Color Psychology, Color Meaning, and subliminal messages in art.
Color Psychology, hidden color meaning and a few other things about color theory will be discussed on this page.
Why? To make a better painting of course! Did you know the first criterior most people use when shopping for a painting is Color?
By knowing this information, you can steer your paintings in a direction that go beyond just the subject matter, and by including good color understanding into your work, make as powerful or as subtle a statement as you wish.
Color is known to influence our state of well-being, how we feel, and
how we enjoy life. But you knew that! Just think about how you feel
when someone presents you with a colorful flower!
Once armed with
this information you can use it in both describing your work (based on
its color combination) and planning the message you want to express
within your painting!
When you are done here you can proceed to my Color Wheel, Color Schemes page to get a lesson on basic color theory as far as paint schemes is concerned.
Then follow up with my Color Mixing Guide because mixing paint acts differently then optical color mixing that you see on your television or computer screen.
So, back to a little meaning and psychology in color.
Color psychology has been used for a long time in advertising. Don't believe me? Did you know you can send a subliminal message in your work?
Yep! Lets try this exercise.
in your mind turquoise blue waters off of a Key West beach. Those soft
blue waves are gently kissing the beach with the sensuous lapping of
the waters on the sand. While you are sitting there, you gaze up into
the crystal clear blue skies above you and see a few puffs of clouds.
You wonder what …..
Did your blood pressure just go down a few points? Did you feel relaxed?
The color blue
has a calming effect to the mind as does most cool colors. They are
known to lower the heart rate, and reduce appetite. Blue also represents
dependability. Ever wonder why police uniforms are mostly blue?
and blues are used in most health care product advertising. Greens are
used to calm the nerves. Greens work very well in offices and home
study area, and your studio as well.
Now lets talk a bit about the color psychology of warm colors.
tend to convey happiness, gaiety. Red, orange and yellow cause hunger.
A good depiction of a lemon can make a person’s mouth water!
Why do our fast food restaurants push bright red/yellow signs? Golden Arches anyone?
instantly attracts your attention, and increases your heart rate. This
is instinctive due to the fact when we were being eaten by dinosaurs,
seeing blood made us run like crazy!
Which reminds me, how fast do you gotta be to outrun the grizzly bear in the woods?
Answer: I only got to be faster than the other guy. (Sorry the pun, but we were talking about red blood).
painters usually don’t think too deeply about the colors used within
their work. Their focus is trying to match colors of what they see from
the subject matter. (I talk in more detail of matching colors in the color mixing guide page).
is all well and good, but thinking through how those colors will impact
the viewer should always be a part of your color psychology formula in
creating a successful piece.
More detailed explanation of color psychology
So below, you will find a more detailed explanation of color psychology, color meaning and color theory.
Color Psychology of Red
mentioned above, red is the color of blood, fire. It’s associated with
war, danger, strength, power, excitement, vitality and ambition. Other
words are determination, passion, desire, and love.
- Red is a very emotionally intense color. It enhances human metabolism, increases respiration rate, and raises blood pressure.
- It is detected easily by the human eye, which is why stop signs, stoplights, and fire equipment are usually painted red.
- Red brings text and images to the foreground. It is used as an accent color to stimulate people to make quick decisions.
- Red is used to invoke erotic feelings (red lips). Light red represents sexuality, passion, sensitivity, and love.
- Pink signifies romance, love, and friendship. It also represents feminine qualities and passiveness.
red is associated with vigor, willpower, rage, anger, leadership,
courage, longing, malice, and wrath. Deep reds create an atmosphere of
opulence and power.
Color Meaning of Brown
denotes stability and masculine qualities. It is the color of earth,
wood. It is associated with dependability, conservatism, reliability.
Think of the United Parcels Service vans that run around town. Do you
think they were thinking along these lines when they chose this color
for their fleet.
Color Psychology of Orange
combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. A cheerful
color. It denotes flamboyance and liveliness. Orange can be assertive,
dynamic, and spontaneous and signifies youth and fearlessness. It
stimulates the brain and mental activity. A good choice for a class
- It represents joy, enthusiasm, fascination, happiness,
creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and
- Orange can give the sensation of heat. Though it is not as aggressive as red.
- Orange is associated with healthy food (oranges) and stimulates appetite.
- Orange is very visibility to the human eye, so it can be used to highlight important elements of your painting.
Color Meaning of Yellow
associate yellow with sunshine and light. It creates a feeling of hope,
happiness and wisdom. The color evokes an optimistic sense of well
being. It represents spontaneity. Light-yellow represents intellect,
freshness and joy.
- It however can also mean, (from seeing tree
leaves in autumn dying), decay, sickness, jealousy old age and illness.
Yellow at times is cowardice. “‘yellow-bellied-coward” derives from
yellow’s association with both treason and weakness. It also represents
- Using too much yellow may have a disturbing effect; it is known to make babies cry! Yet, it is considered a child’s color!
Color Psychology of Green
color of harmony, balance and security. Green also has a calming effect
and symbolizes hope, peace, gentleness and modesty. It is soothing,
refined and civilized and said to have healing power. Green is the
color of nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and
fertility. Green has strong emotional correspondence with safety. Green
suggests stability and endurance, hope and growth. Pale greens are
- Dark green is also commonly associated
with money and is associated with ambition, greed, and jealousy. It
sometimes denotes lack of experience, thus, the ‘green-horn’ being a
novice. However, at times yellow-green is used to portray sickness,
discord and jealousy. Remember “green with envy”. Olive green is the
traditional color of peace.
Color Meaning of Blue
color of the sea and sky. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom,
confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. Soft, soothing,
compassionate and caring, blue is an introspective color. Blue is often a
formal color which represents wisdom and steady character. Blue is
considered beneficial to the mind and body. It slows human metabolism
and produces a calming effect. Blue is strongly associated with
tranquility and calmness. But, the quiet character and poetic subtlety
of blue can also be associated with melancholy, resignation and
depression. (Where we get, feeling blue, “the blues”, etc.).
Color Psychology of Purple
combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. Purple is
associated with royalty. It symbolizes power, nobility, luxury, and
ambition. It conveys wealth and extravagance. Purple is associated with
wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery, and magic. Purple
means regal and dignified.
- Pale shades are restful and serene,
but the darker shades make it difficult to focus. Lavenders signify
refined things of life, creative, witty and civilized. Purples can be
tiring on the eyes and cause a sense of frustration. Gloom and sad
feelings can be portrayed by using purples.
Color Psychology of White
means safety, purity, and cleanliness. White is associated with
light, goodness, innocence, purity, and virginity. It is considered to
be the color of perfection. White emanates youth, perfection and
innocence. White usually has a positive connotation. White can
represent a successful beginning, a fresh start.
Color Meaning of Gray
- This color represents caution and compromise. Grays can give a sense of peace to the viewer.
Color Psychology of Black
- Black is associated with power, elegance, formality, death, evil, and mystery.
gives us a feeling of the unknown and negative connotations like,
black-hole, blacklist, black-humor or black-death. In most Western
cultures, black is the symbol of grief. (Eastern cultures view white in
- However, black can be dignified and showy with
sophistication. Black denotes strength and authority; it is considered
to be a very formal, elegant, and prestigious color.
- Black gives the
feeling of perspective and depth, but a black background diminishes
- Black contrasts well with bright colors. Combined with red
or orange – other very powerful colors – black gives a very aggressive
So, in deciding what kind of mood or feeling you
want to convey within your painting, you now have a few tools to begin
your work! But, by no means is this a complete explanation. Heck,
there are whole books dedicated to this one subject
I think I’ve only scratched the surface. Hopefully, you’ve got
enough information in Color Psychology, color
meaning and other color theory to help you in deciding which
colors to use to convey your message within your painting!
Click here to go back to the top of our Color Psychology page.