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White Color Psychology

Updated on September 1, 2017
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I love color! What's life without some good colors to brighten it up?

A white flower always imparts a sense of simplicity to a photograph.
A white flower always imparts a sense of simplicity to a photograph. | Source

What does white feel like to you?

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White is a perfectly balanced color, being clear and natural in its influence.

Although typically considered a cool color, white-like tones of ivory or cream can help warm up a chilly or vaulted space while brightening it up because of the lack of natural lighting. In storage areas (and this comes as no surprise), white is the best color choice... removing distractions and shadows by employing the brightest "color" makes a lot of sense.

Because of these reasons, white works especially well in packaging, signage, or other usages where it needs to catch the eye.

White and black signage is one of the clearest to read.
White and black signage is one of the clearest to read. | Source

Modern American Color Associations

General Appearance
Mental Associations
Direct Associations
Objective Impressions
Subjective Impressions
Spatial - light
Cool, snow
Pure, clean, frank, youthful
Brightness of spirit, normality

Table data from "Color Psychology and Color Therapy" by Faber Birren, color specialist and researcher.

White Space is Not Your Enemy: A Beginner's Guide to Communicating Visually through Graphic, Web and Multimedia Design
White Space is Not Your Enemy: A Beginner's Guide to Communicating Visually through Graphic, Web and Multimedia Design
Understanding the use of white space in graphics is invaluable when it comes to good design.

Using White in Marketing

White imparts products with a sense of directness, simplicity, and immaculate purity. So, for baby products or merchandise involving personal hygiene or one's health, white is the perfect way to get that message across.

White can also bring up a mental image of sterility and cleanliness, which is another reason why it is used for products for infants.

When white is used in print, however, the stark and sharp impression can give way to a generic, "no-frills" look if it is not gussied up with either some type of texture or graphics.

White as Silver

If one were to add a metallic sheen to white, the result would be silver. Words that describe silver are:

  • classic
  • cool
  • expensive
  • money
  • valuable
  • futuristic

The Feelings of White

Other words that describe white include :

  • innocent
  • silent
  • lightweight
  • airy
  • glistening

These (and the ones describing silver) are exciting words to describe color, and they give the person who views these colors hope and a sense of clarity, which is certainly important to have.

Fiesta 10-1/2-Inch Dinner Plate, White
Fiesta 10-1/2-Inch Dinner Plate, White
Serve your meals on these white plates and enjoy your food even more.

Decorating with White

A vast expanse of white in general usage can create a plain of starkness -- without warmth or a sense of welcome. But who wants to live in a plain white room?

When decorating with white, add your favorite color to break up that vastness. It doesn't have to be a bright shade; even opaque curtains or pale pillows can soften the harsh glare of an all-white space.

If you want to keep the space cool, add blue, green, or purple; to warm up a room, choose yellow, orange, or the warmest color of all... red. A "pop" of color can make or break the decor of a room.

Or, employ off-white tones to warm up the place... a creamy white is just right for a dining area as food will reflect its true essence in a bright, clean place. Alternatively, a sugary or vanilla white color can suggest light, pleasant flavors and scents.

White represents purity.
White represents purity. | Source

Facts About White

  • In ancient heraldry, white represents faith and purity
  • White (and black) are standard for traffic control
  • Corners and baseboards painted in white may be used to discourage littering
  • Food looks more appetizing on a white plate as its colors appear more true
  • White and black are the colors that attract babies' attention because of the extreme contrast of the two.


Amber, Reuben, Color Therapy. Aurora Press, New York, 1983.

Birren, Faber, Color Psychology and Color Therapy. Citadel Publishing, New York, 1950


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