How Color Affects Mood And Perceptions


For as long as man has been able to mix pigments to produce varying colors, we have been using it consciously or even subconsciously to affect our moods, perceptions and feelings, and as such in the hands of a professional we an really get a message across with its proper use. This is only one installment of a few color theory articles I want to post, so check back for more. So here is how color affects mood and perceptions.

There are some broad categories of Color as outlined below (these are by no means the end-be-all, but its a good starting point).

Cold Colors

Colors like Blue, green and Blue-green are commonly associated with being cold, calm and trustworthiness. These colors can be used to create a feeling of austerity, cleanliness, invigorating freshness, and cold.

Cool Colors

Starting off with blue as a base for these colors, we start adding reds and yellows to create a diverse range of color from minty greens to a soft violets. These colors help invoke feelings of calm, serenity, trust and relaxation.

Hot Colors

As far as hot colors go, Red is the hottest as it is highest chroma color there is…quite simply it is the most powerful hue. A hot color may bring strong emotional responses, and can stimulate physical activity and sexual desire. If you are going for aggressive or really want something to stand out use a hot color. Placing a high chroma yellow in anywhere in a piece will draw the eye first, this is why it should be used sparingly.

Warm Colors

Starting with a red base but softened and mixed with hues like orange and yellow. Warm colors can suggest comfort and warm heartfelt emotions.

Dark Colors

Dark colors are used to reduce space in compositions, or to be counterpoint to lighter colors for focus allowing lighter colors to standout and be more effective. Dark colors can have a number of moods and perceptions from bringing a feeling of solidity, or somberness and melancholy.

Light Colors

The light colors are often barely colors at all and can be considered suggestions of color or hints of color. The play a similar counterpoint to the dark colors and in opposition convey openness, or airiness.

Pastel Colors

These pale colors are hues tinted with large amounts of white and are generally very soft in nature. These colors bring out a mood of innocence, fond memories, and romance.

Intense Colors

Intense colors are your high chroma colors, pure, powerful and when used seem to scream their message. Great for attention grabbing. Use with caution, and in most cases sparingly or appropriately based on the message or feeling you are trying to convey.


Feel free to discuss any additions to the above and I will add them in if appropriate.


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Chris Arlidge
Since 1999 I have been involved in graphic design, photography, digital art, traditional art, content creation, silly conversational innuendo, cat herding, and forging my identity as the Unknown Designer™. In my spare time, which is technically my day job, I am a Creative Director and Lead Designer for Cheeky Monkey Media.



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