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The Psychology of Color
A Guide For Designers
The color wheel is a tool for understanding color and color relationships.
The most common color wheel is the twelve (12) hue wheel. A color wheel could have
as few as six hues or as many as 24, 48, 96 or more.
Red-Orange B Blue-Green
Primary colors Secondary colors Tertiary colors
There are three primary By mixing two primary The third set of hues are
colors. They are the hues hues together you create known as tertiary or inter-
yellow, blue and red. a secondary color. There mediate colors. These
These three colors are the are three secondary hues are made by mixing
hues that in theory can be colors. They are the hues adjacent primary and
mixed to make all other green, violet (purple) and secondary hues. The six
colors. If you mix the three orange. Orange from tertiary or intermediate
primary colors, in theory it mixing red and yellow, colors are yellow-green,
would produce black. violet (purple) from blue blue-green, blue-violet,
and red, and green from red-violet, red-orange, and
yellow and blue. yellow-orange.
Hue: A hue is the purest or brightest form of
a color. Hues are colors that have not been Hue
mixed with white, gray, or black. The twelve
colors around on the outermost part of the
wheel are hues Tint
Tint: The circle of colors next to the hues
represent the tint of each hue. A tint is the Tone
hue mixed with white. The hue may be
mixed with just a touch of white or with so
much white that the hue is very faint. Shade
Tone: The next circle of colors represent
the tone of each hue. A tone is the hue
mixed with true gray. The hue mixed with
any amount of gray is considered a tone of
Shade: The inner most circle of colors rep-
resent the shade of each hue. A shade is the
hue mixed with black. Just as with the tines,
the hue may be mixed with just a touch of
black or with so much black that you are
Stimulates mental processes
Yellow shines with optimism, enlighten-
ment, and happiness. Shades of golden Stimulates the nervous system
yellow carry the promise of a positive
future. Yellow will advance from sur- Activates memory
rounding colors and instill optimism and
energy, as well as spark creative Encourages communication
During the tenth century in France, the doors of traitors and criminals were paint-
Yellow signifies "sadness" in Greece' culture and "jealousy" in France's culture.
Yellow is psychologically the happiest color in the color spectrum.
The comic book character Green Lantern was afraid of the color yellow.
75% of the pencils sold in the United States are painted yellow.
Green occupies more space in the
spectrum visible to the human eye than Relaxes mentally, as well as physically
most colors, and is second only to blue
as favorite color. Green is the perva- Helps allerviate depression, nervousness,
sive color in the natural world, making and anxiety
it an ideal backdrop in interior design
because we are so used to seeing it Offers a sense of renewal, self-control,
everywhere. and harmony
The solid green flag of Libya is currently the only national flag of a single color.
There is a superstition that sewing with green thread on the eve of a fashion show
brings bad luck to the design house.
Green was the favorite color of George Washington, the first President of the
Green is the color used for night-vision goggles because the human eye is most
sensitive to and able to discern the most shades of that color.
NASCAR racers have shared a bias against the color green for decades. Reported-
ly, it began after a 1920 accident in Beverly Hills, California, that killed defending
Indianapolis 500 champion Gaston Chevrolet. It was the first known racing acci-
dent in the United States to kill two drivers, and Chevrolet reportedly was driving
a green car.
Calms and sedates
Blue is seen as trustworthy, depend-
able, and committed. The color of Cools
ocean and sky, blue is perceived as a
constant in our lives. As the collective Aids intuition
color of the spirit, it invokes rest and
can cause the body to produce chemi-
cals that are calming.
Blue is the least "gender specific" color, having equal appeal to both men and
Blue is the favored color choice for toothbrushes.
Owls are the only birds that can see the color blue.
People are often more productive in blue rooms.
Mosquito's are attracted to the color blue twice as much as to any other color.
Purple embodies the balance of red's
stimulation and blue's calm. With a Calms the mind and nerves
sense of mystic and royal qualities,
purple is a color often well liked by Offers a sense of spirituality
very creative or eccentric types and is
the favorite color of adolescent girls. Encourages creativity
Purple was the royal of the Caesars.
Purple was the color of the first dye made by man.
Purple is the color of Madison Square Garden and seating for VIP's was once
covered in purple.
Purple is the color of the highest denomination + $5,000.
During the Silver Age of comic books, those with purple on their covers sold
Bright pinks, like the color red, stimulate
Brighter pinks are youthful, fun, and energy and can increase the blood pres-
exciting, while vibrant pinks have the sure, respiration, heartbeat, and pulse
same high energy as red; they are sen- rate. They also encourage action and
sual and passionate without being too confidence.
aggressive. Toning down the passion or
red with the purity of white results in Pink has been used in prison holding cells
the softer pinks that are associated to effectively reduce erratic behavior.
with romance and the blush of a young
In 1974, fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli introduced the color "hot pink" to west-
Pink encourages friendliness while discouraging aggression and ill-will.
Since the color pink is said to have a tranquilizing effect, sport's teams sometimes
use pink to paint the locker room used by opposing teams.
Studies of the color pink suggest that male weightlifters seem to lose strength in
pink rooms, while women weightlifters tend to become stronger around the color.
Pastries taste better when they come out of pink boxes or served on pink plates (it
only works with sweets) because pink makes us crave sugar.
Red has more personal associations
than any other color. Recognized as a Stimulates energy and can increase the
stimulant, red is inherently exciting and blood pressure, respiration, heartbeat,
the amount of red is directly related to and pulse rate
the level of energy perceived. Red
draws attention and a keen use of red Encourages action and confidence
as an accent can immediately focus
attention on a particular element. Provides a sense of protection from fears
Red is the highest arc of the rainbow.
Red is the first color you lose sight of at twilight.
The longest wavelength of light is red.
Feng shui recommends painting the front door of a home red to invite prosperity
to the residents.
Bees can't see the color red, but they can see all other bright colors. Red flowers
are usually pollinated by birds, butterflies, bats, and wind, rather than bees.
Orange, a close relative of red, sparks
more controversy than any other hue. Stimulates appetite
There is usually strong positive or neg-
ative association to orange and true Encourages socialization
orange generally elicits a stronger
"love it" or "hate it" response than other
colors. Fun and flamboyant orange
radiates warmth and energy.
The interior dash lights on older model Suburu cars were orange.
Orange is the color that means "high" in the color-coded threat system established
by presidential order in March 2002.
In the United States Army, orange is the color of the United States Army Signal
Safety orange is a color used to set things apart from their surroundings.
Agent Orange, an herbicide named after the color of its containers, was used in a
systematic herbicidal program organized by the US military that ran from 1961
through 1971 in Vietnam.
Aids mental clarity
White projects purity, cleanliness, and
neutrality. Doctors don white coats, Encourages us to clear clutter or obsta-
brides traditionally wear white gown, cles
and a white picket fence surrounds a
safe and happy home. Evokes purification of thoughts or actions
Enables fresh beginnings
A white flag is universally recognized as a symbol of truce.
According to Pantone Inc., white is the best selling color for the classic american
More shades of white are available commercially than any other color.
White clothing typically becomes translucent when wet.
The appearance of white in a dream is thought to represent happiness at home.
White castles are a symbol of achievement, destiny perfectly fulfilled, and spiritual
Originally, scientists wore beige coats. In the late 19th century, medical profes-
sionals chose white ones. The color white was chosen because of the idea of hope
and expectations for healing and recovery that the physicians would bring.
Gray is the color of intellect, knowl-
edge, and wisdom. It is perceived as Creates expectations
long-lasting classic, and often as sleek
or refined. It is a color that is dignified,
conservative, and carries authority.
Gray is a perfect neutral, which is why
designers often use it as a background
The New York Times is sometimes called "Gray Lady."
Gray represents non-involvement, giving it a formal authority.
Gray is associated with intellect and the brain is composed of "gray matter."
Gray is representative of pessimism.
The human eye can distinguish about 500 shades of gray.
makes one feel inconspicuous
Black is authoritative and powerful;
because black can evoke strong emo- provides a restful emptiness
tions, too much can be overwhelming.
Black represents a lack of color, the is mysterious by evoking a sense of
primordial void, emptiness. It is a clas- potential and possibility
sic color for clothing, possibly because
it makes the wearer appear thinner
and more sophisticated.
In England, taxi cabs are traditionally black.
Black implies weight -- people will think a black box weighs more than a white
The color black is associated with sophistication and power - tuxedos, limousines,
judge's robes, and priests' attire are all typically black.
The color black is so widely regarded as sophisticated in fashion that the term "the
new black" is often used to describe and give merit to a color trend.
One old wives' tale claims that if a woman is buried wearing the color black, she'll
come back to haunt the family.
The Colors of the Chakras
The chakras are related to the seven basic energy centers in the body. Each of the chakras correlate to
a major nerve ganglia branching out from the spinal column. In addition the chakras are correlated to
colors, sounds, body functions, and much more.
Violet (purple) is the color of the Crown chakra, also
known as Sahasrara. This chakra is located at the top of
the head. The Crown chakra is linked to the crown of the
head, the nervous system, and the brain, and is represta-
tive of pure thought.
Indigo: The color of the Brow or Third-Eye chakra, also
known a Ajna. This chakra is located at the top of the
Blue: The color of the Throat chakra, also known as Visud-
dha. THis chakra is located in the throat. It is linked to the
throat, neck, hands, and arms. The Throat Chakra is con-
nected with speech and hearing, and encourages spiritual
Green: The color of the Heart chakra, also known as
Anahata. This chakra is located at the center of the chest
area and is linked to this entire area, the heart, lungs,
circulatory system, and cardiac plexus.
Yellow: The color of the Solar Plexus chakra, also known
as Manipura. This chakra is located in the stomach area
and is linked to organs & muscular system in that area.
Orange: The color of the Sacral chakra, also known as
Svadhisthana. This chakra is located beneath the naval,
close to the genitals. The Sacral Chakra is linked to the
sexual organs and reproductive systems.
Red: The color of the Base or Root chakra, also known as
Muladhara. This chakra is located at the base of the
spine and allows us to be grounded and connect to the