How colour impacts emotions and behaviours

Colour plays an important role in brand identity—it draws consumers to products, stirs emotions and has a huge impact on brand recognition. Warm colours can evoke different emotions than cool colours and bright colours can create different feelings than muted colours. It all depends on how the psychological effects of colour are being used.

Colours can make us feel happy or sad… they can make us feel hungry or relaxed. That’s why it’s important to understand the psychological effects colors might have on an average person, or your client’s target audience. Let’s take a closer look at how colour impacts our emotions and behaviours.

Warm colours

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 and orange can also slightly irritate the eyes and red can increase a person’s appetite.

Think about fast food restaurants like McDonald’s or KFC — most of these places incorporate the colours yellow and red. Why? Because they want people to get hungry and then eat quickly.


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.

If you want to draw attention to a design element, use red. But use it as an accent colour in moderation as it can be overwhelming.


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. Orange is great for a call to action to buy or subscribe to a product.


Yellow is perhaps the most energetic of the warm colours. 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.

Cool colours

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.


Green symbolises 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.


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 is associated with creativity, royalty and wealth. Purple is 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.

Neutral colors

Neutral colours include black, grey, white, tan and brown. In design, these colours are great as background colours. Use black, grey and white when using brighter colours. If you are using textures, then incorporate tan and brown as your backdrop.


It is important to note that colours can be subjective—what might make one person feel cheerful can make another person feel irritated depending on the viewers’ past experiences or cultural differences.

Color is not completely agreed on universally and can appeal differently to individual countries. Now that you know how colours and emotions are connected, you can study your target audience and choose colours accordingly.

Article originally published in 99designs on April 2019.