10 Psychological Color Palettes to Win Friends and Influence People
With the power to enhance our metabolism (red) or heal mental trauma (green), color can be hugely impactful on our minds and bodies.
The psychological sway color holds over us hasn’t gone unnoticed by the design world—photographers, graphic designers, and illustrators use color psychology to create more captivating images or more salable brands. If you want to create a website that makes viewers feel empowered and aspirational, or portray an identity that inspires trust and brand loyalty, these psychological color palettes will help you to achieve much more than simply an attractive aesthetic.
The palettes below combine winning formulas of psychologically-charged hues to help you achieve your aim—an enigmatic teal palette that blazes an innovative trail, an energetic yellow palette that combines budget-friendly messaging with mood-boosting optimism . . . You’ll have to read on to learn more!
Here, discover ten psychological color palettes to win friends and influence people.
How to Use Your Psychological Color Palettes
As with everything in life, balance is key. You can balance the qualities of one color with the psychological impact of another, creating a finely-tuned palette that helps you achieve a specific purpose.
For example, green has soothing and healing properties (the reason why it’s used ubiquitously in pharmaceutical branding), but it can also be lethargic when used in large quantities. Teaming green with a more energy-giving hue like orange fosters psychological balance, and can help to temper orange’s unwanted qualities (such as its association with value—all well and good for budget brands but not ideal for aspirational identities).
With this need for psychological balance in mind, these palettes have been created to help you achieve a strong, focused statement in your designs, whether that’s wanting to appear enigmatic and unique or inclusive and welcoming.
The infographic below shows some of the common psychological associations of different colors. We can use this table to create palettes that foster psychological balance, and create more attractive and effective designs as a result.
Now that you know a little about the psychological impact of each color, we can start to create groups of colors that complement each other psychologically. Browse the palettes below and pin your favorites to a Pinterest mood board or share on your social media account.
Palette 1: “I’m Different from the Norm”
This palette is for individuals and businesses who want to appear enigmatic and different. If you want to create imagery or branding that expresses a sense of uniqueness, this teal and red scheme will help to set yourself apart from the crowd.
Sometimes having a little edge is better than conformity. This type of palette would work particularly well for businesses who rely on innovative services or fresh thinking as their USP, such as creative agencies, scientific organizations, or engineering practices.
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By using color psychology in this palette we can balance teal’s lethargy with red’s aggression. Teal is also a transitional color, neither green nor blue, lending it an air of ambiguity and mystery. The result is a scheme that brings out the best of both colors, with teal acting as a deep, enigmatic foil to red’s urgent energy.
Palette 2: “Take Me Seriously”
Combining vintage-inspired colors of dark green and dusky pink with corporate-friendly gray and cream, this palette balances the traditional mood of old-establishment green with fresh, youthful pink, making it memorable rather than stuffy.
Dark green is often associated psychologically with ambition and good taste, which is why it’s often used for financial institutions and traditional men’s clubs. The pink used in this palette contains a gray undertone, making it feel more conservative than brighter pinks.
If you want to ensure your point of view is heard at that important meeting, or to foster a serious, formal tone in your designs, this authoritative palette will do the trick.
Palette 3: “I Am Conscientious”
This sustainable-themed palette is a blend of sky and earth tones, balancing blue sky thinking with grounded stability. The human eye is accustomed to these types of colors in the natural environment, so we find them innately soothing and relaxing.
Earth tones in contain varying degrees of brown are in danger of appearing a little dull when used exclusively. However, the freshness of seafoam blue enlivens neutral colors, resulting in a palette that feels more stable and inclusive.
While this palette would be a natural fit for eco-centric branding or environmental-themed photography, it can be used for any design that requires an honest, conscientious mood. Lifestyle packaging, organic food products, or sustainable fashion will all find this palette an effective way of communicating conscientious business values to customers.
Palette 4: “My Business Is Successful and Go-Getting”
This palette is a perfect fit for brand identities of agencies or corporates who need to communicate that they’re serious when it comes down to business, but also agile, energized, and fast-moving.
Navy blue is corporate and serious, with long-held associations with intellectualism and conservatism (more universities and legal practices use the color in their branding than any other hue). Meanwhile orange is exuberant and energetic.
You can make your serious/go-getting scheme feel livelier and more contemporary by also including a bolder indigo blue and a richer rust red, two variations on the navy and orange theme that create a beautiful graduated effect.
Palette 5: “Let Me Capture Your Attention”
Sometimes, it’s more important to capture the attention of distracted eyes than anything else. Social media advertising, flyers, or website banners all need to use colors that have an eye-catching effect.
Yellow and black in combination convey alarm and warning, the colors of wasps and hazard signs. As a result, we instinctually respond to yellow and black with a high degree of alertness. For brands looking to harness this primal psychological response, yellow and black would be the natural choice. However, the negative association of the color pairing with danger can be reshaped by combining yellow with subtle charcoal gray.
Kraft-paper brown further tempers the exuberance of yellow, resulting in a palette that captures attention but, simultaneously, has an attractive, calming quality.
Palette 6: “I’m Always Open to New Ideas”
There are perhaps no two colors more closely related, yet psychologically distinct, than pink and red. While pink is tender and feminine, red is confrontational and masculine. Pink is generally perceived as a positive color emotionally, provoking feelings of openness and kindness, while red is assertive and confidently unapologetic.
This palette encapsulates the contrasting personalities of both pink and red, creating a palette that’s receptive and dynamic, helping designers and brands to communicate a sense of lively engagement and openness to new ideas. Neither masculine nor feminine, this scheme is a nice suits-all palette, and can apply to a wide range of designs and industries. Because red and pink are warm, hot-blooded colors, the introduction of deep, inky blue brings a welcome soothing element.
Palette 7: “I’m Happy!”
After 2020, there’s no greater emotion to aspire to than sheer, unadulterated happiness. Whether it’s used in photography, illustration, or brand design, this multi-colored scheme is a psychological shortcut to positivity.
So, why do bright, multi-colored schemes make us feel instantly uplifted? Some scientific studies show that exposure to bright colors release dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in how we feel pleasure. One study found bright green to be particularly effective in enhancing dopamine concentration.
With the term “dopamine dressing” in circulation—and increasingly used as a method for combating the blues by savvy sartorialists—2021 is the perfect time for designers to follow suit. This palette combines four mood-boosting bright hues—joyful pink, confident red, sunny yellow, and fresh grass green—to create a color tonic for post-pandemic times.
Palette 9: “I’m Affordable (and Fun Too!)”
Walk into any airport and you’ll notice an instant difference in the color schemes used by airlines in their branding and signage. At one end of the departures hall is a sea of navy blue and deep red, indicating the luxury air carriers. Meanwhile, brash tones of orange and yellow dominate the other end, the pocket-friendly calling card of budget airlines.
We psychologically associate orange with value, which makes it the most-used hue by budget brands. Yellow comes in a close second, and youthful pink and zesty lime green are also purse-friendly colors for brands looking to appear inclusive and welcoming for families in particular.
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It’s no coincidence these citrus-themed colors are evocative of sunshine and the summer months. These colors imbue designs with energy and optimism, helping viewers feel excited and full of potential—even if the price tag is a long way from luxurious.
Palette 10: “I Am Enigmatic and Creative”
Transitional colors sit between two primary or secondary colors on the spectrum. Teal for example, if you will recall Palette 1 (above), is a transitional color between green and blue. The human eye can’t neatly categorize these transitional hues, giving them a more ambiguous, fluid quality. They can appear to have more depth, or feel more interesting than other colors, which makes them the perfect fit for creative, unique palettes.
In this palette, two transitional colors—violet and coral—combine with more soothing tones of lavender and buff to create a palette that’s unusual and enigmatic, but also highly usable. Violet sits between purple and blue, and combines the mysticism of purple with blue’s intelligence. Meanwhile coral blends red’s confidence with the energy of orange.
This palette expresses a sense of creativity and uniqueness. It’s a perfect fit for artistic or theatrical imagery, as well as brand identities for creatives such as fashion, graphic, or interior designers.