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Introducing Color Theory Part 7: Psychological Impact of Color

September 13, 2017

Kudos on coming this far on understanding color theory in the books! So far we’ve learned that: 1) light effects color, 2) the different types of light, 3) color interaction, the distortion and illusions that are created with color, 4) color wheel and color schemes, 4) understanding which colors to select during a project., but there is more to learn! Like…the psychological impact of color and why some designers choose certain colors for a specific space or where and when it’s appropriate to use a certain color.

Yes, you can begin to pick colors for your color scheme quite easily when it’s just virtual. Complementary color, yellow and purple, picked, and done! But how do we know when it’s appropriate to pick that color scheme for the space? That’s where the psychological impact of color plays a role in this color selection.



Generally speaking, and I can go into more details for each specific color, but studies, research, and observations have shown that colors that fall in the “warm” color category are the reds, oranges, and yellows. (see above comparison between warm and cool). Following the textbook by John Piles, on page 137, he states that generally falling in the warm color is understood as “comfortable, cozy, homelike, and pleasant”. Cool colors then fall under the opposite side of the color wheel, green, blues, and violets. These colors that are obviously opposite of the warm colors will convey a different impact in our brains. Now we are experiencing a more calm, relaxed, and cleansing feeling. Neutrals: white, black, and gray, also create a different psychological impact. They are in the middle of warm and cool, typically creating a sense of “boring”, but also suggests “businesslike, practical, and utilitarian” (Piles, 137). (see below for an example of neutral compared to the warm and cool rooms). However, recent designs use a lot of the neutrals and now have created a minimalist look, which looks fabulous!
Designers love to mix these color families to create a balance of sensation. It doesn’t hurt to use a coral with a teal. Both warm and cool, but also complements each other.

Sometimes over emphasizing on a warm color can cause psychological impact of hot, danger, and unpleasing feel, so designers then counter that with adding a cool color to make the space more comfortable and balanced.

My next few posts will focus on the specific colors and the psychological impact. So if you’re interested in a specific color, here’s the schedule: red, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown, white, black, gray.

Happy Wednesday!





“Accept and appreciate that you’re the one most responsible for making your dreams come true. Be your own best friend. Cheer yourself on.”-Donna Fargo


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