Color Psychology and How it Affects Your Site

As a designer, website owner, or marketer it is important to know how color affects your target audience. There are many factors that contributes to how someone perceives color. While some of these factors are uncontrollable as they are mentally controlled, there are some that we can control as designers.

Some of the outside factors that can affect color and how people perceive it are:

  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Environment (where the color is being used)
  • Time Period
  • Trends

When designing projects such as websites you need to keep the above in mind. Especially keep in mind the culture and religious meaning of color. Colors have different meaning in different cultures and religions, so knowing your target audience can be one of the key factors in the success or failure of your site.

Example:

The color green is usually tied to safety or money. However in France the color green is associated with criminality, it is also not a good color to use for product packaging.

Colors have different meaning in different parts of the world, while some have universal meanings, some do not. Investing a little time and research into your target market can give your site a major boost for very little work.

In this article I have provided some incite into colors. I have given examples to their

  • Common Association
  • Positive and Negative Aspects of Usage
  • Cultural and Religious Meaning
  • Interesting Information About the Color

Primary Colors

Red

Red is the most dominant color and will always draw your attention when it is present. This makes red a good color to use if you want to draw the attention of the viewer to or away from a design element.

Examples:

  1. You want to highlight something on a website such as a price or buy button, a little well placed red will make it stand out.
  2. You designed a room and there is a small flaw you can not hide, you can use some strategically placed red elements to draw the attention away from the flaw.

Color Association 

Associated With Positive Usage Association Negative Usage Association
Fire Power Aggressive
Blood Attention Getting Anger
Sex Love Immorality
Danger Excitement Violent
Love Sexy Antagonistic
Passion Enthusiasm

Cultural Association 

France – Masculinity
Most of Asia – Happiness, Prosperity, and Luck
India – Soldier’s Symbol
South Africa – Color of Mourning
Australia Aborigines – Ceremonial Color

Interesting Information about the Color Red

  • In Russian red means beautiful.
  • Red suggests speed.
  • Red cars have a higher rate of being pulled over for speeding.
  • Red cars have a higher theft rate than any other color.
  • Red stimulates the heart rate, breathing and appetite. This is why red is used in many restaurant and fast food branding/logos. Here are some examples.
    • McDonalds
    • Burger King
    • Carls Jr/ Hardys
    • In and Out Burger
    • Sonics
    • Red Rooster
  • Red clothing makes you look heavier.

Yellow

Yellow is the first color the human eye can recognize.

Color Association 

Associated With Positive Usage Association Negative Usage Association
Sunshine Intellect Jealousy
Desert Wisdom Cowardice
Brightness Radiance Deceit
Warning/Caution Joy Hazard
Idealism
Friendship
Innovative
Awareness
Caution

Cultural Association 

Buddhist – Priests wear saffron yellow robes
Burma – Color of mourning
Egypt – Color of mourning
India – Color for merchants and farmers
Hindu – Worn to celebrate the Festival of Spring
Middle East – Happiness and prosperity
Greece – Sadness

Interesting Information about the Color Yellow 

  • Yellow is brighter than white.
  • Yellow speeds up the metabolism.
  • Pale yellow can enhance concentration.
  • Bright yellow causes more eye fatigue than any other color.
  • Painting a baby’s room yellow makes them cry more.

Blue

Blue is the most used color in advertising and branding.

Color Association 

Associated With Positive Usage Association Negative Usage Association
Sea Knowledge Depression
Water Trust Coolness
Sky Peace Detachment
Trust Masculinity Apathy
Loyalty
Justice
Intelligence

Cultural Association

Most of the World – Sees blue as a masculine color
China – Color for little girls
Iran – Color of mourning
Eastern Cultures – Immortality
Korea – Color of mourning
Mexico – Color of mourning

Interesting Information about the Color Blue

  • Blue is the most used color in branding and advertising. This is because the subconscious meaning of blue is linked to trust and loyalty.
  • Blue suppresses hunger as blue is an unappetizing color.
  • People are more productive in blue rooms.
  • In southern US states front doors and porch ceiling are often painted blue to keep the evil spirits away.

Secondary Colors

Green

Green is the easiest color on the eye.

Color Association 

Associated With Positive Usage Association Negative Usage Association
Nature Money Greed
Environment Fertility Envy
Mould Growth Nausea
Healing Poison
Success
Nature
Harmony
Honesty
Fresh/Renewal

Cultural Association 

Islam – Green is associated with paradise and is symbolic of Islam
Most Western Cultures – Green is considered the color of luck
China – Fertility
Japan – Youthfulness
Ireland – Country color
South America – Color of death

Interesting Information about the Color Green 

  • Green is known to calm and relax you.
  • Painting your bedroom green can give you a better nights sleep.
  • Green is said to aide digestion and reduces stomachaches.
  • Green is the most widely used color for environmental marketing and branding.

Purple

Purple is said to enhance the imagination (commonly used to paint kids rooms to stimulate the imagination).

Color Association 

Associated With Positive Usage Association Negative Usage Association
Royalty/Nobility Luxury Excess
Magic Wisdom Madness
Spirituality Imagination Cruelty
Wealth Sophistication
Wealth
Nobility
Mysticism
Meditative
Prestigious

Cultural Association 

Latin America – Indicates death
Thailand – Worn by widows mourning a husbands death
India – Sorrow
Brazil – Death and mourning
Catholicism – Mourning

Interesting Information about the Color Purple

  • Purple is associated with wealth, royalty and nobility because the ingredients to make purple dye was very expensive. Only the wealthy such as royalty could afford them.
  • Rare in nature purple is seen as artificial.

Orange

Orange is known as the come back color, as it has came back in style and popularity recently.

Color Association 

Associated With Positive Usage Association Negative Usage Association
Autumn Creativity Crassness
Citrus Invigoration Loudness
Warm Uniqueness Raucous
Tropical Energy Frivolous
Halloween Health

Cultural Association 

Native American – Orange is linked to learning.
Netherlands – Orange is the national color. This is because the Dutch monarchs came from Orange-Nassau.
Western Cultures – This color is associated with affordable, inexpensive items.

Interesting Information about the Color Orange 

  • Orange is and appetite stimulant.
  • Orange rooms get people thinking and talking. A good use for this color is to paint the walls of a meeting room orange.

Neutrals

Black

Black is the deepest depths.

Color Association 

Associated With Positive Usage Association Negative Usage Association
Night Power Fear
Death Authority Negativity
Sleek Sophistication Evil
Professional Elegance Mourning
Sophistication Seriousness Emptiness
Dignity Depression
Mystery Oppression
Bold
Classic
Modern

Cultural Association

China – Black is the color for little boys
Asia – Generally associated with mourning, penance, knowledge, and career
India – Evil
Thailand – Bad luck, evil, and unhappiness
Judaism – Bad luck, evil, and unhappiness
Australian Aborigines – Ceremonial color
Western Cultures – Mourning

Interesting Information about the Color Black 

  • Black clothing makes you look thinner
  • Black makes other colors appear brighter
  • Black is said to boost self-confidence and strength
  • Black is the color of choice for most secret societies

White

White is a perfectly balanced color.

Color Association 

Associated With Positive Usage Association Negative Usage Association
Light Marriage Fragility
Purity Weddings Isolation
Pristine Cleanliness Sterile
Clean Virtue Cold
Hospitals Innocence Clinical
Snow/Winter Lightness
Softness
Simplicity
Truth

Cultural Association

Japan and China – Funeral color
Worldwide – Universal symbol for truce
India – Married women who wear white invite unhappiness
Western Cultures – Bride, wedding and peace
Thailand – White symbolizes purity in Buddhism
Korea – Purity and innocence, morality, birth and death

Interesting Information about the Color White 

  • In some cultures it is considered good luck to be married in a white garment
  • White is so brilliant it can give some people headaches
  • White light can be blinding

Grey

Grey is a balance of black and white.

Color Association 

Associated With Positive Usage Association Negative Usage Association
Neutrality Balance Dull
Moodiness Security Conformist
Modesty Detached
Corporate Sadness
Quiet Depression
Basic
Responsible

Cultural Association 

Native American – Grey is associated with friendship and honor
America– Represents industry

Interesting Information about the Color Grey

  • Grey seldom evokes strong emotions
  • Grey is it’s own complement color

When doing design work it is important to understand the needs of the project you are working on. You need to remember to take into consideration who your main viewing audience is. In this article I have covered the basics of color and how it can affect your site. In a future article I will go more in-depth into how to apply colors to your project and get the most out of them.

If you have any color tips you would like to share feel free to post them below in the comments secton.

About the Author: This post was written by Ivy who is the graphics designer of  Tips and Tricks HQ.

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Comments (15 responses)

  1. conlee says:

    Interesting article. I agree with a lot of these color tips, but the “yellow makes babies cry more” statement is a myth. I studied color, it’s messages and meanings with Leatrice Eiseman, Pantone’s color expert,. She has said that is just not true. Yellow does not make babies cry more.

  2. Lorne Marr says:

    Hi Ivy!

    First of all, thanks for a great article! I’ll definitely take your tips into consideration, if I have my website redesigned again. I personally prefer the combination of blue and grey, it looks great, trustworthy, and it doesn’t draw attention as extremely as red. I also have to admit not to have realized until now that cultural differences actually play a great role in color perception too.

  3. Mark says:

    We produce a lot of websites, landing pages and campaignsites. I don’t hope this is entirely new to our web team, but will definitely share this with them.

  4. Szahed says:

    I really like this article. Just recently started on a new site of mine and this will come in very handy!

    coincidentally I was reading about color psychology a week ago but not as in-depth as this article. ;)

  5. Jamie says:

    This is a great article. Thanks so much!

  6. Carol says:

    That’s an interesting article – for websites I like blue, usually pale and towards grey, with clean white pages and a darker blue for Headings – in fact, exactly the color scheme and style of this site. Plus red for important Attention Getting text or symbols.

    I like blue and blue/green and blue/mauve in almost everything – always have done, and probably always will. I like blue flowers, blue-mauve flowers and blue jeans.

    I dislike white cars – a waste of a color opportunity – and they show the dirt, as do black ones.

    Bright red cars should be avoided at all costs unless you really are a middle aged male having a mid life crisis…..and you don’t mind the world knowing about it.

    Or, if you have the need to try to compensate for some inadequacy or other….and you don’t mind if the world knows about it.

    I’m going to go right now and make my website’s side/background color a paler blue towards grey, just to see how that looks.

    Thanks for a great article.

  7. Pawee says:

    Thanks a lot for publishing this article. This would be very helpful for me since I’m studying Web designing!

  8. Alexia says:

    It is so strange and shocking that in cities and developed countries, so many people wear black. It is a constant – “just wear a black dress! Black is always safe!”

    We all wear black so often when in so many cultures is symbolizes evil, unhappiness and bad luck! Is it a coincidence that there is a high percentage of people within big cities that are unhappy and dear i say – evil??

  9. Jon D. says:

    It’s interesting that blue is the most popular color in advertising and it’s the most common color in the world with water generally giving off a blue color. I guess it makes sense.

    I tend to veer toward blue and gray for website design. I suppose I’m a bit of a traditionalist in that way. For example, if a particular theme offers multiple color schemes, I almost always choose the blue-based scheme.

  10. Pete Kici says:

    I am going to share this with my people and I have already posted it on Quora
    great article.

  11. Towhid says:

    It’s the best and most complete article on Psychology of Colors that I ever read. Thanks for epic work

  12. Mike says:

    This is quite educational, I must say. Orange really is an appetite stimulant and seems to enhance food color when displayed.

  13. Steven says:

    Fascinating article, thanks for the color tips!

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