The Color Psychology of Black

How Colors Impact Moods, Feelings, and Behaviors

Black cat
Stefano Rocca / EyeEm / Getty Images

Notice how black is used in the above image. How does it make you feel? What associations do you have with black? While black has different symbolic meanings, individual reactions to the color black can vary widely. 

"Black is real sensation, even if it is produced by entire absence of light. The sensation of black is distinctly different from the lack of all sensation." ~ Hermann von Helmholz, German scientist

The Color Psychology of Black

According to color psychology, these are the characteristics of black:

  • Black absorbs all light in the color spectrum.
  • Black is often used as a symbol of menace or evil, but it's also popular as an indicator of power. It's used to represent treacherous characters such as Dracula and is often associated with witchcraft.
  • Black is associated with death and mourning in many cultures. It's also associated with unhappiness, sexuality, formality, and sophistication.
  • In ancient Egypt, black represented life and rebirth.
  • Black is often used in fashion because of its slimming quality.
  • Consider how black is used in language: Black Death, blackout, black cat, blacklist, black market, black tie, black belt.

Black in Feng Shui

In feng shui, a way of harmonizing your home, office, and other environments, each color represents a feng shui element. Black is associated with the water element and envokes power, mystery, and calm.

When it's used sparingly, black has a grounding effect on your environment.

Here are a few tips for using black in feng shui:

  • Consider a black door for doors that face north, east, or southeast.
  • Choosing black for your kids' room can bring calm and creativity.
  • Try placing black accessories like knick-knacks, frames, or vases around your home.
  • Paint the floor black in a room in the north part of your space.
  • Try black and white in your laundry room or kitchen.
  • If you have a home office in the north part of your house, paint one wall black.

Black in Marketing

In marketing and branding psychology, black is associated with boldness, formality, mystery, strength, luxuriousness, and seriousness. Famous brands that utilize black in their logos and marketing are Blackberry, Tiffany & Co., Apple, Disney, Nike, Gillette, Adidas, Sony, Ralph Lauren, and MTV. Besides being sleek, black is versatile and can be combined with any other color.

A Preference for Black

People's preference for certain colors is based on a whole host of factors such as environment, personality, experience, economic status, and upbringing. One recent study on color preference in adults found that out of 18 total colors, including no preference, black ranked number 13 as adults' favorite color overall. However, when it comes to clothing, black was ranked as the number one favorite color for both genders combined. Interestingly, black got first place because 40 percent of the females chose black as number one compared to only 16 percent of males, who ranked it as their fourth favorite clothing color.

Sources:

Bakker I, van der Voordt T, Vink P, de Boon J, Bazley C. Color preferences for different topics in connection to personal characteristicsColor Research and Application. February 2015;40(1):62–71. doi:10.1002/col.21845.

Taylor K. What Does the Color of Your Logo Say About Your Business? Entrepreneur. Published March 21, 2014.

Tchi R. Decorate Your House With the Color Black for Good Feng Shui. The Spruce. Updated October 3, 2017.