A Color Guide For Designers

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.


Yellow-Orange Yellow-Green

Orange Green

Red-Orange B Blue-Green

Red Blue

Red-Violet Blue-Violet


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

the hue.

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

Yellow Effects

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-

ed yellow.

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 Effects


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

United States.

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.

Blue Effects

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 Effects


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


Pink Effects

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

woman's cheeks.


In 1974, fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli introduced the color "hot pink" to west-

ern fashion.

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 Effects

Increases enthusiasm

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

and anxiety


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 Effects

Stimulates activity

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.

White Effects

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 Effects


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.

Black Effects

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

universal energies.

A Color Guide For Designers

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Ever wonder how to choose the best colors for designing t-shirts, doing paintings or drawings, or the best color to paint a room in your house?
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