Colour Psychology

Colour psychology


Did you know that different colours actually affect the way we think and feel about things? You’ve probably noticed that love is usually associated with red, purity with white, environment with green, and so on – so how can we use this knowledge to help us to design something relevant that grabs the attention we want it to?

Have you ever noticed that most fast food places use the colours red and yellow in their designs? Think about it- McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Red Rooster (for the Aussies),  Pizza Hut, In-N-Out Burger, and so many more. This is not just because red is bright at fun- these companies have done their research! They have discovered that red is scientifically proven to increase your heart rate and your appetite, while yellow speeds up your metabolism and represents happiness.

If these companies can effectively use these different colours to affect your response to their advertising, then it makes sense that we should pay attention to this when designing things in our churches. The colours you choose can determine whether people feel welcome and relaxed or nervous and uncomfortable.

There are a large number of things that each colour can portray, and different combinations can change the context and meaning dramatically, but here are a few of the most recognised effects of each of these colours.


Red is an attention grabber, and so it is commonly used to advertise sales and big events. If you have a page with hundreds of colours, red is often the first colour people will look to. It increases the heart rate and appetite and creates a feeling of excitement, energy and speed. People often buy red cars because they have the appearance of being faster and more exciting.

Example of red in a design from

TIP: Be careful not to use too much red, because it can be hard to handle. Use red to emphasise the things you want people to see first- things like headings, dates and keywords. You can also use red to encourage enthusiasm and energy.


Blue is the most common favourite colour among people. It is associated with dependability, loyalty, intellect and wisdom. That is why many uniforms are blue. Certain shades of blue actually cause the body to produce chemicals that create a calming, restful effect. As a result, it increases productivity and focus, and decreases appetite. Darker shades of blue, however, can create a very cold feel and lack of emotion.

Example of blue in a design from

TIP: Blue is a great colour to use in your church designs. It makes people feel welcome and calm. It is very professional and good for a corporate but homely feel.


When we think of green, we think of nature. Light green can be calming, because it represents natural energy, peace and support. People tend to choose green products because they feel healthier and better for you. Green can also represent money, generosity, wealth, health and growth. It helps to alleviate depression, anxiety and nervousness.

Example of green in a design from

TIP: Use green for things like training events and seminars, because it grabs the attention of people that want to grow and are open to change. It offers a sense of self control and renewal.



Yellow is a great colour for kids, because it represents joy, laughter, good promises, confidence and optimism.  Yellow actually releases more seratonin in your brain, which makes you feel good. Intense yellows can increase tempers and speed up metabolism, but brighter and lighter yellows can increase creativity and highlight positive points, which might be why post it notes and legal pads are yellow!

Example of yellow in a design from

TIP: Use yellow in your kids ministry designs, because it gives kids a sense of hope and joy and encourages them to be creative and optimistic. It also encourages communication and activates their memory, which is great for remembering memory verses and making new friends!


Orange represents fun, flamboyance, energy, warmth and ambition. It is not a calming colour at all! Because it is such a strong colour, it is both loved and hated more than any other colour. It stimulates activity, excitement and appetite. People are said to laugh more in the presence of orange, and it can also be used to represent affordability and value when it comes to prices.

Example of orange in a design from

TIP: Try not to use orange on anything serious, because it’s fun nature can suggest a lack of intellect. Orange is great for prices if you want something to look affordable, but be careful not to overuse it, or it may make the whole thing look cheap and nasty.


Purple is associated with royalty, wealth, wisdom, respect, truth and prosperity.  It stimulates the brain when solving problems and encourages creativity and eccentricity. Because of it’s association with royalty, purple also gives the impression of luxury and quality.

Example of purple in a design from

TIP: Use purple to emphasise things of quality in your designs. Don’t overuse it, because it can come across as cheap or superficial in contrast to what it was originally intended for.


Despite popular belief that red is the best colour to represent love, pink has been proven to be a better choice. Pink is the most calming colour, and is associated with gentle feelings, romance and love.

Example of pink in a design from

TIP: Soft pinks are a great idea for women’s events, because it makes women feel loved, cared for and nurtured.


Black can represent authority, power, strength, sophistication and stability. It is often associated with bad things or negativity and grieving. It is a serious colour, and can be overwhelming if you use too much black in a design.

Example of black in a design from

TIP: Use black to emphasis boldness and strength, particularly in headings and outlines. Try to avoid using black as the main colour in your design, unless you use some greys or softer colours to calm it down. Avoid using a heavy black with other strong emotional colours such as red, because this may come across as very intense and dangerous.


White is most commonly associated with purity, cleanliness and safety. We see it in hospitals, weddings, and even picket fences around homes. White can help people to think clearly.

Example of white in a design by

TIP: White is a great colour for churches, because it encourages purity and helps people to clean up their thoughts and eliminate the obstacles and clutter in their lives, enabling them to make a fresh start!


Brown represents friendship, reliability and stability.  It is a very natural colour, and it’s association with chocolate and earth makes it feel homely, warm and supportive.

Example of brown in a design from

TIP: Brown is a good colour for things that you want to appear simple, casual and reliable.



Grey in small amounts represents timelessness, practicality and solid things, however too much grey can deteriorate emotions and make people feel lifeless and dull, because grey can also represent death, depression, old age and a loss of ambition.

Example of grey in a design from

TIP: Use grey to emphasise the other colours in your design, not as the main colour. It can bring a practical and solid feeling to the colours you are already working with.

Sarah Clark

I'm a freelance graphic designer, church volunteer and first time mum with a passion for bringing a new level of creativity into churches through inspiring leaders and providing resources. My goal is to be able to self-fund my ministry goals through my freelance projects while being able to work from home and be a full-time mum, and I want to help others do the same.

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5 Responses

  1. Paul Orton says:

    Great insight. Everyone has seen those designs which hurt your eyes, it’s like trying to add all the primary colours together when you’re painting by mixing them up, you’re never going to end up with a good look. These colours need to be picked not simply based on their individual qualities, but on their ability to compliment eachother. Text needs to contrast with the backgrounds, and a theme is very important.

    Check out: It’s a creative community where people from around the world create
    and share colors, palettes and patterns.

  2. Thanks for the great resource Paul! A very interesting site indeed!

  3. lodders says:

    Interesting, but what happens when dealing with people from other cultures?
    Because colours mean different things in different cultures – it maybe something to be factored in – imagine doing missionary work and bringing gifts which have colours that are considered a cultural “no, no”.

    Would it be fair to say that in Western culture, we are conditioned to what these colours mean subconsciously?

    An interesting article:

  4. Thanks Lodders, you made some great points!

    It’s very true that culture has a huge impact on the effects colours have on us. We can make a lot of general observations but we do need to be careful with colours that could be offensive or inappropriate in different cultures- particularly when doing missionary work.

    The article you found is very interesting- it backs up a lot of what I’ve covered but goes into depth about the different cultural significances with the colours. Thanks for the great link!

  1. December 30, 2010

    […] books, we should really be choosing a few colours that contrast with each other, and, ones that appeal to the psychology of our target […]

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