Crash Course on Color Theory: Psyche!

In order to unlock the power that color can bring to a design, we need to understand the overall emotion and what each color is a shorthand for. There are many different color associations from culture to culture. I’m writing from the perspective of an American and would love to learn the different color associations from culture to culture. If anybody reading this has any insights and would love to share them, you can either comment on this post or send me an email ( I would love to know and may make a post with a collection of global meanings of color in the future!

Color Symbolism vs. Color Psychology

First, I think it is fair to differentiate between color symbolism and psychology since they seemed to be used interchangeably, but they actually do have a slight difference between them.

Color Symbolism is the use of a color as a symbol throughout a culture.

For example (although these are highly subjective) white is often the color of a wedding dress in western culture. It symbolizes purity, a new beginning, peace and a clean slate. Red is often thought of as the color of lust and passion and would be a very inappropriate color for a traditional wedding dress. However, in eastern culture, red would be the correct color for a traditional marriage dress as it symbolizes things like luck, purity and integrity. White would be an unfortunate choice as it can mean death.

Color Psychology is the effect of a color on human behavior and feeling.

An example being warm colors can evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility. Cool colors are often described as calm, but can also call to mind feelings of sadness or indifference.

That said, I’ve decided to go through several of the basic colors and list some of the common color associations in this handy dandy poster / infographic / thing. You can zoom in and download it by clicking it. Knowing these can better inform your work and will come in handy when looking at other various works.

Common Color Associations

Now that we’ve scratched the surface of super simple basic color theory, we can finally “Go to the Movies!” Check back this Tuesday to learn more about how colors are used in films and discovering an answer to the big question: why?


One thought on “Crash Course on Color Theory: Psyche!

  1. Pingback: Crash Course on Color Theory: Conniving Colors | jessbrannan

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