The Psychology of Colour

Neural brain connections represented in various colours

In previous blog posts, we’ve discussed how light, culture and gender affect our perception of colour. Today however, we’re looking at colour from a psychological perspective to see or how affects our mood, actions and even our physical and mental health.

First, let’s make clear that surprisingly little theoretical or empirical work has been conducted to date on the influence of colour on human emotions and behavior. Colour psychology is still a relatively unexplored area of science, so we should be careful not to draw any hard and fast conclusions from what little evidence we have.

That said, scientists have made some observations on how colour alters our moods, feelings and behaviors. Studies found that – in many cases, the mood-altering effects of colour are short-lived. For example, when placing an anxious person in a blue room, scientists observed that the calming effects of the colour blue reduced within a short time.

Another study found that warm-coloured (orange, yellow) placebo pills were reported as more effective than cool-coloured (green, blue) placebo pills. It should be noted that this trend was culture dependent.

In Glaslow, Scotland, blue street lights were installed and were said to reduce crime and suicides. Nara, Japan reports similar findings, where blue street lights have reduced crime by 9%!

Our body’s temperature is also said to impact our colour preference. Studies find that people who are warm tend to list cool colours as their favorites, while people who are cold prefer warmer colours.

Performance is also affected by colour. When measuring the productivity levels in offices, scientists observed that blue increased concentration and focus. Reversely, red was found to have a negative effect on productivity, resulting in poor test scores when compared to those exposed to blue.

While the science of colour psychology is still in it’s infancy, colour has been believed to wield power for centuries. Several ancient cultures, like the Egyptians and Chinese practiced chromotherapy, or “colour therapy”.

In Chromotherapy:

  • Red was said to increase blood circulation.
  • Yellow was thought to stimulate nerves and purify the human body.
  • Orange was said to heal lungs and boost energy levels.
  • Blue was believed to calm anxiety and reduce pain.
  • Indigo was used to treat skin conditions.


Though colour continues to be a main point of focus for marketers, designers and artists all over the world, many questions remain about colour’s impact on our moods, health and behavior.

Without sufficient evidence, it’s important to remember that the effects of colour are affected by many factors, like culture, light, temperature and most importantly, personal preference. So, while there’s no harm in testing theories for yourself, scientists agree that more scientific research is needed in the area of colour psychology.

As a commercial and retail printer, we understand the importance of colour accuracy and consistency and go to great lengths to ensure your prints come out as bright and vibrant as planned. Learn how our colour management program can bring out the best in your prints!

For more information on the psychology of colour, check out the “Psychological Properties of Colours” and the “Colour Emotion Guide“.

Get in Touch

Have a project to quote? Get in touch with a Hemlock Display print specialist. We’re here to help! 

Get in Touch

Have a project to quote? Get in touch with a Hemlock Display print specialist. We’re here to help!