Imagine waking up one day to a world with no color. It’s almost hard to fathom life without color. You don’t realize the impact color has on your life until you stop to really think about it. The different colors we see every day give meaning to each object. Besides identifying everyday objects, colors can also elicit certain emotions and behaviors. Generally, we associate colors with art. But, in fact, there is a whole scientific and psychological aspect to the meanings of color. Let’s dig a little deeper into color symbolism and our relationship to different colors.

What Is the Science Behind Color?

The meanings of color stem from millions of years of biological conditioning, cultural and societal evolution, and individual psychological effects. From a biological aspect, humans have created certain associations between colors and objects or emotions. For example, you associate red with fire and warmth or blue with water and cold. Another example is how you are naturally drawn to red and orange fruits over green fruit because biologically, those colors indicate ripeness and sweetness. These associations have been deeply embedded in the human brain for millions of years. 

Color meanings and associations have also been established from a cultural and societal standpoint, either historically or even recently. In Western culture, for example, you associate the color pink with girls and blue with boys. As societies and cultures shift over time, so can the meaning and impact of colors. Perhaps a decade from now, we will no longer associate pink with girls and blue with boys.

Of course, your personal experiences and preferences may overrule the biological and societal tendencies of color meanings and associations. In fact, the interpretation of colors can be subjective and vary greatly from person to person. With that said, colors and emotions are so closely interconnected. It’s important to understand the psychological effects of colors, especially when faced with a design decision to choose colors. 

The Relationship Between Colors and Emotion

There is no doubt that certain colors can evoke certain emotions within you. Whether it’s rooted in a biological, evolutionary, or cultural element, there is a universal understanding of specific colors invoking specific feelings. Let’s take a look at these colors and ask ourselves, what do colors mean and how do they impact us emotionally?

Red

Red leaf
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Red is the color of warmth and passion. It exudes a certain intensity, whether it’s love and romance or anger and danger. Red is the color of blood and fire and associated with love, violence, heat, and danger. It is a bold and energetic color that has come to symbolize power, strength, and determination. The color red has even shown to have physical effects on people, such as raising blood pressure and respiration rates and stimulating appetite. This is why red is often used in popular fast-food chain designs such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC. You’ll often see red used to attract consumers to a brand (such as Coca-Cola) and its platform (such as Netflix’s calls-to-action to join or sign in). Red also indicates warning or danger, which is why it is often used in warning labels, stop signs, and stoplights.  

How To Use It: 

Red is perfect for loud, high-energy, or food and beverage brands that really want to stand out. It’s also a great call-to-action color for websites and platforms. Red can be a powerful color used in a design but tends to have an overwhelming effect if used too much. 

Orange

Coffee cup art
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Orange makes you feel energetic, youthful, and enthusiastic. Although a bold color, it is not as aggressive as red. Instead, it is more inviting and playful. Orange is commonly used for warning signs in items such as traffic cones and high-visibility clothing. It is also associated with the fruit orange, making it feel healthy and fresh. Big brands that use the color orange, such as Nickelodeon, Gatorade, and Fanta emanate vibrance and promote activity. 

How To Use It: 

Orange is perfect for creative, fun, youthful brands. It is an eye-catching color that stimulates action, great for calls to action or promoting a new product. If you want your next project to give off friendly and inviting vibes, orange is your color.

Yellow

Guy in yellow hoodie
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Yellow automatically makes you feel happy and energetic. It is the color of the sun and thus symbolizes warmth and positivity. Yellow is the most visible color from a distance and has been associated with caution and hazards. It is therefore commonly used for street signs, police caution tape, life vests. It also makes for great logos and signs, as seen in the McDonald’s arches. 

How To Use It: 

Yellow is perfect for happy and entertaining brands that want to radiate cheerfulness, positivity and optimism. Yellow is also used among companies to show a reduced cost for a product, so make sure to use yellow tags in your next product sale.

Green

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We are biologically wired to associate green with nature, especially grass, trees, and plants. The color green gives forth the feeling of being zen and balanced. It also represents growth and renewal, as we see in the spring season. In the U.S., green is associated with wealth and stability as it is the color of its currency. You’ll find different shades of green in big brand names such as Whole Foods Market, Starbucks, Heineken, and Spotify. 

How To Use It: 

Green is perfect for brands that are eco-friendly, organic, sustainable, or representing natural products in general. Green can also exude wealth and abundance in your design or company. Be wary of using neon tones of green, as they can feel more artificial versus natural. 

Blue

Window with clouds and blue sky
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The color Blue is associated with the sea and the sky. It gives off a calming effect, makes you feel serene, and instills a sense of trust within. Blue is the most used color in the world, both personally and professionally. Dark blue conveys power, authority, and communication, whereas lighter blues are more relaxing and friendly. Major corporations opt for blue in their logos such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and American Express. The police force even uses blue!

How To Use It: 

Blue definitely portrays professionalism. It is a universally liked and used color that’s great for a more serious, reliable, trustworthy brand. Blue is perfect for corporations, authoritative and political organizations, and any design project wanting to represent responsibility and dependability. 

Purple

Girl in purple turtleneck
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Purple is the color of royalty, luxury, and mystery. It is a combination of both warm and cool colors (red and blue) and is associated with creativity, wealth, and spirituality.  Purple has been shown to resonate more with women, which is why you’ll often see it used for a female audience and for female-oriented products (such as beauty products). Some famous brands that use purple are Twitch, Cadbury, Yahoo!, and Hallmark. 

How To Use It: 

Purple is perfect for luxurious, feminine, and unique brands. It adds a royal, soft, mystic touch to your design. Although purple is not a common color used for branding, when used in the right amount and the right shade, it can make for a perfect logo. 

Pink

Girl with pink bubblegum
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Pink feels playful, feminine, and romantic, especially in western culture. It’s associated with bubble gum, cotton candy, little girls, and is intrinsically cute and sweet. When used in lighter pastel shades, it radiates a soft, sentimental feeling. More vibrant pinks, on the other hand, are bold and youthful — a definite attention-getter! Established brands that use variations of pink in their logos include Dunkin Donuts, Lyft, Barbie, T-Mobile, and Baskin Robbins.

How To Use It: 

Pink is perfect for feminine, playful, and dessert product brands. Pink is not solely a “girly” color, and if used right can be bold, fun, and gender-neutral. It is certainly a memorable color when used in designs. 

Brown

Brown wood tray with coffee
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Brown feels wholesome, earthy, and warm. It is the color of soil, wood, and chocolate, symbolizing durability, strength, reliability, and nature. Brown reminds you of agriculture and the outdoors and has been used to represent old fashioned and well-established vibes in a brand. Brown is famously used in logos like m&m’s, UPS, Dreyer’s, A&W, and Hershey’s. 

How To Use It: 

Brown is an obvious one for the chocolate industry, but can seamlessly be used in whiskey, recreational, natural beauty products, and wood-related brands. Brown looks simple, durable, and well-established. 

Black

Hand holding the moon
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Black is quite a powerful color. On one hand, the color black is associated with luxury, sophistication, and exclusivity. On the other hand, it is associated with death, mourning,  and evil. Black is among the most versatile of colors and can be classic, modern, traditional, and unconventional all at the same time. Some iconic brands that use black are Chanel, Dior, Adidas, Sony, and The New York Times. 

How To Use It: 

Black is perfect for luxury, modern, and exclusive brands. It invokes a feeling of power, strength, elegance for classic or contemporary brands. Formal, traditional, and more serious design projects should incorporate black. 

Color Theory

The idea of colors may seem as simple as red, green, and blue. The truth is, colors are much more multidimensional than we think, especially when it comes to how they affect our emotions. Colors have complex nuances that can have different impacts on feelings and behavior. For example, a color’s brightness, shade, tint, tone, and whether it’s cool or warm-toned all can have a different connotation and interpretation. If you take the color red and tweak its brightness, saturation, and tint, it can give off a totally different feeling, even though it’s technically still red. 

Warm
Warm colors include red, orange, yellow, and any combination or variation of these colors. Red and yellow are both primary colors, and the combination of the two create orange, a secondary color. Warm colors such as these are associated with fire, blood, autumn leaves, sunshine, and sunflowers. Reddish tones reflect a more aggressive, bold, and passionate vibe whereas the orange and yellowish tones reflect a more energetic, happy, and enthusiastic emotion.

Cool

Cool colors include green, blue, and purple. Blue is a primary color, whereas green and purple are secondary colors on the cool spectrum. Green is created by combining blue and yellow, and purple is created by combining blue and red. Cool colors, often associated with nature, are reflective of calming, serene, relaxing feelings. 

Neutral

Neutral colors include white, black, brown, and gray. Neutrals are simple and clean when used in a design. They are not meant to be eye-catching, but rather sophisticated, especially when combined with brighter accent colors. Neutrals are reflective of modern, classic, and pure feelings. 

 Make the Best Colorful Designs With PicsArt

Now that you have some context and history behind all the different colors and how they each exude certain color emotions and associations, let’s talk design. To create some amazing, colorful designs, follow these easy instructions:

  1. Open the PicsArt app.
  2. Tap on the plus sign at the bottom of your screen.
  3. Select a background or choose a color background. If you want a wider selection of colors, tap on Color Picker all the way on the right. You’ll be prompted with a spectrum of colors you can pick from. Choose one depending on your project’s color scheme.
  4. Drag the transparent circle around the color wheel to select the color you want. You can then adjust the shade of that color by dragging the smaller circle anywhere on the diamond. 
  5. If you want to adjust the color in a more accurate method, tap on the scale icon on the top left. Here, you can adjust the HSB (hue-saturation-brightness) and RGB (red-green-blue) by scaling left or right for each tab. 
  6. Once you achieve your desired color, tap on the check icon on the top right.  
  7. Now you have a background to start your design project. Use PicsArt’s other tools to add effects, stickers, text, or any other additions to your design.
  8. Remember to hit Apply on the top right after each edit. Layer on as many edits as you’d like!
  9. Done with your design? Tap the Download icon or Post!

If you’re using PicsArt’s Desktop editor instead, check out this step-by-step guide on how to create colorful design projects online. 

  1. Open PicsArt’s Editor.
  2. Depending on the goal of your design project, select any of the editing tools listed. Color Exposure and Color Toning Effects are great editing tools to really make your design stand out.
  3. You can either upload a photo or select any Free-to-Edit photos to start. 
  4. Click any of the prompted filters. For a full list of all photo effects, click on Effects on the left-hand bar and select a filter of your choice. You can further edit the filter by clicking Adjust and Blend on top.
  5. To add text, click Text on the left-hand side and type in your text. You can adjust the Font, Color, Outline, and Shadow by clicking on each of these tools above your image.
  6. Click the Sticker icon and add any desired stickers.
  7. All done? Click Download at the top right or Share

Make Awesome

PicsArt all-in-one Photo and Video Editor, Collage, and Sticker Maker is the world’s largest creative platform with over 150 million monthly active creators and influencers. PicsArt has collaborated with major artists and brands like Taylor Swift, The Jonas Brothers, Gwen Stefani, Maroon 5, Lizzo, Meghan Trainor, One Direction, MONSTA X, Warner Bros. Entertainment, iHeartMedia, Condé Nast, and more. Download the app today to level-up your photos and videos with thousands of quick & easy editing tools, trendy filters, fun stickers, and brilliant backgrounds. Unleash your creativity with PicsArt and upgrade to Gold for awesome premium perks!

Katia Nazari
Author