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Artists have used colors to convey emotion and feeling in their pieces for centuries. Today, there are many colors across the spectrum that are associated with different emotions and symbols. They do this by reminding us of our cultures, past experiences, and the world around us. Below, we delve into some of the most well-known colors associated with emotions, and explore the possible links that have led to these relationships.
Table of Contents
- 1 Introduction to Colors and Emotions
- 2 Color Temperature Influences
- 3 Warm Color Emotion Charts
- 4 Cool Color Emotion Chart
- 5 Neutral Color Emotion Chart
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
Introduction to Colors and Emotions
Color psychology is a field of study that investigates how colors affect our mood and emotions. Although this is a relatively new area of study, humans have been using colors to influence emotions for centuries. From the ancient Egyptians who used colors to treat various illnesses to artists such as Rothko who sought to use color as a way to express basic human emotions, interest in using color emotions is not a new phenomenon.
Color influences our emotions for cultural as well as biological reasons. Blue skies can make you happy, however, you can also feel sad and “blue”. Because of our different lives and experiences, colors can have various meanings and interpretations to different people and cultures, however, many colors, symbolisms and emotions transcend language and cultures.
Studies that explore the relationship between color and emotions often opt for swatches over just the name of the color to ensure that all of their participants are thinking of the same hue. In these studies, colors have even been shown to have many influences including changing the effects of placebo medications and even affecting test performance. A color’s temperature and brightness are the main factors that determine its effect on your mood.
Color Temperature Influences
Colors can be divided into two main categories, stimulating colors and sedating colors. Stimulating colors are warm colors, which include reds, oranges, and yellows, and tend to elicit happy, invigorating, or even angry and aggressive responses. These mood colors are best used in more high traffic rooms such as kitchen, living rooms, or even restaurants, as they tend to encourage conversation and appetites.
Sedating colors are cool colors such as blues, purples, and greens, and have a suppressing effect. These colors apply less strain on your eyes and therefore can make you feel calm or even sad depending on the color. Cool colors are best used in areas that you want to decompress or lower stress, such as bedrooms, bathrooms, and offices.
Color Brightness Influences
Color temperature is not the only main influence of color emotions. Brighter shades tend to energize whereas darker shades have a more relaxing effect. Because of this, brighter oranges can be more intense and invigorating while a deeper burnt orange can have a more gentle warming effect. In many ways, the colors you surround yourself with can have an unconscious effect on your mood and we will have a look at each of these categories’ emotion charts to explore their influences.
Warm Color Emotion Charts
Warm colors have both good and bad influences on mood, however, the strength of these influences vary depending on the color. Reds have the strongest impact on your mood, while yellows have a more subtle effect. As they are a mixture of red and yellow, oranges have the most varied impact on emotions on the warm color emotion chart, and their effects will largely be dependent on the exact hue. Warm bright pastels also evoke feelings of energy and happiness because of their brightness.
Red Color Emotion Chart
Red can have both a strongly positive and strongly negative effect on your emotions. Physiologically, red has been shown to increase blood circulation and metabolism in some individuals, leaning to an increased awareness and sensitivity. This is why red is often used in restaurants as it stimulates the appetite.
Red is often associated with fire and blood, which give it a warm and intense feeling, like the anger someone feels when they are “seeing red” or the burning passion and desire you may feel for your partner. We send red hearts to our valentines to show we love them and that they are important to us. Red has been used to symbolize importance because of its ability to draw attention when used sparingly. This is why it is one of the main colors used in caution signs or as a red carpet at events for VIPs.
Lighter shades of red such as pinks emphasize the energetic and youthful aspects of red. Where reds highlight the passion and desire of love and romance, pinks bring out more playful, compassionate, and tender feelings. Pastel pinks particularly are reminiscent of the innocence of our youth. Pink also softens feelings of anger to milder feelings of agitation. Darker shades of red, like maroon, evoke power and confidence. There is a fine line, however, between confidence and arrogance, so be careful with how you use it.
Artist Josef Albers created a whole series of prints surrounding how colors are perceived. In his 1987 painting Homage to the Square (Red) Albers explored the subjectivity of how we perceive reds and how the color red can mean different things to different people. The lighter red at the center draws you in and exudes a sense of excitement when surrounded by the more muted reds on the perimeter.
|Passion, aggression, importance, love, romance, warmth, excitement, rebellion, desire, danger, anger, hate
|Youth, innocence, romance, love, compassion, agitation
|Passion, confidence, kindness, arrogance
Orange Color Emotion Chart
In orange, the stimulation and excitement of red is combined with the softer happiness of yellow to produce feelings of joy, enthusiasm, and amusement. Oranges are playful colors associated with emotions such as kindness and bravery but retain a sense of urgency about them. Because of this, they are often used alongside other warm colors in warning signs.
Darker oranges, like burnt orange, produce more warm and subdued feelings of comfort, community, and pride. However, these colors can also symbolize more negative emotions such as aggression and selfishness. Lighter oranges are positive mood colors. Pastels such as peach increase feelings of friendliness and motivation. Peach is also commonly associated with vitality, particularly in Chinese lore, where peach trees represent immortality and endurance.
Flaming June (1895) by Frederic Leighton makes exquisite use of bright orange to create feelings of contrast by using it as the color of the dress of a sleeping girl. The orange creates playful and energetic tones that emanate from the figure even as she sleeps.
|Playfulness, energizing, happiness, enthusiasm, warmth, joy, kindness, bravery, amusement, urgency
|Comfort, community, pride, aggression, selfishness
|Friendliness, vitality, endurance, encouragement
Yellow Color Emotion Chart
Yellows are warming colors representing emotions such as happiness and cheerfulness like the feeling of the sun on holiday. Too much yellow, however, can also make you feel anxious or apprehensive, particularly if you are already stressed. This is because the color tends to reflect more light, which can be irritating to your eyes. This is why a yellow room can make some feel happy and optimistic, while others get overwhelmed and weary. To be “yellow-bellied” is to be anxious or fearful. Yellow can also make you feel hungry as the majority of the foods we eat are a yellow hue.
Gold is a dark and rich yellow, which has more weighty feeling than lighter yellows. Gold has a sense of antiquity, timelessness, and reverence, which is why it is commonly used in important symbolisms such as wedding rings. Gold also creates a sense of achievement and success because of its associations with money and medals. Yellow is what color means “happy” consistently across many different cultures.
Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss (1907) made extensive use of yellows and gold. The yellow hues surrounding the couple radiate feelings of happiness, warmth, and optimism. The more gold tones that form the background give the piece an air of wealth and opulence.
|Happiness, friendliness, warmth, optimism, weariness, anxious, hunger, frustration, fear, mental clarity
|Reverence, generosity, achievement, success
Cool Color Emotion Chart
Like warm colors, cool colors also have a range of influences on moods and emotions, both good and bad. Blues tend to have the strongest emotional influences, whereas purples have a much more subtle effect. Dark and muted blue, greens, and neutrals can have a depressing effect on your mood if used too much, whereas cool pastels like baby blue, lilac and mint have a calming and relaxing effect for many.
Green Color Emotion Chart
Green reminds us of nature and the environment but also money and wealth. This color symbolizes harmony, health, self-reliance, and stability and the atmosphere it creates restful and secure. Green can give feelings of both good health and sickness depending on the exact color and how it is used. Darker greens, like forest green, relate to money and prestige and too much of it can lead to negative emotions such as envy, greed, and selfishness. Lighter greens like mint, however, relate to rejuvenation, optimism, freshness, and even good luck.
The Arnolfini Portrait (1434) by Jan Van Eyck displays strong use of green symbolisms. When viewing this painting, your eye is immediately drawn to a pregnant woman wearing a bright green dress. This green gives strong feelings of hope, fertility, and contentment, which are only amplified by the pregnant belly.
|Stability, growth, health, tranquility, contentment
|Prosperity, envy, greed
|Rejuvenation, optimism, luck, freshness
Blue Color Emotion Chart
Blues are the most impactful mood colors of the cool colors. If you are wondering what color is trust, blue is seen as the color that most consistently makes people feel trustworthy. Like green, blues are also typically colors representing emotions such as calmness and emit a sense of wisdom. Because of this, you may see blue being used in the branding of banks and software companies. Blues have the opposite effect of reds in the brain, which means they are calming instead of stimulating. Blues have been found to slow breathing and lower the blood pressure of certain individuals, so they are great to use in bedrooms and or bathrooms to help you feel safe and reduce tension.
This sedating effect along with the fact that there are not many blue foods found in the wild means that blues tend to reduce your appetite. Too much blue, particularly darker blues, can also create a cold and uncaring atmosphere. Dark blues, such as indigo, also tend to be somber and conservative. This can make them feel mature or safe, however, they can also feel boring or rigid. This is why darker blues tend to be associated with “feeling blue” whereas lighter blues have a more positive effect.
Light blues like sky blue have a generally more uplifting effect. They offer a sense of relief and refreshment as they remind you of cool water and clear skies. While they will never be as stimulating as warm colors, very bright blues can also create a subtle energizing environment.
Pablo Picasso’s painting The Old Guitarist (1903) is the perfect example of how blue can be used to create an atmosphere of sadness and despair in art. The entire painting, save for a brown guitar, is painted using various blue hues. The painting was created soon after his friend’s death and is indicative of the artist’s grief at the time.
|Serenity, trust, inviting, cold, uncaring, wisdom, loyalty, unappetizing, confidence, harmony, sadness
|Mature, safe, boring, rigid, despair
Purple Color Emotion Chart
Purple is often considered one of the most neutral or ambiguous colors when it comes to emotions. Despite this, it still has some effect. If you want to know what mood is purple associated with, it helps to understand the history of the color purple. Purple has been largely associated with royalty, sophistication, and decadence and gives your space a sense of elegance. This is because purple pigments were historically difficult and expensive to obtain. As purple is made by mixing both red and blue, so it creates a nice balance between stimulation and tranquility, which is perfect for encouraging your creativity.
Lighter purples, such as lavender, promote a peaceful surrounding, thus relieving tension. These light hues also feel whimsical and romantic devotion but, unlike reds, it is a more young and innocent romance. Purples have long been associated with wisdom and spirituality, and darker shades of purple exude mystery and can inspire creativity. Darkening the shade also transforms the romantic elements of purple into a more sensual mood.
Portrait of Emilie Flöge (1902) by Gustav Klimt showcases how purple can be used to create an atmosphere of power and mystery around a subject. Emilie Flöge was a well-known fashion designer and businesswoman and the use of purple with her portrait highlights her importance as well as produces a sensual and confident aura around her. The gold leaf added to the painting only adds to the feeling of royalty and luxury.
|Luxury, mystery, romance, royalty, creativity, sophistication, wisdom, spiritual, respect, inspiration
|Serenity, devotion, purity, whimsy
|Spirituality, wisdom, mystery, sensuality
Neutral Color Emotion Chart
While not colors in the traditional sense, neutral color can also impact our moods and emotions. Neutral colors include black, white, grays, and browns and are used alongside your traditional colors to enhance them.
Black and White
Alongside reds, black has one of the strongest emotional effects of all the colors. Black radiates intelligence, power, and sophistication, which is part of what makes it the most popular color for luxury cars. Black also has very negative connotations as it is largely associated with death, sadness, and mourning. Too much black creates a serious feeling and, particularly when used with reds, can create an evil or sinister atmosphere. One study even found that players with black uniforms were more likely to receive penalties in competitive sports.
White is often used to symbolize cleanliness and purity. White is very cooling and can offer relief, particularly in warm color palettes or climates. White might seem like the opposite of black, however, many cultures view it as a color of mourning, and consider it to be bad luck to wear it to a wedding. Too much white can also be overwhelming as it creates a sterile and cold atmosphere.
|Powerful, sophisticated, edgy, evil, intelligence, mourning, sadness, serious
|Clean, virtuous, healthy, purity, mourning, relief, cold
Grays and Earth Tones
True gray is a mixture of black and white, which is why it represents neutrality. Grays are not just made of white and black, but come in mixtures of purples, oranges, and greens. It is a subtle color that is timeless and practical but also risks emotions of boredom and regret. Silver is a bright gray and is anything but boring. Silver is linked to innovation, modernity, and wealth and brings a feeling of freshness.
Brown, as well as other earth tones, are associated with the earth and trees. These colors give a sturdy and reliable feeling, especially when paired with green. The emotions associated with browns include warmth, comfort, and friendliness as well as more negative feelings of sadness, disgust, and even mourning for some.
Many artists have used white, black, and gray in their artworks but very few have honored it quite like James Whistler. Whistler produced many works using neutrals and even mounted them to white frames hung on white walls. The whole effect was one of pristine but also sterility. Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1 (1871) is arguably Whistler’s most famous painting and uses white, gray, brown, and black in different ways to convey different emotions. The white on the bonnet of the woman conveys a stoic and pure feeling, and complements the black of her garb and curtains, which give off a powerful and sophisticated seriousness. The gray background brings a timeless air to the setting and finally, the brown in the chair lends a sense of stability and strength to the women.
|Timeless, neutrality, practicality, conservative, regret, boredom
|Innovation, freshness, wealth
|Stability, strength, reliability, friendliness, sadness, warmth, comfort, security, mourning
Colors offer a powerful method for storytelling by reminding people of the things they often associate them with. The emotions that you feel are impacted by situational, cultural, and personal factors, so even the same color can affect you differently from time to time. You can use your knowledge of color emotions to make your art, home, and business more impactful and eye-catching.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Mood Is Purple Associated With?
Purple is often associated with a mysterious and creative mood. Lighter purples have a calming and soothing effect on your mood and give off a sense of whimsy. Deeper purples, in particular, give off a luxurious and sensual mood when used.
What Color Is Trust Represented By?
Blue is the color most commonly associated with trust and trustworthiness. This is why most banks, as well as companies that deal with software and technology, have blue as part of their branding. There are many theories about why blue symbolizes trust across different cultures, however, the main theory is that blue is often associated with positive and permanent fixtures, such as the sky or the sea.
What Color Means Happy?
Yellow and orange are the main colors that symbolize happiness and optimism. They are bright, warm, and uplifting, and remind us of sunny days. The brighter the color, the more of an uplifting effect it can have on your mood.