Updated: Dec 7, 2022
It’s important to understand how colour affects your mood if you’re going to create an environment of peacefulness and happiness. Simply the colours we immerse ourselves in can have a subconscious effect on our mood and state of mind. Colours can make us feel happy or sad, and they can make us feel hungry or relaxed. These reactions are rooted in psychological effects, biological conditioning and cultural imprinting.
As a designer, we use different colours to give different moods in certain designs. For example, a fuchsia necklace will give you a fun personality whereas a red jewellery can give you an energetic feel.
Corporations also use colours in their logos or websites to summon different emotions in consumers.
Fanta uses orange to encourage a feeling of fun and confidence
Ecology uses forest green to share a feeling of sustainability
Apple uses grey to encourage a feeling of modern and neutral
Our own logo is fuchsia and canary yellow to invite you to a world of colour and fun
Animal Planet uses green to encourage a feeling of growth and health
However, research points out that emotional ties to colours are subjective, and that each individual will respond to different colours in a different way based on their culture, religion, upbringing and more.
Colours and emotions
The way different colours can affect emotions depends largely on a colour’s brightness, shade, tint or tone and whether it’s cool or warm toned. Let’s take a look at some of the effects colours can have on how you feel:
Red, orange and yellow are next to each other on the wheel and are all warm colours. Warm colours often evoke feelings of happiness, optimism and energy. However, yellow, red and orange can also have an attention grabbing effect and signal danger or make you take action (think stop signs, hazard warnings and barrier tape). Red can also increase a person’s appetite.
Cool colours include green, blue, and purple. Cool colours are usually calming and soothing but can also express sadness. Purple is often used to help spark creativity as it’s a mixture of blue (calm) and red (intense). If a company wants to display health, beauty or security, incorporate these colours.
Happy colours are bright, warm colours like yellow, orange, pink and red. Pastel colours like peach, light pink or lilac can also have an uplifting effect on your mood. The brighter and lighter a colour, the more happy and optimistic it will make you feel. Another way colours can create happy emotions is by combining multiple primary and secondary colours together for a youthful, colourful effect.
Sad colours are colours that are dark and muted. Grey is the quintessential sad colour, but dark and muted cool colours like blue, green or neutrals like brown or beige can have a similar effect on feelings and emotions depending on how they’re used. In Western cultures black is often considered the colour of mourning, whereas in some East Asian countries it’s white.
Next, let’s dive into the emotions and feelings different colours can evoke.
Yellow makes you feel happy and spontaneous.
Yellow is perhaps the most energetic of the warm colors. It is associated with laughter, hope and sunshine. Accents of yellow help give your design energy and will make the viewer feel optimistic and cheerful. However, yellow tends to reflect more light and can irritate a person’s eyes. Too much yellow can be overwhelming and should be used sparingly. In design, it is often used to grab attention in an energetic and comforting way.
Green makes you feel optimistic and refreshed.
Green symbolizes health, new beginnings and wealth. Green is the easiest on the eyes and should be used to relax and create balance in a design. It is a great colour to use if a company wants to depict growth, security or inspire possibility and sustainability. Green can also feel calming and relaxing.
Pink makes you feel playful and romantic.
Pink represents femininity and romance, sensitivity and tenderness. It’s inherently sweet, cute and charming.
Red makes you feel passionate and energized.
Red is the warmest and most dynamic of the colours—it triggers opposing emotions. It is often associated with passion and love as well as anger and danger. It can increase a person’s heart rate and make them excited.
Orange makes you feel energized and enthusiastic.
Orange enhances a feeling of vitality and happiness. Like red, it draws attention and shows movement but is not as overpowering. It is aggressive but balanced — it portrays energy yet can be inviting and friendly.
Blue makes you feel safe and relaxed.
Blue evokes feelings of calmness and spirituality as well as security and trust. Seeing the colour blue causes the body to create chemicals that are calming. It is no surprise that it’s the most favoured of the colours. Dark blues are great for corporate designs because it helps give a professional feel, but using too much can create a cold, disengaged feeling. Light blues give a more relaxing, friendly feel. Great examples are social sites like Facebook and Twitter who use lighter blues.
Purple makes you feel creative.
Purple is associated with mystery, creativity, royalty and wealth. Lighter shades of purple are often used to soothe or calm a viewer, hence why it is used in beauty products. Incorporate purple to make a design look more luxurious and wealthy or a lighter purple to show romance and mystery.
Black feels sophisticated, classic and serious.
Black evokes power, luxury, elegance, but can also mean professionalism, neutrality and simplicity. It’s bold, powerful and is often used to evoke mystery. In certain contexts and cultures the colour black can also refer to mourning or sadness.
White means minimalism and simplicity. Using a lot of white colour in design creates a minimalist aesthetic and can result a simple, fresh and clean look.
In many cultures, white is used to refer to virginity, purity and innocence (think bridal gowns and baby clothes). It’s also the most neutral colour of all.
Gray feels serious and professional.
Gray is a more mature, responsible colour. Its positive connotations include formality and dependability, while the negative side can mean being overly conservative, conventional and lacking in emotion. It’s safe and quite subdued, serious and reserved.
Inspired by a blog from 99 Designs.
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