What is color psychology?
Color psychology is a sub-field of behavioral psychology that studies how colors affect human behavior. It focuses on the emotions, attitudes, and values associated with colors. Let’s look at some of those colors and the human behaviors most closely associated with them.
Have you ever wondered why most, if not all, of the sale signs you’ve seen in your life are red?
Red is perceived as a color that creates a sense of urgency, and it actually makes sense. Red, after all, does attract attention and can cause people’s hearts to race, especially when it’s used in marketing material that screams huge discounts for a limited time only.
As far as marketers and businesses that conduct sales or provide tempting offers on a regular basis are concerned, there is no better color for creating a sense of urgency than red. Take a look at what Kmart is doing on its very own Homepage.
Of course, red is also associated with passion, so it pretty much covers a wide range of emotions, from love to jealousy and danger.
Blue is often associated with calmness. In fact, blue is believed to have a lowering effect on heart rate and blood pressure.
As for business, blue is typically linked by color psychology to stability, trust, security, intelligence, and reliability.
Many organizations, Facebook and Twitter included, use blue, which helps them project any or all the above qualities to the world at large.
Yellow is a popular color for websites that want to project a sense of fun, cheerfulness, and optimism. Yellow does all that with ease. After all, yellow represents the color of sunshine. There are even claims that seeing the color yellow makes them feel a little younger.
For all its sunshiny cheer, yellow can be a bit overwhelming when overused, so dial back on the color for your web design.
One color that also brings out a sense of fun is orange, which is the color you’ll get if you mix red with yellow. And since it has red in it, orange can also come in handy when you’re creating a sense of urgency, especially in call-to-action buttons.
If you want to know more about colors and their behavioral associations as determined by color psychology, check out the infographic below.
For those with visual impairment, here's the infographic's text:
The Psychology of Color on Website Design
How do colors affect your website's conversions?
- 85% of surveyed consumers state that color is the primary influencer of purchase decisions
- Color increases brand recognition by 80%
- 42% of Online Users base their opinion of a website on overall design alone
- 52% of Online Users do not return to a website due to its bad aesthetics
The power of colors cannot be underestimated. People have a natural, instinctual reaction to colors. Colors are not randomly used when it comes down to web design. Web designers are empowered with the knowledge of the emotional impact colors have on people.
Many studies have shown how colors stimulate different areas of the brain by promoting excitement or tranquility. With this in mind, your website can easily influence your online users and their conversion rate by grabbing their attention and triggering certain emotions.
Understanding Color Coordination
The Color Wheel is an abstract illustrative organization of color hues around a circle. It is a chart representing the relationships between colors. Web designers use it to combine colors that go well together.
The color wheel can be divided into:
Warm Colors: use them in your designs to stir up passion, happiness, energy
Cool Colors: use them in your designs to promote calmness, trust, professionalism
Be careful when combining the warm and cool colors. If you're using them exclusively, you might confuse the user and your web design will look too busy and untrustworthy.
The Main Colors of the Web
Primary Colors: blue, red, yellow
Secondary Colors: green, orange, purple
- Associated with the ocean and the sky
- Promotes trust
- Gives a feel of security & safety
- Represents calmness and serenity
- Shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate
- Curbs appetite
- Good for health care, dental, high-tech, medical, science, government, legal, and utilities
- Stimulation color
- Promotes passion and energy
- Creates urgency
- Increases heart rate
- Encourages appetite
- Seen in clearance sales
- Most effective when designing CTA's
- Can be good for food, fashion, entertainment, sports, marketing, advertising, emergency services, and health care.
- Don’t overuse it! Too much excitement can be a bad thing
- Not suitable for luxury goods, nature-related content, or professional websites
- Promotes cheerfulness & warmth
- Stimulates the nervous system
- Creates a sense of optimism
- Grabs attention
- Can cause eyes to fatigue so use it sparingly
- Associated with health & nature
- Promotes calmness, peace, and relaxation
- Symbol of fertility
- Alleviates depression
- Stimulates harmony
- Encourages decisiveness by balancing emotions
- Great for science, tourism, medicine, human resources, environment, and sustainability
- Promotes excitement and enthusiasm
- Shows warmth
- Increases cheerfulness & optimism
- Creates strong CTA's
- Good for ecommerce, automotive, technology, entertainment, food, and childcare
- The color of royalty and majesty
- Symbolizes opulence and luxury
- Associated with success, wisdom, and respect
- Promotes creativity by stimulating the problem-solving areas of the brain
- Great for beauty products (specifically anti-aging), astrology, massage, yoga, healing, spirituality, and content related to adolescent girls and feminine brands
- Promotes power and edginess
- Creates instant feelings of sophistication and timelessness
- Elegance is especially strong well when paired with white font and set against a minimalist layout
- Can be great for luxury goods, fashion, marketing, and cosmetics
- Promotes: cleanliness, virtue, simplicity
- Associated with virtue, purity, and innocence in Western cultures
- The best for accenting the other colors on the page
- Associated with doctors, nurses, and dentists which makes it great for websites related to the health care industry
- Promotes: neutrality, formality, melancholy
- A popular choice for a traditional or professional website, luxury goods, or to create a balancing, calming effect
Developing the Best Color Scheme for Your Website
A web project is often started with choosing a color scheme: a set of colors that go well together. A bad color scheme can be painful and hard to look at.
How do you choose colors that really work together?
Color Harmony Basics
- Complementary color schemes use two opposite colors on the color wheel which creates a powerful contrast. Web designers use this scheme to set the background of a website while putting in evidence the content
- Monochromatic color schemes use three different values of the same color
- Analogous color schemes use three adjacent colors on the color wheel. This scheme is often found in nature and it's pleasant to the eye because they match well therefore creating comfortable designs
- Split complement uses a color and the two adjacent tertiary colors of its complement. This color scheme has a high degree of contrast but not as extreme as the complementary. It creates a sense of harmony
- Triadic color schemes use three evenly spaced colors on the color wheel. This color scheme is considered to be the best because you could use one color for the background while the remaining two can be used to highlight the content and other important areas
- Tetradic color schemes use two complementary pairs. This color scheme works at its best when you choose one color to be the dominant one. When using this scheme, pay attention at the balance between your warm and cool colors
Where Should You Use Colors?
The colors that you use might not be outright apparent sometimes, but they do make a difference. The key areas that you must be careful about are:
- Background hues
- Primary web banners or hero graphics
- Buttons, especially call for action
The choice of colors in these prominent areas depends on the kind of audience that your website targets.
Choosing the Right Colors
Choosing the right colors for your website requires a lot of creativity and experimentation. Bear in mind that color is very psychological and different color harmonies produce different effects. For example, analogous colors are similar in hue, creating a smooth transition from one color to the next. Complementary colors are opposite to each other on the color wheel, so they create a strong contrast. Monochromatic color schemes can be subtle and sophisticated.
Adjusting Color Value and Saturation
Once you’ve selected your colors, you may wish to adjust the value of a specific color or colors—how light or dark the color is. Or you may wish to adjust its saturation, how rich it is. Each hue on the online color wheel has a different inherent value. Yellow, for example, is lighter than blue. To increase contrast in your color scheme, you may need to adjust the value of a specific color—by making a yellow darker or lighter, say. Or perhaps adjust the saturation to vary the intensity.