Since mankind began using pigments, the effects of color on our psychological state have been closely examined. Color theory—a term used to describe the collection of rules and guidelines regarding the use of color in art and design—was first referenced by Italian humanist, author, and artist Leon Battista Alberti in 1435. In the late 15th century, artist Leonardo da Vinci suggested an alternative hierarchy of color, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that a detailed understanding of modern color theory emerged from mathematician Isaac Newton’s conceptualization of the color wheel, which was detailed in his book Opticks in 1704.
Every artist, advertiser, and designer has a different approach and intent for their choice of hues. For example, companies like Whole Foods and Starbucks incorporated the color green into their branding to induce a feeling a freshness, serenity, and health. Interior decorators often use touches of purple to conjure a feeling of luxury and opulence, as the hue has a long association with royalty and power.
Artists draw upon specific color palettes in drawings and paintings to prompt certain responses from audiences. Below are the unique ways in which each color affects our psychological state, and how artists developed their own color theories to evoke specific emotions from their audiences.
Color psychology is the study of hues as a determinant of behavior, and it depicts how color affects us in every facet of life. From cognitive performance to consumer purchasing patterns, each person has a varying degree of emotional responses to color hue, saturation, and brightness.
Human response to color is unique to each individual and is deeply rooted in personal and cultural experiences. For example, in the United States, yellow is often associated with the sun, and thus considered cheerful and bright. In France, however, yellow evokes emotions of jealousy and betrayal and was even painted on the homes of criminals in the 10th century.