paradise.
  • In Latin American countries, which are known to have high Catholic populations, blue is a sign of hope.
  • In Greece, the color blue is believed to ward off “the evil eye.” Those who believe in this Greek superstition wear a blue charm necklace or blue bracelet for protection.
  • In India, drawings of the god Krishna often depict him as having blue skin.
  • In North America, blue symbolizes trust and serenity, but also depression and loneliness.
  • In Ukraine, the color blue can symbolize healing.
  • In Mexico, blue is the color associated with mourning.
  • In Aztec culture, blue symbolized sacrifice.

What Does the Color Blue Mean in the Bible?

Colors are used throughout the Bible to reflect meanings or spiritual truths in non-verbal communication.

According to many scholars, it symbolizes heaven. Blue also represents the law, commandments, grace, revelation, and the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Lighter shades of blue in the Bible may also represent the Virgin Mary.

Psychological Meaning of Blue

For starters, color symbolism and color psychology are two different things.

For instance, would you consider the image below to be a male or female t-shirt?

Assuming you were born and raised in a Western country, chances are you answered male.

However, that wouldn’t be the case if you were born and raised in China, where the blue color is considered feminine.

That’s why color symbolism is, in fact, ambiguous. It depends on your conscious color associations.

Still, this article will also cover the psychological meaning of blue, which are the effects we inherited from our ancestors—it’s a process of millennia.

Color Blue Meaning

Every color has positive and negative traits.

On one side, the blue color means loyalty, honesty, trust, responsibility, calm, commitment, wisdom, and serenity.

But blue, the fifth color of the rainbow, can also mean conservatism, authority, depression, predictability, weakness, and old-fashioned.

Most of its positive associations come from nature or landscapes that cause positive feelings in us.

Calming blue beach

For instance, imagine the turquoise waters of a Brazilian beach. Does that inspire calmness and relaxation in you?

Now think of the dark blue uniform of police officers. Does that give you a sense of responsibility, authority, and trust?

Well, it’s not a surprise that the color blue meanings change a lot for contrasting shades.

Still, we also associate negative feelings with blue. For instance, when the color blue is used in excess, it can convey impersonality, coldness, and even unfriendliness.

Moreover, blue is often associated with sadness and depression. Winter blues, anyone?

In the meaning of the colors, blue relates to verbal communication. Blue is a giver, not a taker. It represents strong relationships and feels deeply hurt if betrayed.

A few other meanings of the color blue are trust and honesty as it instills confidence and inspires feelings of loyalty and integrity.

Blue, as we will talk more about below, helps us stay physically calmer, regulating heartbeat and breathing. It slows down the metabolism, too. After all, blue is a relaxing color.

Because of its non-polarizing and non-controversial aspects, blue is often considered the universal color.

Further out, blue is persistent and determined, but also predictable and conservative, facing changes with a particular difficulty. It lives in the past, hence why it also symbolizes sadness and depression.

According to L. Elizabeth Crawford, a psychology professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, the association with sadness arose from the look of the body when it’s in low energy or low oxygen state.

“The lips turn blue, there’s a blue pallor to the complexion,” she said. “It’s the opposite of the warm flushing of the skin that we associate with love, kindness, and affection.”

Blue sky

Physical Effects of Blue

All the colors have physical effects on us, including the color blue. Blue can:

  • Lower our heart rates – Which is why we receive the overall feeling of relaxation and calmness. After all, blue is also a healing color.
  • Enhance cognitive skills – Researchers have found that blue, together with red, enhances cognitive abilities.[1]
  • Calm and relax – Glasgow and Tokyo cities experienced a decrease in criminality rate as well as in the number of people who took their own lives after blue street lights were set up.[2]
  • Suppress appetite – From all the colors of the spectrum, blue food is the rarest occurring in nature, which decreases our appetite response to the color.

Personality Color Blue

Is blue your favorite color? Do you have many blue things at home? Our favorite colors reflect our personalities. Then you might want to read about the personality color blue.

Meanings of Blue Shades

Columbia blue: Columbia blue is a light tint of the color that represents trustworthiness, reliability, and tranquility. It can also mean innocence and weakness.

  • Columbia blue hex code: #D1EAF0

Turquoise blue: Also known as aqua, this vibrant shade of blue represents dreaminess, youth, and reinvigorating feelings.

  • Turquoise blue hex code: #00FFEF

Midnight blue: It is seen as a severe color, often confused with navy blue, and it represents intelligence, authority, conservatism, and elegance.

  • Midnight blue hex code: #191970

More Shades of Blue

Shades of blue

There are many different blue shades, tints, and values, such as sapphire, azure, royal, navy, cyan, turquoise, indigo, cobalt, sky, denim, cornflower, steel, midnight.

Most Common Uses of the Color Blue

Un most colors, blue is seen as not polarizing and non-controversial. Hence why many companies and web designers choose this cool color.

  • From logos to business attire, blue is the most commonly used color in the corporate world.
  • About 50% of all national flags of the world have some shade of blue on them.
  • Blue jeans are the most popular pants.
  • Police officer clothing is usually blue, which means professionalism, trust, and authority.

Companies and Brands That Use Blue in Their Logo

Blue is often used to promote financial services, insurances, electronics, and software.

Currently, about 33% of the top 100 world’s most valuable brands use blue in their logo.

Companies and brands that have blue logos

Blue Chakra

Each of the seven chakra colors has a symbolic meaning, and the blue chakra is no different.

The throat chakra, Vishuddha, is represented by the color blue and allows us to express ourselves clearly.

Blue Gemstones

Some believe blue gemstones are powerful healing stones that give wisdom, enhances communication, helps to get focused and relaxed.

Facts About Blue

  • Blue has one of the shortest wavelengths of all colors of the spectrum (~450 nanometers).
  • After WW2, pink and blue became gendered colors. Blue was then associated with boys and pink with girls in the Western countries, but before that, pink and blue were universal colors.
  • The sky appears to be blue because of the called Rayleigh scattering effect. When sunlight passes through the atmosphere, the blue wavelengths are scattered more widely by the oxygen and nitrogen molecules, and more blue comes to our eyes.[3]
  • As for the ocean, the water absorbs the longer wavelengths reflecting scatters of blue. Still, its color is also influenced by the color of the sky, algae, other plants, and sediments.

Quotes About Blue

Blue has no dimensions, it is beyond dimensions.

Yves Klein

Let the blue sky meet the blue sea, and all is blue for a time.

Moncy Barbour

A certain blue enters your soul.

Henri Martisse

Never has a pigment been better named than ultramarine blue. Fashionable, even today, in its nomenclature! It is ultra in every way.

Karen Fitzgerald

The blue color is everlastingly appointed by the deity to be a source of delight.

John Ruskin

There are connoisseurs of blue just as there are connoisseurs of wine.

Sidonie Gabrielle

  • Feeling blue/getting the blues: To feel depressed and sad.
  • the blue: When something happens unexpectedly.
  • Singing the blues: To feel sad and discouraged.
  • True blue: To be extremely loyal.
  • Blueblood: A person of noble birth.
  • Baby blue: Postnatal depression.
  • Into the blue: Completely gone or disappeared without a trace.
  • Blue language: To curse, to say obscenities and profanities.
  • Once in a blue moon: When something is scarce/hardly ever happens.
  • Blueprint: A complete plan or model that explains how to do or develop something.

Summary Color Blue Meaning

The most universally appealing color on the spectrum, blue, has non-polarizing traits. It is a calming and relaxing color, and it enhances cognitive skills, especially creativity.

It gives a soothing sense of peacefulness, but also the impression of authority.

Still, not all associations with the color blue are positive. Blue can also be fragile, depressive, impersonal, and even cold. Too much blue can be an appetite suppressant.

All in all, blue is a versatile color that can fit most situations when combined with the right colors.

Blue means: trust, responsibility, loyalty, authority
Effects of blue: calms, relaxes, creates order and creativeness
Positive traits: honesty, commitment, serenity, peace
Negative traits: fragile, depressive, conservative, predictable


Color Psychology: What Colors Should You Wear and Why

The Color Psychology of Blue

Color psychology is the study of how colors affect your behavior, mood and impression on others.

Can the color you wear really affect your mood? Research says yes; color can absolutely affect your mood, behavior and stress levels.

Color specialist Leatrice Eiseman says how colors affect us correlates to that colors behavior in nature. Eiseman has asked thousands of people what they think of specific colors and has found many patterns.

Colors create the same impressions for different people.

For example, the color blue is almost always associated with blue skies, which when we are children is a positive thing — it means playing outside and fun. Evolutionarily it also means there are no storms to come and good sun for crops. This is why blue reminds us of stability and calm.

She cautions that there are no magic bullet answers, but there are generalities that can be gleaned from decades of research on the patterns of what people think about each color. Your personality can also change your opinions of colors.

So, how can you pick the perfect color for each situation? the research, here is your personal color guide:

Research shows that colors can greatly affect our moods and the way other people respond to us. Amazingly, colors can even change our heart rate, blood pressure and respiration, as researchers Keith Jacobs and Frank Hustmyer discovered in 1974.

With that in mind, here’s the ultimate color guide on what color to wear.

You have different ways of thinking about colors:

You can pick the color the mood you are already in.

Or you can pick the color the mood you WANT to be in.

Here are some color ideas on what to wear:

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This color denotes freshness, safety and harmony. It’s also associated with money and the “go” signal for a traffic light—both great characteristics in the workplace. The color green is restful on the eyes and produces the least amount of eyestrain, making this a good choice for people who sit in front of a screen for many hours.

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This is the color of truth and wisdom. It also has a calming effect and is linked to intellect. It’s also the most stable color. So if you have a volatile or drama-filled workplace, blue is a great color to wear to counteract the tension.

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The color of stability, brown is also seen as masculine. If you’re a woman in a predominantly male workplace, wearing a chocolate brown suit can give you credibility.

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This power color can convey feelings of mystery and seriousness. It is also considered elegant and has a thinning effect. (And who doesn’t love that?) If you want to be treated seriously, the typical black suit with a splash of green or blue works wonders.

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This is the happiest of all the colors and usually stimulates joy. However, yellow is considered an unstable color, so it can be over-energizing for the office and make the wearer look weak.

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Grey implies that people are passive, uninvolved and have a lack of energy. If you wearing grey, pairing it with a brighter color such as blue can help offset the negative effect.

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This is the color of aggression and passion—great for a first date, not so great for the office. It also increases metabolism and raises blood pressure, which is why it’s used for stop signs and fire engines. Red can be seen as a bit hostile in the work environment, so think twice before wearing it often.

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This is a color of stimulation and enthusiasm. It’s not as aggressive as red, but can catch attention, so it’s good to wear in moderation.

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Purple reminds people of royalty and luxury. It’s also the color of magic. However, since purple rarely occurs in nature, it’s also seen to be artificial. A purple scarf, tie or purse can be a nice, subtle addition to any outfit.

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This color is associated with cleanliness and perfection. It is always a safe choice for a shirt or scarf, but too much white denotes timidity and sterility—not good for workplace relations.

Colors affect our moods and how others perceive us. But, of course, colors aren’t the only thing that affects how people see us—you can still be d at work even if you’re wearing a yellow suit. Still, when given the choice, pick a color that will work for you and not against you.

There is also some amazing color psychology research on different situations. Take a look at these interesting color ideas:

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What Color You Should Make Your Desktop?

Green. What color you choose for your desktop and the colors you choose for your website can greatly affect your productivity. The color green is restful for eyes and produces the least amount of eyestrain. This is a good choice for computer desktops if you are in front of a screen for many hours.

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What Color to Wear to Work Out?

Orange. Orange is a color of stimulation and enthusiasm. Orange is a nice mix of red’s passion and yellow’s joy. Research has found that orange increases oxygen supply to the brain, produces an energizing effect, and stimulates brain activity.

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Red. Red is the color of passion and gets blood pumping. Women can wear this to get their date’s heart racing.

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Blue. Blue is the most stable color. Women love seeing stable men. It is also calming and can help relax both you and your date’s nerves.

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What to Wear If You Want to Be Seen As Strong?

Black. Researchers examined statistics from more than 52,000 National Hockey League games and found that teams were penalized more for aggression while wearing black jerseys. (Hockey teams have two color jerseys and switch for home and away games).

Interestingly, the NHL in 2003 changed its jersey policy so that home teams had to wear white.

The authors of the study compared the sets of data and found that the same teams were assessed significantly more penalties for aggression when they wore the black jerseys than when they wore white.

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What Colors You Should Paint Your Office?

Blue and Green. In 1999, researchers at Creighton University found that colors significantly influence employees’ emotions and efficiency. Workers in blue offices felt the most centered, calm and hopeful towards their work. Since blue can lower heart rates and green reduces anxiety and is associated with money, a combination of blue and green is best for the workplace.

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What Color You Should Never Wear to Work?

Grey. Grey inspires people to be passive, uninvolved and have a lack of energy. If you wearing grey, pairing it with a brighter color will help offset the effect.

Choosing the color of your office, your clothes or your desktop should not be taken lightly — colors do affect our moods and productivity. However, colors are not the only thing that affects us — one can still be efficient in a grey suit or workout well in a black outfit. But, when given the choice, picking a color that will work with you, and not against you can only help.

What is color psychology?

Color psychology is the study of how colors affect your behavior, mood and impression on others.


  • Jacobs, Keith W. and Frank G. Hustmyer Jr. (1974), “Effects of Four Psychological Primary Colors on GSR, Heart Rate and Respiration Rate,” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 38, 763-66.
  • Color Wheel Pro. Accessed: October 31, 2012. 
  • University of Hawaii at Hilo; The Psychology of Color; Kalyan N. Meola; 2005
  • “Effects of Office Interior Color on Worker’s Mood and Productivity.” Nancy K Wallek, Carol M. Lewis, and Ann S. Robbins. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1988, 66, 123-128.
  • Birren, F. (1978). Color & Human Response. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Inc.
  • Mahnke, F. (1996). Color, environment and human response. New York: Wiley.
  • Mahnke, R. & Mahnke, F. (1993). Color and Light 1993. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Webster, G., Urland, G., & Correll, J. (2011). Can Uniform Color Color Aggression? Quasi-Experimental Evidence From Professional Ice Hockey Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3 (3), 274-281 DOI: 10.1177/1948550611418535


Cause and Effect – Exploring Color Psychology

The Color Psychology of Blue

Colors and emotions are intricately linked in ways that digital designers are only beginning to understand and take advantage of, which makes sense when you consider that color in design (particularly newspapers and magazines) has really only become widespread in the last half-century or so.

And yet, the psychological impact of color on user behavior is significant. Something as simple as changing the color of a button can increase desired behavior by double, even triple-digit percentages. Overlooking this vital component of user experience design is a huge mistake and one that’s easily avoided with a little education and research.

Good Housekeeping, one of the most iconic American magazines, started using color around 100 years ago. (Source)

What Is Color Psychology?

There has been little rigorous scientific study on the psychological effects of color. Yet color psychology is an important focus of branding and other design disciplines. Most studies on the effects of color have been done for practical reasons and primarily consist of anecdotal evidence and case studies from individual companies and designers.

Ask designers, however, if they consider the psychological effects of color on human behavior and the vast majority of them will affirm that they do. Overlooking color psychology is a quick way to ensure poor user experience and reduce the conversion rate of a website or app.

Tide’s choice of blue as their main color makes sense for a company catering to other businesses.

Why Color Affects Emotion

Why colors affect the way people feel isn’t straightforward. There are a number of elements that can influence the way a person feels when exposed to a certain color. One important factor is the personal association with a color.

If a person’s favorite stuffed animal as a child was blue, for example, then they may have a preference for blue throughout their life.

Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, if they were hit by a blue car as a child, they might have a strong negative emotional reaction to the color blue.

However, because of universal human experiences, it’s possible to predict how the majority of people will respond to a given color. For example, green is often associated with nature and growth because most people have witnessed plants growing. Blue is almost universally calming because it’s associated with things the sky and water.

Other effects are cultural. Purple, for example, is still associated with luxury due to the fact that purple dye was prohibitively expensive and rare in many ancient cultures, and therefore only used by royalty. It’s not a natural association, per se, but it was a significant part of the cultural zeitgeist for long enough that it’s become a part of the human psyche.

Purple continued to be associated with royalty well into the 18th century, as evidenced by this portrait of Russia’s Catherine the Great.

Color’s Effect on Performance

It’s not just mood and emotions that color can affect. It can also affect performance in very real ways.

For example, in a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers found that the color red negatively affected performance on a test. When participants were given a red participant number (rather than green or black), they performed 20% worse on tests than their peers. That’s a significant difference and one that can be used to influence user experience.

That doesn’t mean red will always hinder performance. In a study of athletic performance, red uniforms appear to give an advantage.

During the 2004 Olympics, athletes competing in four different sports (Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, boxing, and taekwondo) were randomly given either blue or red uniforms or protective gear.

The red-clad athletes won in 19 of the 29 weight classes. And similar studies among soccer matches showed a similar advantage to the teams wearing red uniforms.

The power of color is shown in how red uniforms can affect athletic performance.

This could be explained by red’s historical connotations with aggression and anger. Either the red uniforms are making their wearers feel more aggressive or, alternatively, the red uniforms are more intimidating to their opponents and therefore negatively affect their performance. Either way, the results are significant.

Color Meanings

Every color is associated with different emotions. The use of color in design can affect the emotions and moods of the people viewing those color palettes. Using colors wisely can improve user experience and increase desired behaviors (including conversion rates) in significant ways.

Warm Colors

Warm colors include shades of red, orange, and yellow. In general, these colors are energetic and active, with relatively positive connotations.

Red: Red is associated with passion, love, and lust. It can also be associated with warnings and danger, or even with anger (hence the term “seeing red”). Red can have a physiological impact on people, too, including raising respiration and heart rate.

Orange: Orange is energetic and positive. It’s association with autumn leaves and seasonal transitions can also make people think of change when they see it. Orange is also associated with warnings, though less strongly than red.

Yellow: Yellow is considered the happiest hue in the color spectrum and is closely associated with sunshine and with hope. It can also be linked with caution and cowardice, though.

Parabola’s choice of yellow as their main background color is immediately uplifting to visitors.

Cool Colors

Cool colors include shades of blue, green, and purple. Generally speaking, cool colors are more calm and relaxed than warm colors, though specific hues can have different properties.

Blue: Blue is calming and also represents honesty and loyalty (hence its popularity in so many corporate branding color schemes). Blue can be associated with sadness and loss, depending on context. It’s also linked to peace and even spirituality.

Green: Green can represent new beginnings and growth, as well as nature. It has some of the energizing properties of yellow, while also carrying over some of blue’s calming effects. Green is associated with affluence, money, and stability, particularly in darker shades.

Purple: Purple has long been associated with luxury and royalty, but also with mystery and the occult. Lighter purples, such as lavender, are more romantic and associated with spring.

Brittany Chiang’s use of blues and greens gives an impression of trustworthiness and growth.


Neutral colors often take on characteristics of the other colors in a palette and can be used to reinforce those influences. The basic neutrals include black, white, gray, brown, and beige.

Black: Black is elegant and sophisticated, but can also be sad and representative of death and mourning.

White: White is pure and innocent, and often linked to cleanliness. Although in some cultures it can also be associated with death.

Gray: Gray can be seen as sophisticated and powerful, but can also come across as boring if used the wrong way. It’s one of the most flexible neutrals, as it can be seen as warm or cool, traditional or modern.

Brown: Brown is solid and dependable, and can be associated with nature depending on the context in which it is used.

Beige: Beige can be warm or cool depending on the colors used around it. It’s generally conservative and can take on the warmth of brown or the coolness of white. It takes on the meaning of the colors around it and often fades into the background, adding little psychological influence on its own.

Cultural Differences

One area where designers need to be particularly careful in their work is in considering cultural differences in color meaning.

For example, in most western cultures, white is associated with innocence and black is associated with death and mourning.

But in other cultures, particularly China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries, white is associated with death and mourning, and even bad luck.

The psychological effects of color on human behavior vary by culture. (via Open Source Studio)

It’s important to consider where the users of a product are coming from. If the majority of users for a particular site are coming from Indonesia, for example, then using green would be a bad idea. But if they’re coming from the Middle East, then green is associated with luck, wealth, and fertility, which might be exactly the kind of message desired.

Taking time to research the exact cultural meanings of colors before committing to a color palette is an important step in the UX design process and one that can’t be overlooked. Not just because of cultural differences, but also because of the significant effects color can have on user behavior.

Making even subtle changes to an exact hue can have a big impact on how users perceive that color. For example, navy blue is considered loyal and traditional while bright blue can be modern and energetic and light blue can be calming and peaceful. They’re all “blue” but the effect of adding black or white to change the specific color is very significant.

The same goes for how colors are combined. Red and green are complementary colors on the color wheel, and using them right next to each other can create a vibrating effect that’s very unpleasing to the eye. But if you lighten the red to pink and make the green more of a jewel tone, it becomes a striking and unexpected color palette that’s immediately memorable and visually appealing.

Pink and green are a modern take on the traditional red and green complementary color scheme. (via hafid lhachmi for YFF Office)

How Color Affects Consumer Behavior

Color can affect performance, as already mentioned, but it can also affect overall behavior among users. Countless case studies have been done comparing the effectiveness of different color choices on things calls to action.

HubSpot ran a case study on the effect of switching a button color from green to red on Performable’s website and got some very conclusive results.

A designer’s gut reaction might be that green would perform better, as it’s associated with “go” while red is associated with “stop” and might make people pause before clicking.

But the results said the opposite: the red button outperformed the green by 21%. In other case studies, green significantly outperforms yellow or orange, though.

Logo design is another area where color choice is incredibly important.

Brands pay specialists thousands (and sometimes millions) of dollars to find exactly the right hue for their brand, one that evokes the correct feelings and actions from their customers while also standing out just the right amount from competitors in their industry (and the “right” amount is often dependent on the specific industry).

Fake at Science Gallery uses a hot pink and bright purple color palette to create a memorable impression.

Act Normal’s bright pink background is visually appealing and memorable, incorporating the passion of bright red without being aggressive.

Kennard Lilly’s use of a traditional dark blue color with bright accents creates a modern brand that still comes across as trustworthy and honest.

The key takeaway here is that the color used in a design does have a significant effect on user behavior but the context in which the color is used is a major factor in this.

Buttons, for example, should stand out from the surrounding design elements without clashing with them (one area where using a complementary color is a great idea, such as using a red button when much of the design includes green).


The main takeaways from all of this are that color is a vital part of creating positive user experiences and that there is no single right color palette for a given application.

This is why testing designs with real users is such a vital part of creating a color palette optimized for the specific use cases it will be enduring.

A green button might convert great compared to a yellow button in one context, but a red button might outperform them both in another.

Further reading on the Toptal Design Blog:

The power of color lies not so much in specific hues, but in how colors are used to evoke particular responses. That said, red and blue are most often associated with power, though because color psychology is not well-studied from a scientific viewpoint, those associations are debatable.

What is the psychology of color?

Color psychology addresses the way colors and emotions are intricately linked and how color affects human behavior. There has been little rigorous scientific study on the psychological effects of color, but plenty of anecdotal evidence exists.

What colors are positive?

Warm color schemes are most often associated with positivity: red, orange, and yellow. Brighter and lighter colors are also seen as more positive, including sky blue, lavender, and bright green. Darker, duller colors should be avoided when trying to evoke a feeling of positivity.

CTA stands for Call to Action. A CTA generally consists of a button or other action-oriented element that aims to get a user to take a specific action. Color psychology is an important element of CTA design, as changing the color of a CTA can have a significant effect on its effectiveness.

How does color affect us?

Color can have psychological effects on everything from human behavior to mood to performance. Prisons in Europe have started painting their walls pink in an effort to calm aggressive inmates. Red sports uniforms have been linked to higher win rates. Blue has been linked to higher rates of creativity.


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