The Psychology of Color in Video: How to Use Color to Evoke Emotions


Viewers of any media are moved not only by its story, script, and performance but also by its color and lighting. In long-form content and movies, color psychology can play a crucial role in emphasizing and heightening the desired emotions. So, it makes sense for creators to understand color psychology.

Broadly speaking, red, yellow, and orange are bright colors that evoke active emotions, while pink, light brown, and green are muted colors that create passive emotional states. By using colors that inspire the same emotions that you intend to produce with your script, you can make your content more potent.

In this article, you will learn 14 crucial lessons about different colors and their psychological impact. You will also learn how color combinations can produce certain emotional states that vary from the solo effects of the respective colors. By the end, you’ll know which color to use when you want to inspire joy, optimism, anger, pain, hunger, and seriousness.

  1. Use Color Consistency To Build Familiarity

  2. Create Color Complimentary Colors For Aesthetic Appeal

  3. Leverage Lighting To Enhance Colors

  4. Color Correct For Visual Cohesion

  5. Use Red To Evoke Passion, Excitement, And Love

  6. Use Pink To Convey Earthiness And Timidness

  7. Use Sky Blue To Signify Hope And Optimism

  8. Use Green When Emphasizing Nature

  9. Use Orange To Indicate Playfulness

  10. Use Black To Conjure Up Mystery

  11. Let White Convey Purity

  12. Use Red And Yellow To Evoke Hunger

  13. Use Yellow And Black To Convey Danger

  14. Use Purple And White To Evoke A Sense Of Wonder


Why Read Further?

The tip roundup above covers the basic cause-and-effect of different colors. But if you want to avoid the mistakes many creators make when using these colors, you should continue reading. The nuances are covered under each subheading.


How To Approach Color In Your Videos?

Before getting into the emotional effect of different colors, we must address the foundations of using color for your videos. The better you get at this part, the less you have to worry about color-related mistakes. Even if you don’t want to be on the nose with your content colors, you should get the following things right about the colors and lighting in your videos.

Use Color Consistency To Build Familiarity

All brands have a visual identity, and their color scheme often evokes a sense of familiarity. People are more open to what’s familiar, so it helps to have consistent elements that lower their resistance. Out of two videos on how to draw a mustache on a horse, you’ll click on the one made by the Youtuber you know. That’s the power of familiarity.

By using certain colors more often in your videos, you can train your audience to expect said colors and click on your videos upon seeing them. Color consistency can bump up your click-through rate, but it cannot be a stand-in for quality. You still have the responsibility to create good content, no matter how instantly recognizable your videos are.

Create Color Complimentary Colors For Aesthetic Appeal

Aesthetic appeal is the aspect of color that adds value to your video content. If you pay attention to the colors you feature in your video, you create content that’s a treat to watch. Wes Anderson’s colorist understands this.

While the critically acclaimed director relies on symmetry to create visually compelling films, he also uses costume and backdrop colors to capture frames that are easy to watch. Without his signature primary colors and warm tints, you wouldn’t get the whole Wes Anderson experience.

Different directors have different signature elements, and a color palette isn’t always one of them. However, despite not having overlapping color schemes, their movies have one thing in common: the colors in each framework together.

Depending on your content style, it might or might not make sense to use the same colors over and over in different videos. But it makes sense to pick colors that are easy on the eyes and work together. As long as you have Google, you have no excuse for color-related errors.

You can always look up which colors work with what and proceed to use ones that don’t clash. And if you end up using colors that don’t work together, say that you’ve made an artistic choice. It might be a bad choice, but you may be able to sell it with enough confidence.

Leverage Lighting To Enhance Colors

Even the best colors look ghastly when lit by a cocktail of harsh sunlight and cheap fluorescent lamps. All the work you put into the lighting can be destroyed if not held back by unplanned lighting. Use appropriate equipment to light the frame evenly. And make sure that the light is bright enough to capture the vibrance of the colors you’ve picked.

If you’re good with your camera and your camera is good as well, you can white balance the frame while capturing the video. But even if that’s not the case, you might be able to improve and enhance content colors in the post-production stage.

Generally, you should not leave for post-production what can be handled in principle photography. However, you can get away with subpar lighting if you make content with substance-heavy audio.

Color Correct For Visual Cohesion

Even if you light your videos with a stove, you cannot afford to change the light sources drastically from frame to frame. Your video should not look like it is a compilation of frames shot years apart. That’s why you should use color correction to bring color consistency between shots.

How red your shirt looks in one shot might change in another. It is the obvious result of changing posture, camera angles, and locations. In a skit where some shots are taken indoors while the rest are taken outside, the color of your skin and clothes will be inconsistent. This can pull some viewers out of the story, especially in long-form content.

Color correction is done by professional film colorists for high-end projects and by video editors for small-scale social media content. That said, color correction isn’t essential in content that isn’t important enough to be edited by a professional.

Color correction not being important doesn’t mean color isn’t important. Color psychology proves that choosing appropriate colors can help you engage your audience. Moreover, it allows you to evoke specific emotions that serve their experience. So, even if you don’t color-correct your videos, remember to pick the correct colors for your videos.


What Do The Colors Mean? Color Psychology Tips For Video Creators

With the foundational lessons covered, we can dive into the specific emotions that different colors evoke. You’ll notice that each color can inspire multiple emotions depending on the context and the combination.


Use Red To Evoke Passion, Excitement, And Love

Red is an active color, and it is hard not to notice it. Louboutin built a brand worth over $2 billion off of red bottoms. Red is the color of passion and love. It is also the color of most stop signals. Red doesn’t always evoke the same emotions.

In a high-octane thriller, the red color might evoke excitement, while in a horror flick, it might send chills down your spine by indicating danger. It might even evoke anger, especially if it is the color of your secretary’s lipstick stain on your collar. From your spouse’s anger to your viewer’s excitement, the color red evokes emotions that are hard to ignore.


Use Pink To Convey Earthiness And Timidness

Where red is an in-your-face color, pick is its shyer counterpart. It signifies love in some instances and earthiness in others. It is a light color that is inherently pleasing to look at. While it is stereotyped as a “girly” color, it is becoming more gender-neutral with time.

Still, it holds the connotations of shyness, reserved demeanor, and agreeability. You can convey all of that by incorporating it into the wardrobe of your presenter or character. Pink is also a very child-friendly color, and kids love it regardless of their gender.


Use Sky Blue To Signify Hope And Optimism

Sky blue is often positioned as the male equivalent of pink. It is also a toned-down color that doesn’t evoke aggressive or active emotions. Over the last century, light blue has come to stand for hope and peace. It is a color scheme used very heavily by NGOs, the UN, and other positive-action entities. It represents hope and optimism and can be used to evoke positive emotions.

Shots of the sky, light blue background, and even sky blue accessories in the video can help inspire hope. However, you cannot expect the color to do the heavy lifting if your content is full of doom and gloom. The color never counteracts the substance of your script, but it works wonders when it is in line with your script.


Use Green When Emphasizing Nature

Even people who do not know color psychology know that green represents the earth. That’s ironic because 71% of the planet is covered with water. Still, grass and plants are what we most easily associate with nature.

So, whenever you use green in a nature-adjacent context, it makes sense. You can use green in signboards, logos, backdrops, and costumes to make a point about nature.

If your content has nothing to do with nature, then green might signify safety. That’s the color of the “go” light and is often used to indicate growth. Almost all graph tracking tools highlight growth with green digits and decline with red digits. Even your follower growth on Instagram and stock prices on Google follow the “green is up, and red is down” rule.


Use Black To Conjure Up Mystery

Black is an elegant color that can be used to signify luxury, exclusivity, and mystery, depending on the context. It is one of the most transferable colors and can come to stand for too many things. What it cannot stand for, however, is purity and lightness.

When using the black color in your content, you have to realize that it only works as an approval stamp. It doesn’t have any effect without some signpost. Black tie events seem exclusive and luxe. But the same can’t be said about black sweatpants events.

Blackbelt is worth pursuing, while a black eye isn’t. Black will co-sign any toned-down and serious emotion you’re trying to convey with the script and the situation you frame with your content.


Let White Convey Purity

White is the color of the clouds that house the heavens. It is the color of all colors combined and stands for lightness, purity, and hope. It is incredibly effective at contrasting the deepest connotations of the color black. But for pretty much anything other than that, white has zero impact.

It is an emotionally neutral color in most situations. You cannot paint a casket white and convey hope. You cannot plunge a white dagger into a character’s chest and expect the color to neutralize the darkness of the scene. White is much like black in that it can cosign the effect framed by your script.

Colors can also be framed by other colors. For instance, black and white are used in the yin and yang symbol, which signifies balance. On a chessboard pattern, the same colors can signify logic and strategy. Color combinations matter, so you must understand how different colors work together.


Use Red And Yellow To Evoke Hunger

Red and yellow evoke hunger, and McDonald’s has done a great job of capitalizing on that. To an extent, the red-and-white combination used by KFC can work to have a similar effect. If you create food-related content, you should use red and yellow in your background to make your content far more appealing. You might even want to incorporate those colors into your brand.

Of course, the food you film must also look appetizing. You cannot package stale broccoli sandwiches in red and yellow and expect your viewers to salivate.


Use Yellow And Black To Convey Danger

It is interesting how the role of yellow shifts when it is paired with black instead of red. Black and yellow stripes and spot patterns stand for poison. And we understand this on a subconscious level. By using black and yellow colors in your content, you can signal danger or inspire caution.

Black and yellow stripes are used in signboards meant for drivers. Red, black, and yellow is a peak danger-signifying combination. You can use either color scheme alongside a cohesive script to inspire caution.


Use Purple And White To Evoke A Sense Of Wonder

Purple is an inherently mysterious color, archetypally associated with wizardry and magic. Purple and white is the color of the moonlit night sky. And purple and yellow colors are used to illustrate the witching hour. Of course, you do not need to confine the use of purple, white, and yellow to magical themes.

The combination can be used to inspire wonder in almost any context. For instance, these colors are used heavily in Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Cosmos docuseries, which delves into the history of the universe. There is no magic in the series, but almost everything is viewed from a perspective of wonder.


How To Use Color Psychology As A Video Creator?

Alright, now you understand what each color signifies and what emotions it can enhance. The next thing you might want to know is how to use your knowledge of colors in your videos. Even if you don’t, that’s what this section is about.

Accessory/Props Colors

Colors used for different accessories can be used to create an emotional beat. The flower handed by a man to his lover can be bright red to embody passion. It can be white when handed by the character to his daughter, signifying purity. It can even be a black rose handed by a villain to her lover. Black roses can even be used as secret symbols, entry passes for dungeons, etc.

The best part about applying color psychology to accessories is that you are not tied to the color for the entire film. Using red in every aspect of a film about love might be over the top, though it might work in a Christmas movie. Ever-present black can be perfect for a horror film but might make non-horror movies look like horror movies.

Ever-present colors can set expectations and lock viewers into a specific emotional range. But accessory colors create small emotional beats and can then vanish, opening the audience up for a different emotion.

Backdrop Colors

Backdrop colors can be a major part of a movie’s overall color palette. For Youtube videos, they can form a major part of the creator’s visual brand. Recently, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie used so much pink color that it caused a worldwide shortage of pink paint. Perhaps you don’t want to get that committed to certain colors, but what you want to commit to can be ever present in the background of most scenes.

Costume Colors

Costume colors can convey things about characters and their emotional state. A mysterious figure is far more likely to wear black than white. And an angelic figure is most probably going to be dressed in white and not red. Even though the colors still work to inspire specific emotions, they are better used to say something about your characters.

The Post-Production Elements

Finally, the post-production elements like logos and subtitles can also bear different colors to set different expectations. The Warner Bros logo in a Harry Potter movie looks different from what it looks like in a Bugs Bunny movie.

And one of the most noticeable differences is in the colors. For social media content, caption colors can have an impact on user engagement. That’s why ContentFries has specific recurring colors in its high-engagement content caption templates.


Final Thoughts

Color psychology covers the different emotions that certain colors are likely to evoke. For instance, red can evoke anger, while sky blue can inspire hope. Video content creators can use colors in costumes, accessories, backdrops, and the foreground to enhance the emotional impact of their scripts. Even in post-production, caption and heading colors can inspire engagement. That’s why ContentFries high-engagement templates use color psychology.