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Emotion Color Wheel

How do particular colors make you feel?

Your answers compared to a partner’s, family member’s, or client’s might surprise you.

  I developed this simple emotion color wheel to fuel conversations about emotions. While research indicates there are some universal links between certain colors and emotions, our personality, preferences, and even culture can impact how we see the relationship between color and emotions. Read on to learn more.

Emotion color wheel with text overlay.
 Click Here for A Detailed Image Description  

Often, if we talk about emotions at all, we talk about the same few emotions over and over – but how often do we talk about “how we know when we feel joy?” or “what it feels like to feel inspired”, or how certain emotions bleed into one another almost indistinguishably? This simple emotion color wheel can help prompt conversations about a full spectrum of emotions – not just those that come up in therapy most often. Like the color spectrum itself, this emotion color wheel can help us remember that no emotions are bad all of them have a role to play in the full spectrum of human emotions.    

In this worksheet pack you’ll find

  • 2 sample completed emotion color wheels
  • blank worksheet with radial grid only
  • blank worksheet with radial grid + color spectrum
  • blank worksheet with radial grid + emotion word list

Download this Emotion Color Wheel Printable PDF

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  How to Use this Emotion Color Wheel Worksheet Set

  This worksheet set may be particularly helpful with less verbal clients, as it provides a structured and less-threatening way to communicate about emotions.

  1. Using the blank worksheet with radial grid + color spectrum   Invite clients to label the color spectrum with emotions they associate with those colors, then show curiosity about the colors they selected and why. It may be helpful to provide a list of feeling words.  

2. Using the blank worksheet with radial grid + emotions   This is my favorite worksheet and the one I think will probably be most useful for most clients. It provides the structure of a grid and emotion names but lots of free space for artistic expression through color, texture, and creativity. To use this worksheet, invite the participant to fill in each emotion-section with the color that they associate with that emotion, then invite conversation exploring why particular colors were selected and what they feel like.  

3. Using the blank worksheet with radial grid only   Provide clients the blank radial grid and my sample filled out emotion color wheel, invite clients to fill out the grid with emotion names and colors. You can provide colored pencils, markers, or watercolor paint to add color to the grid. Participants can even cut and paste pictures from magazines between the lines of the grid. When working with the blank wheel, it may be helpful to provide a list of feeling/emotion words.  

  The emotion color wheel is not meant to be prescriptive – that is, saying that a certain color should be associated with a particular emotion- rather, it’s a resource designed to prompt conversations.

Emotion Color Wheel: What Kind Of Emotional Responses Do Colors Invoke?

Colors have their own language. They can convey a message solely through their physical and emotional impact. Colors can also alter our moods and responses in mysterious ways. Previously, Plutchik simplified the discussion of emotions by categorizing them with colors. Why not look at the other side of this link? Do colors evoke emotions based on appearance? Before moving on to the emotion color wheel, it’s important to understand the power of colors.

Colors & Emotions: A Goldmine For Media Giants

Media giants and many big names in marketing heavily rely on colors. The colors used in a brand’s logo and advertisements catch your attention way before the slogan does. This is one of the many scenarios which can signify the way colors tend to have an emotional and psychological impact on human beings.

For example, many popular fast-food chains have bright red logos. Red is a powerful emotional color. It invokes excitement and boosts mood in most cases which is exactly what fast food franchises want to raise those annual sales. Similarly, black tends to be a more ominous color. It’s a strong color with a mysterious edge that can make you suspicious. So popular luxury brands use this element of mystery to boost sales.

Here’s a study that shows the influence of colors on human emotions and explores the link that colors share with human emotions;

71 college students were chosen to test red’s dominance. Some students received red test papers with numbers for this 5 minute test. Others got test papers with numbers in blue and green.

“The results of those test papers established that red has the capability to invoke anxiety because of its dominating impact on human emotions. It’s a huge possibility that the strong negative emotional response invoked by red could be the reason why some students did not perform as well as the others”.

Emotion Color Wheel: Are Emotional Reactions To Colors Universal?

While testing the universality of these emotions a study conducted by the researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University established that;

“Red usually gets associated with both positive and negative emotions. On the contrary, black usually gets associated with negative emotions. Some of these negative emotions include; sadness, hatred, and fear. Thus, to a certain extent, the process of color and emotion association is pretty similar around the world”1

This study included 4,600 people from 30 countries. Each participant was asked to complete a survey. Assigning emotions to colors was required in this particular questionnaire. Each participant was also asked to describe the emotional intensity they associated with each color. The study’s large cross-cultural sample suggests that most people react similarly to a color.

Another study categorizes colors based on how dominant, pleased, and aroused they make people feel. This study enlisted the help of 154 French undergraduate students aged 18 to 22. It involved participants interacting with three colors: green, red and blue. Each participant was asked to look at these colors for ten seconds before describing their intensity.

The results of the study concluded that most participants experience strong emotional toll while viewing the color red. Furthermore, each participant reported feeling the most dominant and excited while taking a look at the color red. The color blue and green were rated respectively in terms of arousal, dominance, and threat.2

Which Factors Affect People’s Emotional Reactions Towards Various Colors?

You probably wouldn’t have suspected that the climate of a particular region or an individual’s religion had anything to do with the discourse in question, but it actually does!1 Exposure to a certain kind of cultural or religious practice can have a impact on our perception.

For example, while western culture associates the color blackwith mourning, people in some Asian countries traditionally wear white during periods morning.3 In India, caskets are covered in white during funeral rituals. Some widows may even wear white for weeks, months, or years after the death of a husband. Thus white is more likely to invoke feelings of sadness, gloom, or sorrow among people of some cultures because of its role in particularly sad circumstances. Alternately, the Greek orthodox church utilizes dark purple during weeks of mourning. Consequently, its followers are more likely to associate negative emotions with dark purple.

A person’s religious and cultural backgrounds are among the biggest factors that determine how they’ll react to a certain color.

Emotion Color Wheel: Popular Takes On Colors & The Emotions They Invoke

While individual and cultural difference shape how we assign emotion meaning to colors, here’s a quick guide to colors and their generally-associated emotion, based on the research outlined above:

  • Red: Red is a bold color. Red can make you feel excited and more passionate. For some, red can can make us feel more impulsive and recklessly energetic.
  • Green: Green may help us feel more emotionally stable, calm, and collected. Green exudes a natural soothing feeling that can make us feel more at peace.
  • Blue: Blue exudes positive vibes. It’s not as threatening or dominating as red, and instead builds a sense of trust and reliability. Blue can make us feel more secure, balanced, and less moody.
  • Brown: Brown is one of the few colors that, according to research, has little emotional effect on people.
  • Black: Black has a strong association with death, gloom, destruction, and suspicion. For those of us in the west, black is associated with grief. Too much black can cause emotional unrest, stress, in some cases, fear of the unknown.

Image Description for Screen Readers:

The Emotion Color Wheel consists of two layers of rings. The inner circle is solid white with a grey title that reads “Emotion Color Wheel.” The second circle – moving outward – is a spectrum of different colors with corresponding emotions written in them. The top center is yellow and reads “curious.” Moving clockwise, the color changes from yellow to green to blue to purple to pink to orange, and back to yellow as it nears the top of the circle.

The other emotions, moving clockwise from “curious” read: “flooded, anxious, fearful, (green tone starts), inferior, disgusted, envious, grateful, (blue tone starts), brave, proud, hopeful, relaxed, calm, peaceful, trusting, apathetic, sad, depressed, weary, lonely, (purple tone starts), shame, vulnerable, joyful, confident, (pink tone starts), creative, skeptical, irritated, angry, furious, (orange tone starts), outraged, threatened, stressed, confused, eager, (yellow tone starts), surprised, inspired” and ends back with “curious.” Image by Lindsay Braman.

  1. Jonauskaite, D., Abu-Akel, A., Dael, N., Oberfeld, D., Abdel-Khalek, A. M., Al-Rasheed, A. S., Antonietti, J.-P., Bogushevskaya, V., Chamseddine, A., Chkonia, E., Corona, V., Fonseca-Pedrero, E., Griber, Y. A., Grimshaw, G., Hasan, A. A., Havelka, J., Hirnstein, M., Karlsson, B. S. A., Laurent, E., … Mohr, C. (2020). Universal Patterns in Color-Emotion Associations Are Further Shaped by Linguistic and Geographic Proximity. Psychological Science, 31(10), 1245–1260. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620948810 []
  2. Briki, Walid & Hue, Olivier. (2015). How Red, Blue and Green Are Affectively Judged. Applied Cognitive Psychology. 30. 10.1002/acp.3206. []
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_funeral_rituals []

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