Color Psychology in Packaging Design

Color plays a big role in our lives – yellow and red traffic signs catch your attention and directly impact behavior. As a matter of fact, color is the international language that allows the 1.2 billion drivers on the road to traverse safely… Most of the time, anyway! A red hexagon means STOP in almost every nation, regardless of whether you can read the word.

From the day that babies are brought home and cradled in their pink or blue blankets, implications are made about gender through color. While there are no concrete rules about what colors are exclusively feminine or masculine, there have been studies conducted over the past seven decades that draw some generalization. Take for example, the findings of the 2003 study by Joe Hillock shown below. 

We also often speak in terms of colors – “feeling blue” when sad and “seeing red” when angry – colors have a direct impact on our emotions. The psychology and symbolism of color is interpreted differently around the world, but because Europe and North America have common ancestry – we generally have similar psychological reactions to color and every color has it’s own selling point. Color also has the unique ability to attract specific types of shoppers and change shopping behavior. Because we are drawn to colors on packaging, that reduction in the time to identify products coupled with increased attention time directly correlates with sales. 



Adding colors to a packaging design involves a little more than choosing two or three hues and plunking them down in equal parts in your layout. Effectively applying color to a design project has a lot to do with balance — and the more colors you use, the more complicated that balance is to achieve.

An easy way to think of this concept is by splitting your color choices into dominant and accent colors. The dominant color will be the most visible and most frequently used hue in your design, while one or more accent colors will complement and balance out that main color. Paying attention to how these colors interact with each other — the amount of contrast, the ease of readability when text is involved, how certain colors make others look when they’re side by side, what kind of mood a color combination creates, etc. will help you fine-tune a perfect palette for your packaging design purposes.

Want to learn more about the psychology and color theory behind Packaging Design? Head on over to our Packaging Design Workflow course!

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