Psychology of the Color Orange

What does the color orange mean? How does this color make you feel? Orange can be a very strong and energetic color. Like yellow and red, it can be very attention-grabbing, which is perhaps why it is often used in advertising.

People often describe the color orange as bright, happy, and uplifting. In some cases, however, it can seem too bright and overwhelming. Much like purple, orange tends to be a controversial color. People tend to either love it or hate it.

This article explores what the color orange means in psychology. It discusses how people often feel about this color as well as the psychology of the color orange.

Illustration of a person riding a bike and a cross walk

Verywell / Cindy Chung

What Does the Color Orange Mean?

How does orange make you feel? Do you associate orange with certain qualities or situations? It is important to remember that the symbolism and associations of the color orange are not universal. Cultural differences often play a role in how people relate to color.

For example, in the United States, people might associate orange with prison uniforms, while in other countries, the color is linked to royalty and spirituality.

The Meaning of Orange Is Personal

The way we see orange used in the environment plays a major role in how we feel about it. If you associate the color with pleasant autumn evenings spent with family and friends, then you will likely have strong positive associations with the color.

Orange Is Energetic

Orange is often described as an energetic color. It may call to mind feelings of enthusiasm and excitement. Because orange is a high-energy color, many sports teams use orange in their uniforms, mascots, and branding.

A 2018 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that orange was seen as an exciting color that could increase energy levels and make it more difficult to engage in difficult tasks such as studying.

Another study found that the color orange was associated with feelings of playfulness and vibrancy.

Orange Is Attention-Getting

One study found that orange is considered a highly stimulating but friendly color. It is an attention-grabbing color that tends to stand out visually, which is why it is often used for traffic signs and advertising.

Research has shown that longer-wavelength colors such as orange and red tend to induce higher levels of arousal.

Orange Is Happy

People also commonly describe the color orange as bright, happy, and joyful. Orange is the color of bright sunsets and fruits like oranges and tangerines, so many people might associate the color with the beauty of the setting sun or the refreshing taste of citrus.

Research also suggests that consumers respond to the color orange in a number of different ways. It is perceived as a playful, friendly color when used in consumer marketing and products. Shoppers also tend to associate it with more inexpensive products.

Orange Is Spiritual

The color orange is often associated with spiritual practices including meditation and compassion.

In Southeast Asia, Buddhist monks wear orange robes that symbolize simplicity and letting go of materialism. The tradition dates back thousands of years to the time of Buddha. Robes were often made using bits of unwanted cloth that were then dyed using vegetable matter and spices such as turmeric and saffron. Today, the garments are often referred to as saffron robes.

Orange Is Autumnal

Orange is also linked to autumn and the color of dying leaves and pumpkins. The color is also heavily linked to Halloween in the United States, so it can sometimes have a dark or even cartoonish association.

Psychology of the Color Orange

Orange is a combination of red and yellow. Both colors are often associated with excitement and energy, which is why orange is also often described as an energetic color.

Orange can have both positive and negative connotations, depending on the individual. On the plus side, people often associated orange with optimism, confidence, enthusiasm, warmth, and agreeableness. Because it is a bright and vivacious color, it may help people feel outgoing or even bold.

On the negative side, it may bring to mind feelings of superficiality, arrogance, or pride. Because it is often seen in nature during the Fall season, it may be associated with cold weather, melancholy, and even death.

Of course, specific shades of orange can have different associations and meanings. Bright orange is attention-grabbing, whereas peach can be soft, subtle, and calming. A warmer, burnt orange may call to mind fire and heat.

Symbolism of the Color Orange

Orange symbolized many different things to different people. Some common associations include:

How the color orange is used can impact what it symbolizes. A warm orange paired with golds and deep reds might call to mind a setting sun or the vibrant color of Autumn leaves. A drab orange paired with blacks and browns might instead bring to mind sadness, decay, and death.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What color complements orange?

    Complementary colors are those that are located directly opposite one another on the color wheel. The complementary color for orange is blue.

  • What does the color orange mean in a dream?

    The content of dreams is most often a reflection of waking life. If the color orange features prominently in your dream, it might be an indicator of something that might be on your mind. Thinking about how the color makes you feel or what imagery or memories it evokes might offer you clues about what it means.

  • Why is the color orange associated with Halloween?

    Halloween is an autumn holiday, the one time of year when the color orange is most abundant in nature. This natural association with things such as the changing of leaves, pumpkins, and fall harvest explains why orange is associated with Halloween.

3 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.
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By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."