How color impacts emotions and behaviors


Color plays an important role in brand identity — it draws consumers to products, stirs emotions and has a huge impact on brand recognition.

Colors can make us feel happy or sad… they can make us feel hungry or relaxed. As a designer, it’s important to understand the psychological effects colors might have on an average person, or your client’s target audience. Lets take a closer look at how color impacts our emotions and behaviors.

Warm colors

Red, orange and yellow are next to each other on the wheel and are all warm colors. Warm colors 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 color yellow and red. Why? Because they want people to get hungry and then eat quickly.



Photograph: Cas Cornelissen (via Unsplash)

Red is the warmest and most dynamic of the colors — 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 color in moderation as it can be overwhelming.



Photograph: Afroz Nawaf (via Unsplash)

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.



Photograph: Alexander Shustov (via Unsplash)

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

Cool colors include green, blue, and purple. Cool colors 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 colors.



Photograph: Buzo Jesús (via Unsplash)

Green symbolizes 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 color to use if a company wants to depict growth, security or inspire possibility.



Photograph: J DuClos (via Unsplash)

Blue evokes feelings of calmness and spirituality as well as security and trust. Seeing the color blue causes the body to create chemicals that are calming. It is no surprise that it’s the most favored of the colors. 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.



Photograph: Sonja Langford (via Unsplash)

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


Photograph: Noel Lopez (via Unsplash)

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

It is important to note that colors 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. A designer must study their target audience and choose colors accordingly.

What is your favorite color?


Based in San Francisco, Allison (Alli) Stuart works as Head of Community Marketing at 99designs. When she's not writing articles and communicating with designers, she is working on her Children's Book. She also enjoys extreme sports, like sky diving and traveling to new places. Alli has a Fine Arts Degree with a concentration in Graphic Design from Louisiana State University, her home. Geaux Tigers!

  • Abdul Wahid Khan

    Hey Allison, thanks for the wonderful article! Could you please tell me which color would be best for the theme “Breaking Barriers”?

  • Andrew

    Thank you for the detailed article, i would like to take this as a reference of my writing, is it ok to you?

    • 99designs

      Of course! Just be sure to correctly cite us as your reference 😉

    • Andrew

      Thank you!

      • Cheap Thief

        Luv u

  • melanie

    what color would help zebra fish breed

  • maithili awasarikar

    Thank you for this, was very helpful

  • Liam Reynolds

    Red is a happy color.

  • Ar Em

    I love blue .. all shades of blue . . .

  • Indi

    very informative

  • MD Zakaria Chowdhury Risart

    Great informative Article Love it,

  • zahra

    totally love this article so informative so going to get an A for my school project thank you mates you helped me out sooooo much ! mwha xxx

  • t.i

    can I ask what are the references do you based on?

  • alicia summers

    My favorite color is purple ’cause that is who I am.

  • DiamondOlafLover

    I am going to get a new room after our house renovation and I am thinking about the colours. The colour scheme I have come up with isn’t on the colour wheel (it is medium spring green with a bluey purple lilac) and I am trying to figure out good colours to put in my room. I want colours that are positive but calming and not irritating. Any advice?

  • Charley

    Thanks for the awesome article it really helped

    • Cheapt Thief

      No problem


    Am I the only one who doesn’t associate purple to creativity?
    I always associate to girly things, maybe my brain is different lol

    Nice post Allison!

  • Cheap Thief

    foook u

  • Ann

    What color(s)would be calming for a child with ADHA,Posttraumatic stress, bipolar or schizophrenia? I have a few friends w kids who have these different conditions and would like to try to help them. Thanks for any contributions. Ann

  • Mabel “May May” Pines

    Where did you get the information? Some of these are a little off like purple and creativity.