The Color Psychology of Purple

Color psychology suggests that colors can have a powerful impact on our moods and even behaviors. Each color supposedly has its own effect, but the feeling that each color produces can vary based on experience and culture. Purple is one color that can lead to differing feelings, emotions, and associations.

How does the color purple make you feel? People often describe this color as mysterious, spiritual, and imaginative. Purple tends to occur rarely in nature, so it is viewed as rare and intriguing. While violet occurs naturally in the visible spectrum, purple is actually a combination of blue and red.

Color psychology of purple
Illustration by Cindy Chung, Verywell

So what are some of the most common associations people have with the color purple? Like many other colors, the feelings that the color purple evokes are often due to cultural associations.

Purple As a Royal Color

Purple is the symbol of royalty and wealth. In ancient times, creating dyes to color fabric often required a great deal of effort and expense, especially for certain colors. Because purple is less common in nature, the resources needed to create a dye in this color were much more hard to come by and much more costly.

The color purple became associated with wealth and royalty because very often the rich were the only individuals who could afford such expensive items.

During the 15th century, the city of Tyre along the coast of Ancient Phoenicia began producing purple dye by crushing the shells of a small sea snail. The resulting color became known as Tyrian purple and was so well-known it was mentioned in Homer's Iliad and Virgil's Aeneid. Alexander the Great and the kings of Egypt also wore clothing colored with the famous Tyrian purple.

This connection with royalty was not just restricted to ancient times. Purple was the color of choice for tickets to Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953. Purple also represents wisdom and spirituality. Its rare and mysterious nature perhaps causes it to seem connected to the unknown, supernatural, and divine.

In writing, the phrase 'purple prose' is sometimes used to describe writing that his extremely imaginative or even prone to exaggeration, hyperbole, or outright lies.

Purple Has Unique Associations

Visually, purple is one of the most difficult colors to discriminate. It also has the strongest electromagnetic wavelength, being just a few wavelengths up from x-rays and gamma rays. For this reason, it is often used in visual illusions such as the lilac chaser illusion.

Notice how purple is used in the image that accompanies this article. Consider how the color purple makes you feel. Do you associate purple with certain qualities or situations? How do other people feel about the color purple? Explore some of the reader responses that people have shared with us over the years.

Purple Is Regal

"I have loved purple since I was very young. I wore purple all the time in high school and now I am drawn to purple. My master bedroom has a "Deepest Grape" accent walls. The other walls are a lavender-gray. It is beautiful, elegant, and regal! I still wear a lot of purple and have to remind myself there are other colors." — Guest

Purple Is Sensual

"Purple is lush, rich, tactile, sweetly and musky aromatic. It is very evocative of sensuality. I could inhale, drink, taste, touch, envision and imagine it exploding all my senses."— Colleen Bradley

Purple Conveys Wisdom

"Purple is my second favorite color. Much like green, it has a calming effect on my mind. I love purple clothes and purple backgrounds. It gives off a sense of wisdom." — Muhammad Sumran

Purple Is Soothing

"Purples draw me in and seem to envelop me and make this serene world, this peaceful state of mind. It calms and soothes me and it's like the moon in the darkness of night. It's like it's all around you, it just draws me in. Light purples like lavender make me daydream and feel happy and calm. They are like a light mist." — Anna

Purple Is Mysterious

"Whenever I see purple, it makes me wonder about the deep, distant places of outer space and the Earth and always evokes a bit of creativity from me." — Jordan

Purple Is Exotic

Purple does not often occur in nature, it can sometimes appear exotic or artificial. For this reason, it tends to be quite a polarizing color. People tend to either really love purple or really hate it.

Purple Is Symbolic

Consider some of the symbolic uses of the color purple. In the U.S., the Purple Heart is one of the highest honors for bravery in military service.

Responses to the color purple can vary considerably from one person to the next, but many feel that the color seems royal yet mysterious.

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Article Sources
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