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The Psychology of Colour

Updated on November 6, 2008

How colour influences interiors and mood.

 

White light is composed of many colours. If you remember from science class way back when, white light is composed of many colours that can be seen when a beam of light is passed through a prism. The colours of the rainbow separate because each colour has a different wavelength: red has the longest wavelength and the slowest frequency, violet has the shortest wavelength and the fastest frequency.

The notion that light is energy and that different colours therefore have different energy is central to practises such as feng shui and colour therapy which aim to use colour in many ways to enhance well being.

So while we may all agree that colour can have a strong effect on perceptions, feelings and interactions not everyone will agree what those effects are. Different colours can have different meanings in different cultures.

Some people feel warm colours like orange are cosy others may say oppressive, some may say red is vibrant others say garish.

Different colours evoke different memories and therefore emotions in individuals so when choosing colours you have to go with your gut.

This hub aims to look at the ‘Psychology' of colour in very loose way probably better called ‘popular connotations of colour' but that is not very catchy!

Red

Perhaps the warmest of warm colours red is considered a very passionate colour the colour of love hearts, romantic roses and blood!! It is the colour newborn infants immature eyes are most drawn to. It is an emotionally intense colour, strong, bold and brave. It is used to denote determination, desire and courage. Red can be considered confrontational and intimidating but is also well know to stimulate appetite as it makes food particularly meat look appetising.

Red is a good choice for anyone who wants to bring heat, intensity and passion to their surroundings. But you don't have to use it lavishly

Where

It works well in the boudoir and dining rooms. If you're favourite room cannot cope with your favourite colour (it is the strongest advancing colour), consider related shades such as pinks or terracotta. It is often considered the most powerful colour in an interior designer's palette.

Red

Yellow

 

Yellow is a powerful eye fatiguing colour. It is uncompromisingly happy, raising the spirits and projecting energy, liveliness, joy and comfort and intellect. Just think of the effect of a warm sunny bright day. It is the brightest colour in the spectrum, so not surprisingly it is know to speed up the metabolism and cause insomnia.

It can make rooms light and vibrant, whether you choose the most pure yellow you can find or warmer shades of saffron, deep ochre or cooler tints of lemon or pale butter you will fill the room with sunshine.

Where

Works well in poorly lit rooms or hallways. Consider warmer shades (think egg yolk ochre or butter) for north facing rooms. They receive quite a cold light from the sun and could do with a boost of warmth.

yellow

gentle shades of yellow lime and cream
gentle shades of yellow lime and cream

Orange

Almost as warm and advancing as red, orange radiates enthusiasm, cheerfulness, affordability, stimulation and creativity. It imbues natural warmth and is also thought to stimulate appetite.

Where

It works well in living rooms and family rooms.

Orange

Blue

Blue is easy on the eyes. It is uplifting and relaxing at the same time, thinks blue sky. It is often thought of as a cold colour but the tranquillity of pale blue can imbue a sense of space and peace. It is also considered to have depth, stability and professionalism, think of all the blue/navy uniforms you have seen. It is relaxing, has honour and trust but can also be considered passive and cold. Blue is thought to be a natural appetite suppressant.

Where

It is good in bedrooms and bathrooms perhaps not in dining rooms unless you wish to eat less!!

Blue in nature

Cornflower blue
Cornflower blue

Green

Think nature, green is mother natures Hallmark, signifying life, freshness and harmony. ‘Going green' these days implies a return to natural processes and a greater respect for natures balances. Green is therefore considered durable reliable honest safe harmonious and fresh. Lighter shades will bring the notion of newness like spring buds. Calmer shades such as sage and olive bring an easygoing calm to an area. Green is thought to have a calming effect on the central nervous system and even help vision as it is gentle on the eyes.

Where

Use lighter shades in bedrooms, offices, living rooms and bathrooms. Use mid tones for kitchens and living rooms.

Shades of green

 Artichoke
Artichoke

Purple

Purple is the colour of magic and royalty, wealth, passion and power. It is also considered artistic, feminine and romantic. It is said to stimulate creativity. From deep regal purple to soft mauve this colour offers many decorating possibilities. Violet has the shortest wavelength and children are said to respond well to violet.

Where to use

Works well in dining rooms, bedrooms and libraries.

Purple

Brown

 

Brown is considered solid and reliable, casual, earthy, stable and reassuring and perhaps..... boring?

Where to use

It works well in lighter shades in bedrooms bathrooms kitchens and conservatories

Brown

Black

Black can have a range of negative associations linked with evil, depression and mourning. Black is also the colour of authority, (think judge's robes), elegance, sophistication, formality and power and mystery ( think magicians robes).

Although not strictly a colour touches of pure black (it is more an absence of and colour or light) can be used to accent or set off other colours in the room

Where to use

It works well to define spaces and as an accent colour Too much use can be considered morbid and draining. The classic combination of black and white can be used to create clean simple lines however overuse can seem very masculine and functional.

Black

Grey

Grey is considered conservative traditional intelligent and serious. Used artiscally it can be very stylish and unexpected

Where

Works well in bathrooms living rooms and kitchens

White

White reflects light and is therefore an excellent base colour. It is associated with cleanliness purity sophistication and simplicity, peace and innocence.

It can be used to add space but can be very uninviting and cold.

Where to use

It works well in every room and can be very useful. When deciding a colour scheme for a new home or space it can be a good idea to start with a white base as you watch how light falls around your home/office etc and see how rooms are actually used over time.

White in nature

Comments

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    • Liz Goltra profile image

      Liz Goltra 

      7 years ago

      Great article. Voted up! Loved the photos.

    • Jenny L profile image

      Jenny L 

      8 years ago

      color is an important element for making things happen...i strongly believe in this...great information...great to read a quality hub!

    • ledimi profile image

      ledimi 

      8 years ago from Texas

      colors are nice i love every color. I don't think that play with my mood Everyone is different and each color can affect a person differently with the same color.

      if you are your house with all walls painted in white it's depressing. If you put a white light people are happier and work better (maybe because we have the spectrum in the light but not in the paint). that's my point of view, everyone has his own opinion.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Tony T 

      10 years ago from London UK

      The link above "yours" is broken:( not to worry, as my one is ok:)

      Thanks for passing by my hub!

    • compu-smart profile image

      Tony T 

      10 years ago from London UK

      The link above "yours" is broken:( not to worry, as my one is ok:)

      Thanks for passing by my hub!

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      10 years ago from India

      You're welcome :) They really are a visual treat!

    • cflynn profile imageAUTHOR

      cflynn 

      10 years ago from Ireland

      Oh Thank you Shalini, my husband takes the praise for the pics! He says thanks too.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      10 years ago from India

      Great hub and incredibly beautiful pics! You obviously have a good eye for colour!

    • cflynn profile imageAUTHOR

      cflynn 

      10 years ago from Ireland

      Hi Johnny

      Sure Culture is huge so is plain old life experience ...that's why i said i was just exploring it loosley....popular connotations of colour is all it is really. I imagine you could do a page/hub per race/culture if you had the time! I would start with the Indian view they have such amazing use of vibrant colour in their festivals ....

      alternativly you can take compusmarts view!!!!

      https://hubpages.com/hub/The-Worlds-Sexiest-Ba

    • JonnyH profile image

      JonnyH 

      10 years ago from London

      I wonder what your view is of the effect of culture on all this. Some of it is psychology and physics, but another part is cultural. I'd be interested to hear from a Chinese or Indian, African or Innuit person which bits of this don't ring true for them.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Tony T 

      10 years ago from London UK

      I love this hub!!

      I must and need more color as i am now living in a black n white word, which is the reason why i dont feel very colorfull.

      Please come over to this hub and backlink too;) I think they would very much compliment each hub:)

      https://hubpages.com/hub/The-Worlds-Sexiest-Babes-...

    • funnebone profile image

      funnebone 

      10 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

      Very nice...and they laugh when I paint my toenails blue....but my footbaall helmet was red...not sure what they were laughing at

    • profile image

      jg_587 

      10 years ago

      amazing photos! congrats!

    • cflynn profile imageAUTHOR

      cflynn 

      10 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks Steph

      that means a lot to a newb like me from a pro like you!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Beautiful hub - I can't believe I have only just discovered it. Steph

    • cflynn profile imageAUTHOR

      cflynn 

      10 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks cthomas

      My husband is a photographer and cameraman so all but the red rose are his pics. Hard to get them from him sometimes until i threaten to use istock!!

      I think all the opinions about colour are good to know... even if they don't help you choose colour at least you can back up your choices if someone questions them.

      Caitriona

    • profile image

      cthomas 

      10 years ago

      Interesting article and the pictures are breathtaking, great job.

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