Colour Theory: What Are Colours Associated With?

Colour Theory for Creatives and Developers

Remembering colour theory is an extremely handy tool for anyone working in any visual communication field. Knowing what colours have a certain impact on people can be used subconsciously influence the perception of your work or change the viewer’s mood.

Although colour associations are often cultural, some have reported to have an innate effect on person’s state of mind. Here’s a list of each colour and their associations and effects, to help you choose the right colours for your next project.


Commonly associated with passion and love: think of big red hearts and kissing lips, as red is a highly emotional colour. Another, more negative emotion red is related to is anger and rage, as often a person’s face will appear read when they experience this emotion. Violence can also be associated with red, as blood is also red.

Red is used to symbolise warning, danger and alert messages, as the intensity of the colour draws much attention and has been reported to raise blood pressure and breathing. Red is also used to symbolise heat or something hot, as very hot materials give off a red glow, which infrared radiation causes this.

Women wearing red are seen as more attractive, while men in red are seen as more dominant. This is known as the “Red Effect”.[1]


Less intense as red, orange is often associated with being energetic, friendly and social. Orange is a warm colour that can be associated with autumn because the falling of leaves.


While a bright colour that is associated with happiness and joy, it can also be symbolic of cowardice and deceit.

Yellow is warm colour that conjures up images of sunshine and summer.

Allegedly, yellow is meant to help release a chemical in the brain called Serotonin, essential for causing a happy mood. It also aids in concentration, increases metabolism and gives the brain and nervous system a “ wake-up call”. However, Too much of yellow color can cause fatigue.[2]


The colour green is a calming colour often associated with the nature, growth, the environment and recycling. This is due to most of plantlife being green. Freshness is can also be associated with green, but so can decay and mold.

Culturally, envy and jealousy are associated with the colour green.

It is rumoured that green light can improve your vision. Also there’s the Biophilia Effect where environments rich in greenery and nature views, either real or imagery, can reduce stress, enhance focus and concentration.[3]


Another calming colour, blue is cold colour often associated with be trustworthy, professional and reliable and therefore is often used to represent companies as way to communicate to their clients and/or customers that they’re a company you can trust.

Blue is usually used to symbolise ice and water, as these often give off a blue colour.

Culturally, blue is associated with sadness and depression. You’ll often hear of someone feeling ‘blue’ when they’re feeling down.

Strangely, the use of blue light has been found to reduce crime and suicides in public areas.[4][5] Blue is also rumoured to lower one’s appetite.[6]


Often associated with royalty, quality and luxury. This makes purple ideal for promoting high-end prodcts and communicating a sense of value and wealth.

Purple is also associated with creativity, so this makes it ideal for representing artistic or innovative endeavours.


Pink conveys a caring and compassionate feel to it. It’s a soft colour, often associated with girls and femininity.


A great neutral colour, that can be seen as formal and conservative. It can be associated with knowledge, wisdom and intellect.


Dressing in black is used to convey a sense of authority and power, but also sophistication and elegance. Black is commonly used for formality and seriousness.

Negative culture associations with black include: death, mourning, evil. Neutrally it can be associated with mystery, as who knows what lays within the darkness?

The great thing about black is that it works well with almost any colour.


Clean, sterile, pure and symbol of peace (think of white dove). White is a neutral colour that, like black, goes with almost any other colour. White is used a lot in minimalist designs. Culturally, white is associated with weddings, angels and goodness.


Is the colour of earth/soil and wood. Sepia is often used to convey the old and traditional, often as a tint.

Whether it’s designing a logo, choosing a website colour scheme or deciding what colour to avoid for food packing, colour theory is can aid you in you decision making.


1. Universal Principles of Design by William Lidweel, Kristina Holden and Jill Butler, p. 202 – 203
2. Effect of Different Colors on Human Mind and Body
3. Universal Principles of Design by William Lidweel, Kristina Holden and Jill Butler, p. 36-37
4. Blue streetlights believed to prevent suicides, street crime
5. Can Blue-Colored Light Prevent Suicide?
6. How the Color Blue Supresses Your Appetite