The Color Psychology of Black

Black isn't a primary, secondary, or tertiary color. In fact, black isn't on the color wheel because it isn't considered a color. It's all colors. Or rather, the absorption of all colors. Black absorbs all light in the color spectrum.

According to color psychology, color-related emotion is highly dependent on your personal preference and past experiences with that particular color. The color black is no different. 

color psychology of black
Illustration by Cindy Chung, Verywell

The Psychological Effect of Black

Individual reactions to the color black can vary widely. According to German scientist Hermann von Helmholz, "Black is real sensation, even if it is produced by the entire absence of light. The sensation of black is distinctly different from the lack of all sensation."

Positive Associations

For some, black evokes positive associations with this color, including attractiveness and elegance. The color oozes sophistication. That’s why so many people choose to don black clothing when attending a fancy event. It’s also why high-end brands like Tiffany & Co. and Chanel utilize black in their logos.

When it comes to high society, the color black has long been associated with power. From priests to judges, tuxedos to credit cards. And let’s not forget about Steve Jobs.  

Negative Associations

However, many use the color black to symbolize all things negative. Throughout history, this somber color has been tied to death and all things evil and bad. It evokes strong feelings of anger, aggression, fear, and sadness.

The connection between black and negativity is probably most clearly seen in our language. Just consider these commonly used expressions: Black Monday. Black Plague. Black magic. Blackball. Blackhole. Black-hearted. Black mood. Black sheep. Blackmail. Black market. Blackout. The list could go on.

And nothing says "bad guy" quite like the color black. Though black is worn (and often preferred) by people from all walks of society, it's often seen as the stereotypical color for criminals and villains. Why do you think the color of choice for villains (think Dracula and Darth Vader) and other shady movie and TV show characters is almost always black?

Black is the perfect example of how color meaning can differ from one culture to another. In many western traditions, black is associated with death and mourning, whereas in China the color of death is white.

Using the Color 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 evokes 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.
  • Choose black for your kids' room to bring calm and creativity.
  • If you have a home office in the north part of your house, paint one wall black.
  • Paint the floor black in a room in the north part of your space.
  • Try black and white in your laundry room or kitchen.
  • Try placing black accessories like knick-knacks, frames, or vases around your home.

A Word From Verywell

People's preference for certain colors is based on a whole host of factors, including environment, personality, experience, and upbringing. Pay attention to how the color black makes you feel and consider how some of these factors may shape how you feel and respond to this color.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Roberts SC, Owen RC, Havlicek J. Distinguishing between perceiver and wearer effects in clothing color-associated attributions. Evol Psychol. 2010;8(3):350-364. doi:10.1177/147470491000800304

  2. Amsteus M, Al-Shaaban S, Wallin E, Sjöqvist S. Colors in marketing: A study of color associations and context (in) dependence. International Journal of Business and Social Science. 2015;6(3).

  3. Sandford JL. Turn a colour with emotion: a linguistic construction of colour in English. Journal of the International Colour Association. 2014;13:67-83.

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

  5. Vrij A, Akehurst L. The existence of a black clothing stereotype: The impact of a victim’s black clothing on impression formation. Psychol Crime Law. 1997;3(3):227-237. doi:10.1080/10683169708410817

  6. Kaya N, Epps H. Color-emotion associations: Past experience and personal preference. Proceedings of the AIC 2004 Color and Paints, Interim Meeting of the International Colour Association. 2004.

  7. Farran HK. Applying Feng Shui principles to interior design. Arch Arts Humanistic Sci Mag. 2018;12(1):27-55. doi:10.12816/0047909