There are various colour schemes that said to be in harmony, like the ones you find on Adobe Kuler and Colour Lovers. One can choose if it pleases her mind.

But what if I have some words, or, better, concepts that I want to express by colours? Is there a general theory of translating abstract concepts or even emotions into colours and colour schemes? I guess this does have some cultural aspect.

3 Answers 3


There is not only cultural variation, but there is also variation on a single culture during different time periods.

Also, how people are affected by different color stimuli varies from person to person.

Some studies find that color can affect mood. However, these studies do not agree on precisely which moods are brought out by which colors.

The general model of color psychology relies on six basic principles:

  • Color can carry specific meaning.
  • Color meaning is either based in learned meaning or biologically innate meaning.
  • The perception of a color causes evaluation automatically by the person perceiving.
  • The evaluation process forces color motivated behavior.
  • Color usually exerts its influence automatically.
  • Color meaning and effect has to do with context as well.

However, color is a very influential source of information when people are making a purchasing decision. A customer's judgement on buying something is about 62%-90% based on color (Singh, Satyendra 2006).

Research done on the relationship between logo color and five personality traits had participants rate a computer made logo in different colors on scales relating to the dimensions of brand personality. Relationships were found between color and sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness.

In marketing, different colors are perceived to mean different things. For example, tones of red lead to feelings of excitement while blue tones are often associated with feelings of relaxation. Because these emotions are pleasant, the colors themselves procure positive feelings in advertisements.

According to the cited article, in the US the following colors are associated with these 'feelings':

RED: Lust, Negative Issues, Excitement, Love.

YELLOW: Jealousy, Competence, Happiness.

GREEN: Good Taste, Envy.

BLUE: Masculine, Competence, High quality, Corporate.

PINK: Sophistication, Sincerity.

VIOLET/PURPLE: Authority, Sophistication, Power.

BROWN: Ruggedness.

BLACK: Sophistication, Grief, Expensive, Fear.

WHITE: Happiness, Sincerity, Purity.

  • 1
    And what trumps nearly all of that is context. So don't get hung up too much on the supposed correlations!
    – DA01
    Aug 26, 2014 at 22:23

There are many theory, from Goethe, through Itten, Kandinsky till today, Brusatin and Bottoli.I could link you a pdf, in italian, download here

and some other references where you could start to discover (no, I need at least 10 reputation, so Goethe and Itten on Wikipedia is up to you)
- Goethe Color theory on wikipedia
- Johannes Itten page on wikipedia
- Brusatin book, in italian

As Yisela said before me, single color could carry dissonant meanings:
es. RED: Lust, Negative Issues, Excitement, Love.
It depend on light, saturation and hue of the color, and even more on the context.

I hope this helps you to start your color research.

  • "even more on the context" = yes! This is a really important point.
    – DA01
    Aug 26, 2014 at 22:23

There is a color naming model that can link linguistic descriptions to the corresponding colors/color themes, saying that users can map 'happy' to happy colors. You can refer to "Color Naming Models for Color Selection, Image Editing and Palette Design" (http://vis.stanford.edu/files/2012-ColorNameModels-CHI.pdf)

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