Color Gray: Meaning and Psychology (Negative and Positive Aspects)

He Gray in color psychology Has a meaning of boredom, antiquity and cruelty. Also reliable, mature and intelligent. Gray is any of the points of light average between the maximum light (white) and the light null (black).

It is an achromatic color, but when it has slight colorations it is said that it is a grayish color. In common speech people often say expressions such as"gray life"or"gray day".


It usually means that you are not sad or happy, but in a middle point. It is also often said that"life is not made of whites and blacks", that"there are also grays". Gray is associated, then, with neutral or impartial.

However, such fairness can make it difficult to make decisions. For this reason, some associate gray with indecision. It is important to avoid this color when you want someone to decide for something you offer. On the other hand, it would be much more useful to use it in situations where the consensus is as neutral as possible.

In this article, I will talk about the psychological meaning of gray. You will learn to use it in your favor and avoid negative associations. From how to look more professional, stable, calm and elegant, how to avoid looking indifferent, depressed, isolated or emotionless.

This, since gray, like any color, has positive and negative associations. Although in the polls of Eva Heller, creator of the color psychology , Gray was repeated as the third color less appreciated, it is still an important color for fashion, decoration and brand identity.

The starting point: the symbolism of the gray color

Color Gray: Meaning and Psychology (Negative and Positive Aspects)

Gray has deeply rooted symbolic associations in almost every culture in the world. A gray sky places most people in a similar mood, close to sadness. In fact, most gray associations are negative. Here we will talk about all of them, starting with the most common ones.

However, it should be noted that for Eva Heller's color psychology, silver has its own symbolic associations, independent of gray ones.

Gray is the color of gray hair and, therefore, of old age. This stage of life is associated with wisdom , But also to decrepitude. There is a social rejection and fear rooted in the idea of ​​aging. But there is also a respect reserved for the ancestral wisdom of the elders. The old age that inspires the gray, therefore, is full of contrasts.

It is also the color of conformity (from a negative pole) or adaptation (from a positive pole). This is because gray, unlike other colors (except perhaps brown) has no extremes of its own. Its ends are represented by other colors, which is why it is considered the color of the lack of personality, of passing unnoticed.

This is the reason that gray is conceived as the color of mediocrity and boredom. But also to be taken as the color of conciliation and impartiality. In either case, whether for mediocrity or impartiality, it is a color devoid of passion and emotionality. This, although also usually associated with sadness.

Eva Heller says that gray is"psychologically... the most difficult to ponder: it is too weak to be masculine... too threatening to be feminine." And then adds"It's not warm, not cold. It is neither spiritual nor material." For this reason he calls it"color without character".

But on the other side of this lack of emotionality, gray is also associated with gloomy feelings. Emotional states such as worry, restlessness and guilt are associated with gray. Also to the unpleasant: the anger or dislike, the unstable. Dueling, for similar reasons, is usually a state associated with this color.

Gray is also the color of bad weather and is therefore associated with bad omens, bad news, crisis. By extension, it is the color of injustice, the illegal and the secret. For example, in right is called"gray zone"to the space in which it is not known if something is punished or allowed. Criminals often take advantage of these gray areas to do their misdeeds.

Finally, gray is the color of the ruined and forgotten. A space abandoned by man is filled with dust and gray cobwebs.

An object destroyed by fire is reduced to ashes. Therefore, gray is also the color of isolation and loneliness. A cultural reference of how gray represents all this is Guernica , The famous painting by Picasso.


In short, it is clear that gray is full of negative associations in our minds. But its positive associations, though few in comparison, are enough to make sense to use this color in many situations. Now, I will talk about these more luminous aspects of this pale color.

And what are the positive aspects of gray?

Color Gray: Meaning and Psychology (Negative and Positive Aspects)

Enough has already been said about which reasons make gray a color with so few friends. But, it has already been said in these articles: each color unconsciously reflects a variety of emotions. Let us now know the positive ones.

Because gray is a color so variable according to the amount of light it has, it has different symbolic meanings. The darker and closer to the black it is, the more associated with the elegant, mysterious and dramatic. The clearer and closer to white, the more it will be associated with the soothing and the ability to avoid difficult situations.

When the camera was invented, it was only possible to create black-and-white or, similarly, grayscale images. Once color photography emerged it was feared that black and white photography would disappear, which never happened. This is because a grayscale image always looks elegant, artistic, poetic.

It is often said that gray is a lifeless color, personality, emotion or character. But, when they are united in the same composition many shades of grays, of high contrast to each other, acquires much life, personality, emotion and character. That is why a black-and-white photograph can convey the full spectrum of human emotions.

On the other hand, gray is a very welcome color in the world of work and business. According to experts, it is one of the best colors to choose during a job interview because it reflects professionalism and sophistication. All this, without distracting or intimidating.

The best thing to do, in these cases, is to balance it with another color on the tie or jewelry, other than white, black or Brown . Gray, then, especially dark, is an ideal color for corporate work, account management or financial services. Also for lawyers and people in management positions.

Gray is a conservative and serious color, which is a positive trait for many contexts. This is why it is often used a lot in the packaging of products of high rank, commonly combined with blue The golden one. The technology also takes advantage of the light gray color, but now with an opposite association: modernity.

Other positive associations towards gray are that it reflects security, confidence and modesty, to the same extent as intelligence, knowledge and wisdom. In the business world is highly valued because it is associated with discretion and self-control, in addition to high level of commitment and neatness.

Finally, gray can give a feeling of calm, stability and composure, as it is not a stimulating color. But an excess of it can return to the somewhat depressive spaces. Therefore, it is always recommended to combine it with more vivid colors. This leaves the feeling of being the starting point for positive things to come.

Not everything is negative with gray, then, as we noted. If it is known to use in the proper context and proportion, it can be very useful and welcome. Now it would be lacking to know what each of the variations of this color means. You can find out about this right at the next point.

The 13 variations of gray and its psychological meaning

In her famous research on color psychology, Eva Heller took into consideration 65 different shades of gray. On each of them analyzed what kind of emotions generated in people. In his palette of grays, we find varieties as everyday as steel gray and gray ash, along with other more atypical gray anthracite.

Then, it was defined only by 13 of these varieties, while these were the ones that, according to the research, generated more distinguishable emotions. Of these, 4 are positive emotions, 2 are neutral and the remaining 7 are negative emotions.

However, it must be taken into account that Heller's research was centered in Germany, where its political history associates gray with parties that support pensioners and elders (they are known as"the grays"). This can generate rejection in the young, by the negative associations of old age.

In any case, Germany is not the only country with negative gray political associations. Many countries have associated gray with neo-Nazi movements, fascists or right-wing dictatorships (for example, it is associated with Franco's police in Spain). So part of cultural aversion is understandable.

In either case, the table below shows the conclusions of the Eva Heller surveys on the 13 most significant gray varieties. Look carefully at each shade of gray and note what you feel or think. You may feel very similar or completely different emotions.


If your favorite color is gray, your personality is...

People who like gray, but especially those who consider it their favorite color, could have several characteristics in common in their personality. The same as those who feel rejected, but more so, those who consider it less pleasant color.

Gray suit

In principle, it is easy to assume that those who like gray will have some of the traits mentioned above, on both the positive and negative sides. And those who reject color, will have personality traits contrary to those addressed in this article, or at least different.

If you like gray a lot, the invitation is to take advantage of the list of personality traits below to analyze how much it looks like you. Remember that this is not an exact science or a theory of personality with great academic support, but it may be interesting to point out the similarities and differences that you find with you.

1. They are neutral people about different situations of life, but could become indifferent or indolent in these situations.
2. They are people who value calm and refuse chaos, even if they may prefer to isolate themselves or feel that they do not fit anywhere. In the same vein, they do not like high emotions and prefer stability and security.
3. They are practical and conservative people. They like things that are already known and that they know to work. They do not usually risk too much or leave their routines to try new things.
4. They do not like to attract attention, so they can be good camouflaging, acting in ways that may go unnoticed.
5. They can be very trustworthy, discreet, quiet and peaceful people, so they can be the ideal candidates to trust you with secrets or to ask you for help in difficult situations. This despite his dislike of chaos.
6. They are hardworking and constant people, who do not distract or delay the beginning of their tasks, and do not stop until they are completed. They will always have a high commitment and loyalty for the works in which they participate.
7. At the opposite pole, they may be undecided and untrustworthy people, so that they can sometimes shift from one point of view to another, either by pleasing others or by not being able to make a decision.

Those would be roughly some of the traits of people who like gray. But if what happens is that you dislike this color, then your personality has other characteristics. The most common is that your personality has elements contrary to those in the list above. But let's look at it with a little more detail.

If you do not like gray, you can be a person who prefers to go wrong rather than go unnoticed, to be positively or negatively excited by the things of their daily life, to make it impossible for them not to take sides or express their opinion in a situation, or to remain silent Or look indifferent to an injustice, even at the cost of your own tranquility.

All this has allowed you to trust in yourself and your decision-making capacity. That is why, in your search for happiness, you know the steps to follow to achieve what you want and persecutes them. It can help you that you are a person who seeks stimulation and rejects the routine.

Thus, we already have clear all that implies the color gray, cultural, symbolic and personally.

It is up to you to make the most of the different challenges of your daily life. Therefore, the invitation is to put a little gray to your life, always with balance and contrast.


  1. Heller, E. (2000). Wie Farben auf Gefühl und Verstand Wirken. Droemer, Munich.

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