Colour is fun and each colour communicates its own unique qualities and traits, and that personality provokes a slightly different response from each viewer. However, there are lots of theories and tests that suggest that there are some basic traits that colours have that many of us agree on. Knowing this stuff when it comes to painting your house and selecting art could be a good idea.
I love the little videos that Claudia Cortes creates on her site Color In Motion. Check it out if you are looking for a quick and fun way to get acquainted with all kinds of colour attributes, then check back with me for the recap because the info comes at you pretty quickly and it can be a lot to remember.
This information is a hybrid of a few different websites’ offerings on the subject of colour. Thanks to Little Monkey Murals, Color In Motion and Colour Affects to name a few sources for this fun stuff.
Black is all colours, totally absorbed. It creates protective barriers, as it absorbs all the energy coming towards you, and it enshrouds the personality. Black is essentially an absence of light, since no wavelengths are reflected and it can, therefore be menacing; many people are afraid of the dark. Black is the color of authority and power. It is sophisticated, elegant, dramatic and formal and gives a feeling of solid strength. It can be seen as aloof and intimidating.
Positive: Sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance.
Negative: Oppression, coldness, menace, heaviness.
Just as black is total absorption, so white is total reflection. In effect, it reflects the full force of the spectrum into our eyes. Thus it also creates barriers, but differently from black, and it is often a strain to look at. It communicates, “Touch me not!” White is purity and, like black, uncompromising; it is clean, hygienic, and sterile.
White symbolises light, triumph, innocence and joy and it gives the effect of enlarging a space and creates an atmosphere of coolness.
Positive: Hygiene, sterility, clarity, purity, cleanness, simplicity, sophistication, efficiency.
Negative: Sterility, coldness, barriers, unfriendliness, elitism.
Being the longest wavelength, red is a powerful colour. Although not technically the most visible, it has the property of appearing to be nearer than it is and therefore it grabs our attention first. It is the most emotionally intense color and stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing. Red is strong, and very basic. Pure red is the simplest colour, with no subtlety. It is stimulating and lively, very friendly. In decorating, red is usually used as an accent. It is often seen as a colour of energy, excitement and vitality. In a large space red can be welcoming, energising and invigorating or aggressive. Red in a small space can be cozy, intimate or claustrophobic. It is often used in restaurants because it increases appetite.
Positive: Physical courage, strength, warmth, energy, basic survival, ‘fight or flight’, stimulation, masculinity, excitement.
Negative: Defiance, aggression, visual impact, strain.
Since it is a combination of red and yellow, orange is stimulating and reaction to it is a combination of the physical and the emotional. It focuses our minds on issues of physical comfort – food, warmth, shelter etc. – and sensuality. It is a ‘fun’ colour.Orange is a warm colour, a social and exuberant colour and represents ripeness, warmth and happiness.
Orange promotes feelings of excitement, can make you feel vibrant, improves appetite, and enhances social interaction
Positive: Physical comfort, food, warmth, security, sensuality, passion, abundance, fun.
Negative: Deprivation, frustration, frivolity, immaturity.
The color of the sky and the ocean, blue is one of the most popular colors. Blue is the colour of truth, loyalty, serenity and harmony. It causes the opposite reaction as red. Peaceful, tranquil blue causes the body to produce calming chemicals, so it is often used in bedrooms. Strong blues will stimulate clear thought and lighter, soft blues will calm the mind and aid concentration. Consequently it is serene and mentally calming. Interestingly, researchers found that children tested higher on IQ tests in rooms with blue ceilings. Blue can also be cold and depressing. Blue symbolizes loyalty. People are more productive in blue rooms and it gives the impression of space and coolness. Studies show weightlifters are able to handle heavier weights in blue gyms. Time and again in research, blue is the world’s favourite colour. However, it can be perceived as cold, unemotional and unfriendly.
Positive: Intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty, logic, coolness, reflection, calm.
Negative: Coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion, unfriendliness.
Green strikes the eye in such a way as to require no adjustment whatever and is, therefore, restful. Being in the centre of the spectrum, it is the colour of balance. Green symbolizes nature. It is the easiest color on the eye and can improve vision. It is a calming, refreshing, restful color that aids with sleep. People waiting to appear on TV sit in “green rooms” to relax. Hospitals often use green because it relaxes patients. Dark green is masculine, conservative, and implies wealth.
Positive: Harmony, balance, refreshment, universal love, rest, restoration, reassurance, environmental awareness, equilibrium, peace.
Negative: Boredom, stagnation, blandness, enervation.
The yellow wavelength is relatively long and essentially stimulating. In this case the stimulus is emotional, therefore yellow is the strongest colour, psychologically. Cheerful sunny yellow is an attention getter. Yellow is the colour of intellect and it is used for mental stimulation. While it is considered an optimistic color, people lose their tempers more often in yellow rooms, and babies will cry more. Yellow stimulates activity and communication. It is the most difficult color for the eye to take in, so it can be overpowering if overused. Yellow enhances concentration, hence its use for legal pads. It also speeds metabolism.
Positive: Optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extraversion, emotional strength, friendliness, creativity.
Negative: Irrationality, fear, emotional fragility, depression, anxiety, suicide.
The shortest wavelength is violet, often described as purple. It takes awareness to a higher level of thought, even into the realms of spiritual values. It is highly introvertive and encourages deep contemplation, or meditation. The color of royalty, purple connotes luxury, wealth, and sophistication. Excessive use of purple can bring about too much introspection and the wrong tone of it communicates something cheap and nasty, faster than any other colour. It is also feminine and romantic. Purple is also associated with noble traits such as love, truth and justice. It is dramatic, sophisticated, sensual and imaginative
Positive: Spiritual awareness, containment, vision, luxury, authenticity, truth, quality.
Negative: Introversion, decadence, suppression, inferiority.
While red may be considered an energizing colour, pink is the most calming. For this reason the California children’s probation department found that violent children had fewer outbursts when placed in a pink room.
Being a tint of red, pink also affects us physically, but it soothes, rather than stimulates. (Interestingly, red is the only colour that has an entirely separate name for its tints. Pink is a powerful colour, psychologically. It represents the feminine principle, and survival of the species; it is nurturing and physically soothing. Too much pink is physically draining and can be somewhat emasculating.
Positive: Physical tranquillity, nurture, warmth, femininity, love, sexuality, survival of the species.
Negative: Inhibition, emotional claustrophobia, emasculation, physical weakness.
Silver is the colour of peace and persistence. Grey, like white, is regarded as restful and clean, but too much will appear stark.
Pure grey is the only colour that has no direct psychological properties. It is, however, quite suppressive. A virtual absence of colour is depressing and when the world turns grey we are instinctively conditioned to draw in and prepare for hibernation. Unless the precise tone is right, grey has a dampening effect on other colours used with it. Heavy use of grey usually indicates a lack of confidence and fear of exposure.
Positive: Psychological neutrality.
Negative: Lack of confidence, dampness, depression, hibernation, lack of energy.
Brown usually consists of red and yellow, with a large percentage of black. Consequently, it has much of the same seriousness as black, but is warmer and softer. Solid, reliable brown is the color of earth and is abundant in nature. Light brown implies genuineness while dark brown is similar to wood or leather. Brown can also be sad and wistful. Men are more apt to say brown is one of their favorite colors.
Positive: Seriousness, warmth, Nature, earthiness, reliability, support.
Negative: Lack of humour, heaviness, lack of sophistication.