Colour – its impact on our emotions

colour picks
Exploding colours at the Colour Run

It is strongly recognised that colours have a very strong influence on our moods and emotions.  As a designer, I want to influence certain physical sensations by introducing particular colours into my projects.

Colour is an extremely important aspect of web design.  Colours have the ability to influence moods and can acquire different meanings according to culture and may even induce certain actions.  In fact, colour is one of the most important purchasing decisions.

The term “colour theory” has no precise definition however it refers to the study and the influence of colour on people.  It usually relates to how colour influences the choices and behaviour of people when making decisions.  Colours can be separated into the following emotional palette.

Warm Colours


Warm colours can convey a sensation of warmth, both physical and emotional. Red, orange and yellow suggests enthusiasm, passion, happiness and energy. Red can sometimes feel quite overwhelming, and some designers prefer not to use it in excess.  Therefore, orange can be a good replacement, or yellow if your audience is children.

Cool Colours

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The opposite sensations can be conveyed by the range of cool colours.Green, blue and purple, provide peace of mind and generally seen as calming.  Green is associated with nature or even money, blue trust and purple are ideal for luxury items (i.e. royalty).

The culture of colour

Although we may attempt to identify the impact of various hues, it never can be determined whether our reactions are totally innate or cultural.  For example, death and mourning are associated with the colour black in our western world, however, in many Asian cultures, the colour of death is white.  White would never be used for a wedding.  Red symbolised purity and life in India, a traditional colour for a wedding dress.



Reds are usually seen as warm, even hot, exciting and stimulating.  They can even be associated with tension and anger (heat and fire).  A small amount of red can augment and balance blues and greens in a colour scheme, adding life and an upbeat quality.


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Oranges and terracotta and curry tones share the qualities of red, slightly reduced.  Small areas of red-orange can be a good, active complement in an otherwise neutral or cool colour scheme.


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Yellows the mildest of the warm colours are often associated with cheerfulness.  They also can give a strong effect of brightness.  Yellow tints (creams and beiges) are known as “safe colours,” but their overuse can be boring.


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Greens are the cool colours closest to the warm colours.  They have become favourites for balanced colour schemes seeking to be calm, restful and peaceful, associations.  The interior designers and colour theorists of the 1930’s promoted green as the best colour for offices classrooms and hospital interiors that its overuse made ‘institutional green an objectionable cliche.


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Blues are the coolest of the cool colours, suggesting rest and repose, calm and dignity.  The colour blue reminds us of the sea and sky.  It is also gaining popularity with a focus on the environment.  Intense blue in small areas or sections of your website can be a great accent in warm and warm neutral schemes.


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Violets, along with the stronger purples, are often seen as subtle and quiet.  They have also been used historically to project dignity ( the “royal” purple).  Violets have been paired with greens and yellows in the past years to creating very appealing, soft colour palettes.

Neutral Colours

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Neutral Colours  Black, white, grey, beige are ideal for backgrounds as they can accentuate the effect of warm colours.  The truly neutral greys make a good background colour, easy to live with over a long period of time.  However one needs to be cautious as they also can be considered dull and monotonous.

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Readability The readability of a website is important as you only have a few seconds to get your users attention.  It is important to ensure that the text colour contrasts strongly with the background.

Device Type: The colours a web designer chooses will not be viewed the same way on all platforms.  The type of web browser, the monitor, the video card, a dirty screen will all be factors outside the designers’ control.  A good designer will test their websites on different browsers and platforms.

By considering these aspects of colour will help convey the message that one wants their website to convey.

If you enjoyed reading this post you may also be interested in reading;

Massimo Vignelli on Design

Australian Independent Colour Standard

The Colour Blue

The star wars logo changes from yellow to red.

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