Color Moods In Graphic Design – Understanding Psychology Of Colors

By Raquel Addams , Apr 17 2020
Color moods in graphic design

Every piece of graphic design contains a concise and intricate message embedded in its lines, shapes, hues, and fonts. While shapes, structure, and font styles also contribute to forming a coherent brand message, it’s the colors that are the most potent when it comes to recognition and recall.

According to a market research report, the brain notices and processes colors before shape or wording, and when it comes to new brands, the information that is most remembered by the brain about the new brand’s logo is its colors. Colors are not only crucial in making people retain the information; they also influence human mood, feelings, and behavior. Marketers, brand owners, and advertisers, therefore, spend time, money, and mental resources to choose the most perfect color combinations to represent their brands.

Today, we will use this space to learn about this influence of colors, the psychological connotations of different colors, and most importantly, understand how they convey or influence certain moods.

Emotive Psychology Of Colors

Color psychology is not an exact science. You add emotions into the mix and it becomes even more complicated. The emotive side of psychology deals with how we feel emotions and express them, and how different colors and hues impact our subconscious and affect our moods, feelings, and actions.

There is sufficient research that helps us establish certain meanings that people universally associate with certain colors. For example, red is considered a color of excitement, intensity, and passion. Black is considered a somber and mysterious color in most cultures. And people usually associate green with earth, growth, and development.

These universal meanings help artists and advertisers put a lot of responsibility regarding a brand identity’s initial success to its brand colors.

Importance Of Color In Consumer Marketing

According to a consumer research report, 93% of consumers rate the visual appearance of the product as the most important factor when it comes to purchase-decisions; 85% admitted to being heavily influenced by the color of a product.

As you can see, colors play an important part in influencing consumer’s purchase decisions. But there’s a segment of the market that is immune to this influence. About 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are color vision deficient; meaning, they cannot correctly detect certain colors, and therefore, any marketing effort be it through careful logo design, an advertising campaign, or anything else that is completely or heavily dependent on colors alone will be incomplete and not comprehensively effective.

So, as you learn the importance of colors in logo design and marketing, keep in mind that while colors are important in influencing mood and behavior, you cannot depend on colors alone to achieve comprehensive results.

That being said, strategic use of colors in your marketing and design efforts can certainly have a decided effect. To master this strategic use, it’s crucial to learn what feelings and moods different colors represent.

Let’s start.

Colors & Their Moods

Different colors represent different moods. When we merge colors, we also mesh the representations of emotions that are inherent to them. In this section, we will talk about colors, their meanings, and their emotive moods.

Using this knowledge, you can be better equipped to know which color is most suitable to present your message to the public.

• Red


“Crying bloody murder.”

“Turning red in embarrassment.”

“As hot as lava.”

What all of these have in common is color red. Red is the color of danger and warfare, of emotion and passion, of intensity and fire. It is one of those colors from the spectrum that hold a wealth of meaning and mood within its hues.

Depending on its changing tones and saturations, designers can opt to use it to signify love and passion or choose to represent danger and fright through its shades. It is a color common in love and violence. Both cupid and devil use it as their primary color, don’t forget.

Since it’s one of the most attention-grabbing colors and can overpower other colors quite easily, graphic designers rarely use it as the dominant color in their work – well, unless the intention is to be dominant and overpowering. In most cases, you’ll see it complemented and contrasted by other colors to enhance its mood or merge it with another emotion.

For example, McDonald’s, one of the most prominent brands with red in its logo, uses yellow arches to add a bit of cheer (and mustard!) to its otherwise completely red branding.

Entertainment Logos
Fast Food Restaurant Logos
Popcorn Logos
Actor Logos
Theatre Company Logos

Let’s look at a few other examples to understand in more detail how different emotions are captured in graphic design with the help of red.

– Danger And Thrill

Danger and Thrill
Image Source: IMDb

The poster of this horror flick uses various shades of red in quite a brilliant subtlety to arouse your emotion. The poster is darker from the corners and brighter in the middle, drawing your eyes in. People who have watched its prequel ‘The Shining’ may also recall the bloody hallway scene when looking at this poster.

– Vibrant And Inspired

Vibrant And Inspired
Image Source: Mark Lawrence Design

Mark Lawrence, an accomplished web designer, uses various shades of red as accent colors for his own website to show off his daring approach to design. If you’re looking for adventure, of inspiration, and in the mood to try new things, the red accent of this website tells you this is the place to trust.

– Successful And Powerful

Successful And Powerful
Image Source: Behance

This business card design combines gradient of reds on the front, and on the back uses black to make the red even more powerful and exclusive.

• Yellow


Red is also a warm and primary color from the spectrum, just like red. However, it isn’t as in-your-face as its red neighbor. While yellow is considered a cheery color and is often used to signal emotions like happiness, warmth, and new beginnings, it is also a color that depicts caution. Example: yellow warning signs, yellow hazard signs, and yellow crime scene tape!

But the reason yellow is used for such signals is due to its hard-to-miss hue than any inherent emotional properties.

In fact, when it comes to emotions and moods, yellow is predominantly a happy and peaceful color. Let’s see how graphic designers use yellow to portray different emotions.

– Upbeat And Optimistic

Upbeat And Optimistic
Image Source: Behance

Working on Nascar’s mobile app, the design studio, Studio JQ, uses a bright and inviting yellow. The color immediately makes you think of speed and zooming cars. The black stripes drive home the message even further.

– Sunflower, Sunshine, And Summer

Sunflower, Sunshine, And Summer
Image: Goodreads

This book cover of a YA novel is a coming of age story of two girls who used to be best friends. As a light read, set in sunny Spain, the cover makes you think of lazy summer days, of sunflower fields, and feeling absent-minded as you tear the petals away of a flower.

• Orange


Orange is what you’ll get when you mix red and yellow, and accordingly, the color combines (and offsets) qualities of both the primary colors. It gains your attention but in a subtle and warmer way. It makes you think of cheerful times and puts you in a good mood without carrying the burden of being a cautionary color.

In graphic design, orange is used by brands to stimulate emotions, add intensity, hype up the focus, and boost the confidence. People, who may distance themselves away from bright reds and yellows, may seem more comforted by a cheerful orange.

– Daring And Enthusiastic

Daring And Enthusiastic
Image Source: Dragonfly Ave

This orange wallpaper, coupled with a green neon font, grabs and holds your attention without being loud. The stark message of the poster is in brilliant contrast with the mellow shade of orange which is still zesty enough to convey enthusiasm and courage.

– Warm And Fun

Warm And Fun
Image: Bambi Bus

The website design sports a linear gradient of orange color for its main color palette. As a site that promotes fun learning activities on day trips for children, orange is the most perfect color they could go with. It puts you in the mood to expect awesome things to come,  of a day spent under the sun, and running around in fields.

• Blue


As a cool color, both in temperature and temperament, blue color is everyone’s favorite. It often comes up in polls and surveys as the most popular color, irrespective of gender or cultures. If you want to invoke trust in your brand, put your audience at ease, and introduce an environment of calm and tranquility, blue is the color to go with.

It is also usually associated with feelings of trust, reliability, and solidarity. You’ll often see pharmaceuticals, tech brands, and consumer health brands using blue in their logo and creative product packaging color scheme.

– Cool And Cultured

Cool And Cultured
Image: Facebook/Sloe

This clothing brand used a monochrome application of blue to announce its new season collection. The blue paired with white looks extremely chic and makes you think of calm waters. The color is acutely soothing and immediately puts you at ease.

– Serene As The Sea

Serene As The Sea
Image Source: Anthropologie

This book cover design is so calming and refreshing at the same time that you want to not only open the book and start reading but may want to start packing your swimming gear, too.

• White


White is a universal sign of purity, freshness, and peace. In western cultures, especially, white is used to represent fresh starts, youth, neutrality, and purity. Brides wear white to celebrate their unions; a crisp white shirt invokes feelings of freshness and new beginnings, and white space is often used in design to add neutrality and vastness in the work.

As an accent color, you can’t go wrong with white. It beautifully offsets bright shades without hurting their original meaning. Let’s take a look at a few of the white examples in design.

– The Perfect Background Color To Tell Your Story

Image Source: Nike

As a neutral color, white gives you the perfect canvas to paint your picture in whatever shades you like. It highlights all the other colors you want to use without taking anything away from them.

• Black


Black is the universal color of mystery and allure. It signifies mourning but also used to showcase wealth, exclusivity, and finer taste. It stirs emotions of mystique, elegance, and power.

Industries that use black in their logo design are usually aiming for that same exclusive feeling to be associated with their products and brands. Luxury fashion brands such as Chanel and YSL etc. therefore, use the mystery and devil-may-care aspects of black to further elevate their brand worth.

– Sophisticated And Authoritative

Sophisticated And Authoritative
Image Source: Volt Cafe

This bold and dazzling design is not only authoritative in mood but combines sophistication and design aesthetics, too. The gray background gives the perfect neutral background on which black is present in all its elegance.

• Green


Green is a sign of fertility, life, and development. It promotes emotions that are associated with growth and nature. It is a color that brings hope, clarity, good judgment, and feelings of generosity and abundance.

In graphic design, green is used to signal being right, and choosing the correct course, etc. That’s why you’ll usually see green used for ‘safe’ buttons on website designs.

As a cool and calming color, it is one of the most popular colors for brands and industries that want to promote their organic approach, a connection to nature, or eco-friendly business practices.

– Fresh Spirits

Fresh Spirits
Image Source: Inspiration Feed

This vintage matchbox and bottle cap package design uses different shades of green and all convey a single message of feeling fresh. The green splash on top of ‘I’ makes the letter look like a tree, further emphasizing the feelings of being a part of nature.

It makes you think of feeling refreshed, quenching thirst, and feeling energized again.

• Purple


Purple is the color of royalty. It is said that in olden times, the dye to achieve purple hue was used to so expensive that only the super-wealthy could afford it. Perhaps that is why we still see purple featured so prominently in official royal functions of the UK, for example.

But these feelings of richness and wealth are only associated with a deep bright purple. In lighter tones, the color suggests femininity and delicacy. Lavender, for example, is considered a very romantic color.

To see these different moods represented through graphic design, let’s take a look at few examples.

– Rich And Sophisticated

Rich And Sophisticated
Image Source: Behance

This rich purple is the height of sophistication. The color makes you think of expensive things, grand mansions, and carpeted staircases. It immediately puts you in the mood to expect finer and exclusive things to come.

– Creative, Delicate, And Inspiring

Creative, Delicate, And Inspiring
Image Source: Translate WF

The web designers have chosen a gradient of different shades of purple to achieve this beautifully mesmerizing shade. It makes you think of delicate crystals but the product itself is powerful, providing you with an attractive mixture of opposites.

• Pink


Pink is associated with feelings and emotions that are softer than red-hot passion. Care, romance, excitement, affection and thoughtfulness, are all represented through pink.

If you want to add insight and hope into your graphic design, pink will be a perfect color to go with. It invokes feelings of empowerment, a quiet strength, and gentle love.

Pink is used by brands to present softer, mellower but still exciting visual identities. Let’s see how graphic design uses the power of pink to achieve its goals.

– Feminine Power

Feminine Power
Image Source: The Sisterhood Studio

The website design is all about feminine power. The color palette is soft, gentle yet strong. It bodes really well for a brand that promotes female empowerment and women entrepreneurs.

– Excitement And Fun

Excitement And Fun
Image Source: Mind Sparkle Mag

The packaging for this new age natural drink looks a lot of fun and exciting due to the use of a sharp shade of pink. This shade of pink signifies an adventurous attitude and a desire to try new things.

• Grey


Gray packs the power of both black and white. It is less somber than black and has more voice than white. It is a reserved color that speaks of old money, technical precision, and cold objectivity. Instead of voicing its opinion, gray is used as a color to keep its judgments reserved.

On an emotional scale, gray is a color of loss and depression. However, in graphic design, gray is used as a neutral background and to add formality, objectivity, and conservative sophistication.

– Graceful And Competent

Graceful And Competent
Image Source: Gretchen Kamp

The calm and consistent background of gray presents a sense of competency in this website design. It also looks modern, chic, and extremely graceful. The overlook of the site is polished and refined, something gray achieves quite effortlessly.

Explore: 10 Best Color Palette Generator Tools

In Conclusion:

Color moods in graphic design is a complicated and intricate study of many factors. You’ll need to pay attention to what your brand’s soul is, what its inherent message is, who its target audience is, and then pick a color(s) that incorporates or augments all these complex meanings.

As you apply this knowledge to your graphic design, remember that as important as color is, it is only a part of the design. The surest way you’ll be able to use its power to your advantage is when it is used to elevate all other aspects of the design, too.

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Raquel Addams is a professional blogger and graphic design enthusiast who employs a unique combination of journalism, communication design and marketing strategy to help her clients to position and launch their enterprise or start-ups.


2 thoughts on “Color Moods In Graphic Design – Understanding Psychology Of Colors

  1. John says:

    It’s true that choosing the right color palette is very important in graphic design. The color scheme is maybe the most important part along with choosing the fonts.
    Very useful article, thank you!

  2. Informative Article! Colors plays a vital role in any design, all the examples are well defined, Thanks for sharing.

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