Understanding the Basics of Color Psychology

Written by Courtney Raguso, Social Media Content Creator

Color and emotion are closely tied and can be a powerful marketing tool if used correctly. When it comes to eCommerce, color isn’t a black and white concept, and there’s a lot that can go into picking the right palette for your brand’s messaging. A consumer’s behavior can easily change when shown a certain color, however, their thought process is all subconscious. In other words, they aren’t thinking about what action they will take based on the color they see. They just react instinctively. Behavior can be influenced by multiple factors. It can be from environmental factors, like being exposed to that color during emotional experiences. It can also be influenced by societal constructs including language, location, history, religion, or customs of one’s culture. There are many influencing factors, but that’s where your knowledge of design and understanding of your customer comes in. Cultural perception of color is a thing, so pay attention to the palette you use. For example, the color yellow has different meanings in Germany than it does in other parts of the world. Instead of associating yellow with cheerfulness, Germans associate yellow with envy. Today we’re going to go over the basics of color psychology and how you can use it to benefit your online business. Let’s get started. 

When it comes to understanding color psychology, you have to first have an understanding of how we perceive, mix, and apply colors. It starts with the color wheel, which only consists of 12 colors. We start with our primary colors which are red, yellow, and blue. By mixing these colors, you will get secondary colors, and by mixing those you will get tertiary colors and so on. According to science, the human eye can register up to 10 million colors, but they only need a few seconds to make a judgment on your messaging. A lot of this judgment is based on the colors they see, as well as the content itself, but that’s for another discussion. When discussing how color works, there are not only factors that play into the person viewing it but also the color, itself. Tints, shades, and tones of a color can change its tone and language to the viewer. By adjusting a color’s vibrancy, you are also changing your message, therefore evoking an entirely different emotion. One example of this is using pastels, which are commonly associated with peace and tranquility. However, shades are associated more with sophistication, experience, and confidence. Another important factor to keep in mind is color harmony. This is important because it deals with using the proper color combinations that work well with each other. Using the wrong palette can really throw viewers off if it looks too busy, harsh, or just doesn’t complement the other colors well. Once you settled on the colors you want to use, keep in mind that they have to be balanced in a way that reflects both your message and the action you want the viewer to take. This isn’t supposed to be an easy task, and picking the right colors isn’t just a creative process, it’s also a business decision. That’s why it’s important to know your customer, research trends, and watch your competitors. Check out the colors we break down below and click each image to learn more about that color. 

Color psychology is about understanding how colors influence our emotions and behavior. You want to have a solid understanding of design and use of color because you will be applying it to your website and social media, and maybe even your product packaging. When creating your brand logo, you will also have to keep this in mind since it will be representative of your brand. Now although color use requires a lot of knowledge, it also requires some testing, and A/B Testing is a great way to learn which colors work best with your audience. For example, one company, HubSpot, did an A/B test on their call-to-action button by using two different colors. The results showed that 21% more people clicked on the red button than the ones who were presented with the green button. This just shows how powerful and influential a color can be when it comes to decision making. However, it’s important to realize that you must never generalize, and although certain colors are associated with certain emotions, it’s not going to sell your product for you. Practice with testing, constantly research, and make sure to always stay contextual. By generalizing an idea like “red excites people, so we should be using it more will increase sales” is silly to think. You have to use the color when it’s right to do so. Color and eCommerce isn’t a one size fits all solution, that’s why we have experts on our team to help! 

At MSM DesignZ, we put in the time and energy needed for success, so you can ensure you are using every dollar for maximum return. With over 20 years in the business, we have watched marketing evolve from traditional to digital. Whether you need a website refresh, more attractive email, or a quality online presence, we can do it all. When we take on a client, we put in 110% and treat every brand as if it’s our own. We will always continue to place our clients’ needs at the heart of our operations. From web development to social media management, we’ll work directly with you to build a personalized strategy to not only retain but also gain business. We are assisting in all areas for our clients. Visit our contact page at, and we’ll work with you to devise a custom plan that will keep your brand alive and well. We look forward to working with you!  




Illustration by Cindy Chung, Verywell