Psychology of Color: Red Sale Graphic - Make For Business

Psychology of Color: Red Sale Graphic

Ian Pullen
By Ian Pullen / September 13, 2016

Have you noticed how graphics for sales almost always seem to heavily use the color red?

You may not have consciously considered this, but I bet you have noticed now you think about it. It’s become a common convention. We could assume that it’s so often used because it’s become a visual shorthand for products being on sale. It’s not quite that simple though.

This is where the psychology of color becomes of interest to us. In particular, we’re going to consider why the color red is the “go to” color when creating a “Sale” graphic.

What is the psychology of color?

Put simply, because I’m a simple kind of guy, it’s the study of how different colors can affect the behavior of humans.

The premise is that different colors promote different emotional responses in human beings. For example, pink is considered to be a soothing color, so it’s perhaps no coincidence that Pepto Bismol is colored pink.

We’re more concerned with the color red right now though.

What effect does red have?

Red is a particularly powerful color that tends to grab our attention first, partly through the effect of appearing nearer to us than other colors. Traffic lights pretty much the world over take full advantage of this property of the color.

It’s stated by color theorists that the color red has a physical effect, causing the pulse to beat faster. Perhaps because of this, red colored placebo pills are reported to be more effective as a stimulant than cool colored placebo pills.

Most interestingly in the context of our sale graphic is the fact that red is a psychological cue for danger. It can effectively trigger the fight or flight response in us. This is why it’s a popular choice for sale graphics and materials. Combined with tempting savings, the intention is that readers will instinctively respond positively. Ideally their flight will be towards the sale and any fighting will be over the credit card.

How to use red in a sale graphic

I’ve used Canva to put together a few examples and have based them all on the Facebook Post template.


This combines bold text and an image that combined will hopefully grab the attention of viewers. I rotated the image and angled a red box at the bottom to make it feel a little more dynamic. Having horizontal lines throughout would have made this feel a little static and this layout naturally supports making the “50%” larger.


This demonstrates another approach, using a red colored product to complement the red text. The text has been set in a column. To achieve this in Canva, each word is applied separately and the size adjusted so they appear the same width.


You could also choose to use a purely typographic approach and completely forget about images. In this tongue in cheek example, I’ve paired a very heavy font with something a lot lighter. I would have preferred an even lighter font, to help underline the suggestion that the text is being whispered. However, at smaller sizes, lighter fonts meant the text wasn’t legible.

Give it a go

It may be tempting to break the rules when creating your graphics. However, I strongly suggest that you stick completely with some common conventions and using red for sale graphics is one of them.

People readily associate red with sale announcements, so that alone is a good reason to follow convention. Add to that the psychology that says red will more likely provoke a response from viewers, it should be a no-brainer.

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About the author

Ian Pullen

I'm a graphic designer, web developer, photography enthusiast and writer with articles and images published in print and online.

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