Colour psychology: Using the power of colours correctly

Reading time 10 minutes
Colour psychology: Using the power of colours correctly

Colours are not just pretty to look at. They have an enormous effect on our psyche and our well-being. They capture our attention, have a stimulating or relaxing effect. The marketing industry has been making use of the findings of colour psychology for many years.

But also in your personal everyday life you can use the power of colours in many ways.

What is color psychology?

The symbolism of colors has a long tradition in human history. Colors have always been used to demonstrate power or to emotions to express. Researchers who study color psychology examine the ways in which colors can influence human feelings and thoughts. Here it is important to consider cultural meanings, associations and preferences.

However, one thing is beyond question: colors have a strong manipulative power. This can be used in both positive and negative ways. This is demonstrated by means of of several recent studies clearly.

International findings from colour psychology

Color psychology is gaining steadily increasing attention in almost every country. Recent studies from Japan and Scotland, for example, found that blue street lighting keeps crime rates down in cities. According to color psychologists, this is due to the soothing effect of the color. Blue symbolizes trust, clarity and safety.

But associations also play a role: blue light is associated by most people with police presence, so they instinctively tend to refrain from criminal intentions. Things would probably be quite different with red street lighting: Red has an inciting effect and promotes readiness to fight.

But the color blue can do more than just calm you down. In a Microsoft study, it was determined that a special shade of blue (hexadecimal code: #0044CC) is clicked on preferentially in Internet links. Since then, Microsoft has been talking internally about the "80 million dollar blue".

Thought experiment

How you perceive a color depends on various factors. Some colours are considered signal or warning colours in nature. This applies, for example, to red or the combination of black and yellow. The fact that red traffic lights signal "stop" and green traffic lights signal "no danger" is no coincidence, but is based on the findings of colour psychology.

To illustrate the power of color, it's best to conduct a quick thought experiment: You see a plate of cooked spaghetti in front of you. Now imagine that the noodles are suddenly poison green or pitch black. The smell, consistency and taste, however, do not change in any way. Would you still want to eat the noodles? Your answer is most likely no.

The human primal instinct warns you not to eat something that is supposedly inedible or even poisonous. For our ancestors, this mechanism was essential for survival. You see, your subconscious reacts to colors without being able to explain it rationally.

Colour psychology in different cultures

Colors can have very different meanings in different cultures. In this country, black is the colour of mourning. At funerals, a corresponding dress code often still applies today. The western widow's costume was also once black. White, on the other hand, stands for innocence and purity, which is why brides wear white dresses at their weddings.

In China, however, white clothing is worn in mourning. In China, the color red stands for great happiness, whereas in South Africa it is the color of mourning. In this country, red symbolizes passion, love and strength.

The connection between colour perception and language

Did you know that people from other cultures do not perceive colours in the same way? What may sound pretty crazy at first is, however, well proven scientifically. The Himba, an African tribe, for example, do not know the color blue. Consequently, there is neither a name nor a translation.

This was determined in a rather simple research experiment: Scientists showed members of the Himba tribe a circle full of green boxes with a blue box hidden inside. While English-speaking study participants found the blue box immediately, the Himba could not. Their eyes simply perceived another green box.

However, they were able to identify all green boxes that differed in color. For the English study participants, on the other hand, all green boxes looked identical. But what is the reason for this? Experts suspect a Connection between colour perception and language.

Colour psychology: What the different colours stand for

Being aware of the power of colours has several advantages. On the one hand, you are less easily manipulated (e.g. by advertising). On the other hand, you can use colors profitably for yourself, for example, for more Relaxation and creativity in everyday life. Below we will look at the meaning of the different colors in detail.

Color psychology yellow

The color yellow shines brightly like the sun and therefore stands for warmth and love of life. For this reason, smileys, for example, are yellow. Or could you imagine that a blue or red smiley is similar to a yellow smiley? good mood spread? Probably not. Yellow also symbolizes curiosity, love of freedom and spontaneity. In Japan, yellow is the color of courage.

Familiar phrases:

  • "This is the real deal."
  • Meaning: the best.

Color psychology orange

Just like yellow, orange symbolizes lust for life and energy. Orange seems even a little warmer and therefore additionally stands for optimism, sociability and adventurous spirit. It is a very gaudy color that no one easily overlooks. For this reason, high-visibility vests, for example, are orange. Furthermore, the color symbolizes autumn and harvest time.

Familiar phrases:

  • In the German language there are no idioms for the color orange.

Color psychology red

Red is considered one of the strongest warning and signal colors of all - both in nature and in our modern everyday lives. The color red symbolizes strength, Self-confidence and dynamism. Moreover, red is the color of seduction, love and passion. Studies showed that women in red dresses are particularly attractive to men.

However, the color red also has a threatening side. It stands for anger, aggression and competition. Blood is also red. Here the association to war, suffering, disease and danger arises. For this reason, stop and prohibition signs are red. In any other colour they would miss their effect.

Familiar phrases:

  • Losing the thread.
  • Roll out the red carpet.
  • Seeing red with rage.
  • Blush with shame.

Color Psychology Pink

Pink is the mixture of love and innocence (red and white). Therefore, the color symbolizes tenderness, delicacy and femininity. So it's no wonder that girls prefer to be dressed in pink, even if this of course seems a bit cliché nowadays. However, the color pink also symbolizes gullibility and naivety, which becomes clear in the typical sayings.

Familiar phrases:

  • Floating on pink clouds.
  • Living in a pink bubble.
  • Looking through rose-colored glasses.
  • Hope for a rosy future.

Color Psychology Pink

The color pink is much more expressive than its little sister pink. Pink stands for extravagance, romance and joie de vivre. If you wear something pink, you stand out. Extroverted people like to take advantage of this.

Familiar phrases:

In the German language there are no idioms for the colour pink, but in the English-speaking world there are:

  • "to be in the pink" (= to be healthy and lively)
  • "to be tickled pink."
  • "to see pink elephants" (= be drunk)

Color psychology violet

Purple is the color of magic and power. In color psychology, it is also the color with the most contradictory meanings: On the one hand, violet stands for autonomy, sovereignty and high demands. Therefore, associations with religion, luxury and sexuality often arise. However, violet is always surrounded by a touch of mysticism, which awakens associations with nostalgia and fantasy.

Most people find violet to be soothing, analgesic, and inspirational.

Familiar phrases:

  • In the German language there are no idioms for the color violet.

Color psychology blue

As mentioned before, the color blue has a very complex meaning in color psychology. Blue is the color of infinite space: just think of the sky or the ocean. Blue stands for harmony, well-being, seriousness, trust and honesty. By the way, blue is the world's favorite color. This applies equally to men and women.

Numerous companies are aware of the trust-promoting effect and design their presentation accordingly. These include, for example, Ford, Facebook and Deutsche Bank. Depending on the shade, however, blue can also radiate aloofness and coldness.

Familiar phrases:

  • Promising someone the moon.
  • Turning blue (= staying away from school / work for no reason).
  • Being blue (= being drunk).

Color psychology turquoise

In colour psychology, turquoise symbolizes clear thoughts. The color also stands for friendliness, openness and trust. It combines the components blue (harmony), yellow (joie de vivre) and green (growth, new beginnings). Turquoise ensures a stable mental balance and also inspires creativity. Positive energy is exuded, but it is not overpowering.

Familiar phrases:

  • In the German language there are no idioms for the color turquoise.

Color psychology green

Green is the color of Hope and of life in bloom. In nature, the color can be found almost everywhere: fresh leaves, meadows and shrubs are all green. Green is also the color of fertility. In advertising, the color is therefore often used to express health, freshness and also environmental friendliness.

Likewise, green stands for dignity, autonomy and authority. But security is also symbolized by the color green. For this reason, the traffic light turns green. Emergency exits are also marked with green signs.

However, negative meanings are also attributed to the color, which is evident in some well-known sayings:

Familiar phrases:

  • Turn green in the face (= nausea).
  • Green with envy.
  • It's the same thing in green (= indifference).
  • To get nowhere (= to fail at something).
  • Still being green behind the ears (= inexperience).

Color Psychology Brown

Brown is considered a rather unpopular color, which is due to its ambivalent meaning. On the one hand, brown stands for warmth, down-to-earthness and comfort. Wood and earth are brown, after all. You've probably also noticed that wooden huts, wood-panelled walls and wooden furniture create a cosy atmosphere.

However, for this very reason, brown is also considered by some people to be boring, stale and unimaginative. Spoiled food turns brown. The same applies to digested food. Therefore, the color can also cause disgust.

Familiar phrases:

  • In the German language there are no idioms for the color brown.

Color psychology white

White symbolizes purity and innocence. It is also the color of peace (peace flags are white), perfection and perfection. Quite a few cultures even attribute something divine to the color white. The halo, for example, shines in white light.

In our modern world, chefs and doctors in particular make use of the effect of the colour white. It signals that everything is sterile and perfect. Moreover, white stands for a new beginning. Example: freshly fallen snow covering the landscape.

Familiar phrases:

  • Having a clean slate (= being innocent).
  • To have something in black and white (= then it is proven).
  • Like a white sheet of paper (= innocent, neutral).

Color Psychology Black

Black is associated with numerous emotions that are rather negative. Thus it is a symbol of the Fear, darkness and mourning. At funerals, to this day, black clothing is preferred, and many hearses are also black. Dark nights call many people feelings of fear. Black cats and ravens symbolize timely misfortune.

However, black also stands for dignity and elegance. Important personalities often wear black (judges, prosecutors, officials). It is also impossible to imagine elegant evening wear without black (the little black dress).

Familiar phrases:

  • Being the black sheep (= the one who always causes trouble).
  • I see black (= this will not end well).
  • Having a black soul (= an evil person).

Color psychology gray

Like brown, gray is low on the popularity scale of colors. Grey is associated with the aging process (grey hair) and with dreariness (grey sky, everyday grey). Grey seems inconspicuous and unapproachable. Grey clothing rarely looks attractive.

However, grey can also express elegance and modesty. Therefore, the color is especially popular with stable personalities who no longer need to draw attention to themselves through dazzling colors.

Familiar phrases:

  • Gray hair from stress.
  • Being a grey mouse (= unattractive).
  • Everything is grey in grey (= hopelessness).

Interpretation of the favourite colour by the Lüscher colour test

Your favorite color says a lot about you! It allows conclusions to be drawn about your personality structure, your goals and fears. One personality test based on color psychology is the Lüscher colour test. In this one, you arrange eight colors according to your preferences, starting with your favorite color. It is important that you make your choice spontaneously.

The colors in first and second place of popularity represent your Life goals. The colors on place 3 and 4 show your current situation. Place 5 and 6 represent suppressed tendencies. The last two (unpopular colors) symbolize emotions you dislike and/or are afraid of.

If you are interested in personality tests in general, we would like to recommend our free DISG test:

Using colour psychology in everyday life

Now that you are informed about the meaning of the colors, you can use them specifically in your everyday life:

External Perception:

You want to be perceived as serious and competent? Then wear black or white clothes, preferably in combination. Refrain from wearing too playful colours. If you want to stand out, wear pink, orange and yellow. If you are on a seductive course, then (as a woman) choose red clothes, red shoes or red lipstick.

Motivation, joie de vivre and creativity

Make your home colourful, for example in green, turquoise or yellow. Or, if you prefer it simple in your own four walls, set accents with fresh, colorful flowers. This way, bad moods don't stand a chance. You'll feel happier and more creative. You can find more tips on the subject of motivation in our technical article.


You automatically eat less from blue, purple or grey plates. Take advantage of this knowledge if you want to lose a few pounds. This effect is due to the stone age mechanism. Our brain associates the above colors with danger (poison, rot).

Using colors: How to influence the subconscious

For more helpful tips on harnessing the power of color, check out our video talk on the topic:

Using colour psychology in professional life

Color psychology plays an essential role in professional life. This already starts with the application process. Make sure that your cover letter discreetly reflects the colors of the company. This is how you signal affiliation. However, this should not be too obtrusive. On the subject of serious clothing, it is important to choose subdued and unobtrusive colours.

Almost all large companies nowadays rely on colour psychology. The logo colours / packaging colours are never chosen at random, but symbolise the corporate philosophy as well as the applicable values: What do we want to stand for? The corporate colours provide the customer with information about this.

If you want to be more creative at work, go green. If you work from home, paint your study green. In the office, of course, this is not easily possible. In this case, choose a green wallpaper and green decorations. By the way, this finding is based on the research work of Stephanie Lichtenfeld from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich.

If you're artistic, you can use the power of color to express your individuality. Nothing makes you more recognizable than a well-designed color logo. Even industry affiliation can be expressed through color accents.

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