Color Theory & Emotions

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

In some veins of psychology, color theory and emotion are interconnected. Artists and scientists alike argue that one's mood or emotional state can be influenced by color. In this lesson, we will examine color theory and how colors can affect one's emotions.


Color theory dates back to Sir Isaac Newton, who is credited with developing the first color wheel and the traditional study of color theory. Since the beginning of color theory, many scientists and interdisciplinary professionals such as psychologists, artists, and scholars have argued that color affects mood and emotion. Many definitions exist for color theory, and in this lesson we will take a look at the basics in order to understand how it may affect moods and emotional states of individuals. We will also look at how specific colors may affect moods and emotional states.

color wheel

What Is Color Theory?

Color theory began during the eighteenth century with Sir Isaac Newton's study of the primary colors-- red, yellow, and blue. Color theory deals with how color is perceived when mixed together, as well as how colors work together to create balance. For example, red and green are considered complementary colors because they balance each other out and produce an appealing contrast.

Color theory is important in design and art because certain colors or color combinations have positive or negative influences on one's mood or emotional state. For example, a kitchen painted red may invoke feelings of anger, or even increase one's appetite. Let's take a deeper look into how color affects moods and emotions.

How Does Color Affect Emotion?

In 1810, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published Theory of Colors and elaborated on the psychology of colors. Many scholars adamantly refuted his work. Although no hard evidence exists to confirm that color affects emotion or mood, many experts in a variety of disciplines argue that colors do influence individuals' moods, emotions, and even behaviors. Each color is said to produce a different effect; let's look at how moods and emotions are influenced by the main colors.


Red inspires intense emotion and mood. The color is known to increase energy levels, appetite, and creativity. Likewise, red can increase one's blood pressure, leading to feelings of anxiety or aggression. Professionals advise against painting bedrooms red because it increases energy levels and has the potential to disturb a restful night's sleep.


Blue can trigger a calm emotional state because it is perceived as a stable, serene color. Interestingly, the color blue has been shown to slow the metabolism, which can result in a depressed state of mind. Rooms painted blue are often associated with coldness and emptiness, and can have a negative impact on an individual's emotional state.


Green is a natural color and the result of mixing yellow with blue. Green has the ability to stabilize one's emotions and is often perceived as a 'safe' color. The color has been associated with increased productivity as well; many interior designers recommend painting office rooms green.

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