Color has a profound effect on us even though we may not be aware of it. Every day our emotions, moods, mental acuity and even physical sensations—such as appetite—are influenced by the colors that surround us.

Imagine that during the night while you were sleeping someone came and painted your walls and ceiling black. How would it make you feel as you began your day? Now imagine waking up to a bright sky blue, or a brilliant yellow, or a pale mint green. This is a good exercise to get a sense of how much color can affect you.

Artists and designers—as well as advertisers—use color very deliberately to make you feel a certain way. Ever wonder why McDonald’s uses so much red and yellow? The colors red and yellow stimulate appetite. Color in the clothing you wear can also have an unconscious effect on others.

Understanding the psychological and symbolic effects of color, and color theory–how colors relate to each other—can be a powerful tool not just in art, design, and advertising, but also in home decorating and personal style. A basic knowledge of color can strongly enhance anyone’s life—professional or not.



The psychological effects of color are different for each person. The way you use color becomes part of your personal style. Before getting into the details of color theory, take some time to consider your relationship with color and how you might use it as an expression of your individuality.

Following are a few fun exercises designed to help you discover how you feel about color.

A. What color is emotion?

What color do you see in your mind when you think of/imagine feeling the following emotions:

1. Anger

2. Sadness

3. Excitement

4. Anxiety

5. Love

6. Fear


B. What colors are your personality?

List 5 aspects of your personality (i.e. easy-going, optimistic, friendly, shy, etc)






Now imagine a color for each aspect of your personality. Using those colors, make a rainbow, a crystal, or a design that represents your personality. Use types of lines and shapes that seem to go with the aspects of your personality and their colors.


C. What color is a belief or idea?

  • Think of something you believe in or a philosophy about life that you feel strongly about.
  • List words that describe or go along with that idea or belief.
  • Let yourself really go into it, what you believe, and let yourself feel the feelings you have about what you believe in.
  • Now choose colors that seem to fit what you believe in. Again, use lines and shapes and a design that seems to go along with the belief and the colors you chose.
  • In your design, avoid using existing symbols or objects that represent your belief. Make up your own.


D. What color would you wear to feel…

1. Powerful

2. Disguised (Fitting into the environment and not being noticed)

3. Serious

4. Professional

5. Fun

6. Attractive

7. Competent

8. Wild

9. Compassionate

10. Boring


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