Color Psychology: How Red and Blue Paint Colors Affect You

Wall painting
Bojan Kontrec/E+/Getty Images

If you've ever selected paint for a decorating project, you're familiar with how daunting of a process picking the perfect paint color can be. What color works best where? What's the perfect shade for natural light? Do I stick with warmer or cooler tones? Once you've finally nailed down your preferred hue, what in turn does that hue say about you? Or, more importantly, what does it do to you?

Typically when we select paint colors, we're searching for ones that will look best in a particular space -- and we neglect to think about how that final color will make those who enter the space feel.

Many experts will agree that every color we encounter has some sort of psychological impact, whether it's soothing our mood, exciting our appetite or rejuvenating our spirit.

"Studies indicate that babies cry more in a yellow room than any color tested," says Andrea Piontek, senior color stylist for Olympic Interior Paints. "Despite its happy demeanor, yellow can provoke anxiety."

Of course, we're all individuals, so the color impact will vary from person to person.

"Research studies show that color-mood association differs widely among individuals depending on cultural, learned and individual preferences," says Jody Simons, color expert for Valspar paints. For instance, in China and India, white (not black) is the color most commonly associated with death. "One conclusive finding, however, is that the saturation or intensity of color can have a significant impact over a neutral color," Simons adds.

So next time you're staring with overwhelmed eyes at a wall of paint swatches, don't just think about what looks pretty -- think of your space as a psychological tool, and paint accordingly. Here's a breakdown of red and blue color groups to help guide you through the process.


In the presence of red, time seems to slow down, says Andrea Piontek of Olympic Interior Paints.

This is why the color is often used in bars, casinos, and restaurants, to remove a feeling of being rushed and entice visitors to stay longer. Another factor for the common appearance in restaurants is the consensus that red stimulates the appetite. This is why Mary Lawlor, color stylist for Kelly-Moore Paints, recommends leaving red for the dining room. Opt for brighter, orange-based reds for a true appetite-inducing impact. Blue-based reds should be used for a more sophisticated, intimate feel.

Try these hues:
To energize... Behr, Bijou Red, UL110-16
To set a sexy tone... Benjamin Moore, Merlot Red, 2006-10
To induce the appetite... Valspar, La Fonda Fireberry, 1010-1


Most commonly connected to sky and water, blues tend to have a cooling effect. "They can also be associated with clear thinking, sharpness or calm and meditative environments," says Jody Simons of Valspar. Stick to pale blues for a cooling effect, brighter turquoise-level blues for sharpness and clear thinking (great for offices) and deep, dark blues for a calming, meditative environment.

One of the most successful ways to use blue is in the darker or more saturated variations, says Erika Woelfel, director of color marketing for Behr Paints.

"Darker blues, such as navy Mosaic Blue UL240-21, get warmer as they go deeper," she says. "It is a terrific color to use in a bedroom or bathroom." Blues with higher chroma, such as Cerulean 560B-7, she adds, energize a space, making it feel more inventive and engaging.

And for all those calorie-counters, here's a fun theory: "Blue is a color rarely found in food and so it's a color that suppresses the appetite," says Mary Lawlor.

Try these hues:
To introduce the feeling of a clear sky... Benjamin Moore, Fantasy Blue, 716

To create an intimate setting... Benjamin Moore, Hale Navy, HC-154

To encourage meditation... Olympic, Brilliant Blue, B52-6