A couple of years ago, I posted an infographic on How Color Can Boost Your Book Sales. Today, I am sharing some tips on color connotations courtesy of Dan Matthews of Avasam. They will help you create the perfect book cover. Yes, I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But we all do, don’t we? A nice book cover will do wonders for your sales.

Some of the color connotations mentioned below will be obvious to you. Even so, keep them in mind for your next book cover, as color connotations have powerful implications for how readers will see your book.

Color wheel | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Red color psychology

Since the color red is also linked with danger – such as in the case of poisonous berries in the wild – red definitely attracts attention. That’s why it is used for traffic lights, calls to action, or sale banners. Red is also widely used to signify heat, as well as passion, and have long been associated with both cupid and the devil.

Positive connotations associated with red

  • Action
  • Energy and speed
  • Attention-getting
  • Assertive, confident and driven
  • Energizing, stimulating and exciting
  • Powerful, strong and courageous
  • Passion
  • Spontaneous and determined

Negative connotations associated with red

  • Aggressive, ruthless, domineering and overbearing
  • Angry, quick-tempered, violent and brutal
  • Fearful, intolerant and resentful
  • Rebellious and obstinate

Orange color psychology

Since orange has a lot of red in it, orange can be used in place of red where businesses want to capitalize on the effects of red, without being so obvious. Many restaurants use orange on their walls to help customers feel hungry and to increase contentment. Since it is also linked with social communication, shades of orange on the walls in restaurants can help increase the time customers linger over their meals.

Orange has also traditionally been associated with the autumn season due to the color of pumpkins and falling leaves. Since autumn is a transitional season, orange has also become associated with transitional situations and change.

Positive connotations associated with orange

  • Sociable and cheerful
  • Extroverted and uninhibited
  • Optimistic, enthusiastic
  • Self-confident, independent and adventurous
  • Risk-taking
  • Flamboyant with creative flair
  • Warm-hearted, agreeable and informal

Negative connotations associated with orange

  • Superficial and insincere
  • Over-bearing and self-indulgent
  • Dependent
  • Exhibitionist
  • Pessimistic
  • Inexpensive
  • Overly proud

Yellow color psychology

In addition to being used to imply sunshine and summer days, yellow is also the most easily spotted color from a distance. That’s why it is often used for objects that need to be seen, or for warnings – school buses, road signs, taxis and rescue vehicles, as well as in traffic lights and railway signals to indicate drivers should be cautious. Use it to draw attention to your book cover without red’s negative connotations.

Positive connotations associated with yellow

  • Optimism, cheerfulness, and enthusiasm
  • Fun and good humor
  • Energy
  • Confidence
  • Originality and creativity
  • Challenge
  • Academic and analytical
  • Wisdom and logic

Negative connotations associated with yellow

  • Critical and judgmental
  • Analytical (although this can be a good thing, this can be negative too!)
  • Being impatient and impulsive
  • Being egotistical
  • Pessimism
  • Inferiority complexes
  • Spiteful, cowardly and deceitful
  • Non-emotional and lacking compassion

Pink color psychology

Generally pink has been associated with love and care, tenderness, and immaturity. Since the base color of pink is red, it is also associated with passion, with deeper pinks conveying more passion and energy. The physical passion of the red is seen to be toned down with white – traditionally seen as a color of purity – to create a gentler, more loving energy.

As a color, it is often associated with young girls.

Pink is generally a non-threatening color and is calming to the emotions. Some prisons use a shade known as ‘drunk tank pink’ on walls to calm inmates. Some sports teams paint the away team dressing room pink to help keep their opposition calmer, more passive, and less energetic.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of socio-political connotations of pink, with different meanings worldwide. Pink is associated with the LGBT movement and breast cancer awareness.

Positive connotations associated with pink

  • Unconditional and romantic love, romance
  • Compassion and understanding nurturing
  • Sweetness
  • Warmth
  • Calm
  • Hope
  • Naiveté
  • Feminine and intuitive energy

Negative connotations associated with pink

  • Physical weakness
  • Over-emotional and emotional neediness
  • Over-cautious
  • Unrealistic expectations,
  • Naivety, immaturity, and girlishness
  • Lack of will power
  • Lack of self-worth

Green color psychology

Occurring in nature so often, green is strongly associated with growth and rebirth, the color of spring and youth, and with renewed and restored energy. Green also gives permission – as in green on traffic lights.

Green is thought to be a nurturing color, supposedly rejuvenating the body when feeling exhausted. It is also supposed to help us see situations clearly, so it can help with books referring to diplomacy and agreeability.

Strangely enough for a color associated with health, green is also associated with poison, mold, and decay. It can also signify greed, as it is the color of money. Finally, it is associated with political movements that are concerned with the environment.

Positive connotations associated with green

  • Growth, vitality, renewal, and restoration
  • Self-reliance, reliability and dependability Tact
  • Emotional balance and calm
  • Nature
  • Family-oriented, practical, and down to earth
  • Sympathy, compassion and nurturing
  • Generosity, kindness, and loyalty

Negative connotations associated with green

  • Possessiveness and materialist
  • Indifference and over-cautious
  • Envy, selfishness, greed, and miserly behavior
  • Deviousness with money
  • Inconsideration
  • Inexperience
  • Hypochondria

Blue color psychology

One of the three primary colors, blue is seen as a color of trust, honesty, loyalty. and responsibility. It’s often associated with sadness, but also represents calmness and responsibility, and is used to reduce stress. We all feel better on a bright day when the sky is blue and the sun is shining brightly.

Strong blues are thought to stimulate clear thinking, and lighter blues to calm the mind and help with concentration. Overall, blue is a serene and mentally calming color and can help to aid clear communication. Blue is seen as a typically safe, conservative color that can help us have direction and order. Perhaps that is why it is common in uniforms, banks, and iconography (the Virgin Mary is often dressed in a blue gown).

Positive connotations associated with blue

  • Loyalty, trust, and integrity
  • Tact, reliability, and responsibility
  • Conservatism
  • Perseverance and devotion
  • Care and concern
  • Idealist and order
  • Depression and sadness
  • Passivity
  • Self-righteousness
  • Emotional instability
  • Conservatism and outdatedness
  • Predictability and weakness
  • Unforgiving
  • Frigidity, coldness, and aloofness
  • Authority
  • Contemplation, peace, and calm

Negative connotations associated with blue

  • Rigidity
  • Deceit and spite
  • Manipulation, unfaithfulness, and untrustworthiness

Purple color psychology

Purple is a rich, deep color strongly associated with royalty. It implies a sense of luxury and is thought to have a calming effect on the body and to uplift your spirits. However, too much purple has been found to bring out irritability, impatience, and arrogance in people.

Since purple is made up of red and blue, is can be found as being used in items or rooms that are sensual and passionate.

Purple shades are often used where inspiration and imagination are required. For similar reasons, purple is often applied in spiritual settings.

Along with pink, purple is sometimes associated with the LGBT community. More commonly, purple has become synonymous with chocolate. Cadbury has used purple for generations, as have Milka, Hershey’s, Reece’s, and Nestle.

Positive connotations associated with purple

  • Unique and individual
  • Creativity and inventiveness
  • Psychic and intuitive
  • Humanitarian and selfless
  • Mystery and fantasy

Negative connotations associated with purple

  • Immaturity
  • Impracticality
  • Cynicism, aloofness, pompousness, and arrogance
  • Fraud and corruption
  • Delusions of grandeur and social climbing.

White color psychology

White is strongly linked with light, goodness, innocence, purity, and cleanliness. However, in some Asian countries, white has been used to represent death, mourning and bad luck, as it has been traditionally worn at funerals.

Positive connotations associated with white

  • Innocence, purity, and cleanliness
  • Equality
  • Completion and wholeness
  • Simplicity
  • Immaculate and neat
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Cautiousness
  • Plain and unimaginative
  • New beginnings

Negative connotations associated with white

  • Sterile and stark
  • Fastidiousness
  • Emptiness and distance
  • Isolation
  • Boring

Black color psychology

The darkest of all the shades, black is often associated with the unknown. The color most associated with darkness, it is sometimes thought of as depressing and pessimistic, but also sophisticated and serious – such as with little black dresses and black tie suits. It can also imply profitability, as accountants used black ink to show profit, rather than the red of making a loss.

Positive connotations associated with black

  • Protection and comfort
  • Strength
  • Containment
  • Formality and sophistication
  • Seduction
  • Mystery
  • Endings and beginnings

Negative connotations associated with black

  • Aloofness
  • Depression and pessimism
  • Secrecy and withholding evidence
  • Conservatism and solemnity
  • Power and control
  • Sadness and negativity

Grey color psychology

As the color standing between light and dark, shades of grey are thought of as neutral. This can imply conservative and boring, but also elegance and formality. The associations of grey hair with aging links the color with maturity, responsibility, safety, and dependability. In design, grey is pretty neutral and can be paired alongside many colors to great effect, steadying brighter colors and illuminating softer shades.

Lighter greys can be soothing and calming, unlike the solemnness of darker greys – which are linked with depression, self-denial, or lack of emotion.

Positive connotations associated with grey

  • Reliability
  • Conservative dignified, Neutrality and impartiality
  • Professionalism and reservation
  • Maturity
  • Intelligence
  • Classic elegance and formality
  • Solid, stable and dependable
  • Calming and subdued

Negative connotations associated with grey

  • Indecisiveness
  • Unemotional and indifferent
  • Boring
  • Sad and depressed
  • Lifeless
  • Lonely and isolated

Brown color psychology

The color of soil, brown signifies stability, structure, and support. It’s a wholesome color commonly associated with autumn, and is often used for environmentally friendly, ethical schemes.

Brown is a rich, warm color that can be sophisticated, such as in the use of brown leather (or faux leather) items like luggage or furniture, or in chocolate and coffee. As such, it can be found to have protective and comforting effects. Brown shades are linked with feelings of stability and security, perhaps in part due to the link that brown has with earth.

Positive connotations associated with brown

  • Down-to-earth, wholesome and practical
  • Friendly and approachable
  • Stable, structured and supportive
  • Comforting, reliable and protective
  • Strength
  • Sensitivity warmth and reassurance
  • Honesty and sincerity

Negative connotations associated with brown

  • Dull and boring
  • Frugal, cheap, stingy
  • Materialistic
  • Lacking humor
  • Lack of sophistication
  • Predictability

The psychology of the rainbow

I will close with rainbows. Rainbows have occurred frequently in mythology and have continued to have relevance to today.

Rainbow flags have been used since as far back as the 16th century when the Cooperative movement in the German Peasants’ War used them, through to use by LGBT organizations and social movements since the 1970s.

For even more tips on the psychology of color, check out Avasam’s original post. For more tips on creating the perfect book cover, check out this post. And when you’re done, rate your book cover here.