The Power of Colour
Colour can calm, soothe, embolden and empower. Colour can affect our emotional state, and when it comes to designing the interior of your home can be used as a great tool to create a mood.
The science of colour is found in light, it is the refraction of white light. Refraction causes light to separate into wavelengths and each wavelength is perceived as a separate colour. Objects tend to absorb or reflect these wavelengths, so when we see a yellow lemon, for example, it is the yellow wavelength that is being reflected while all others are being absorbed. So, what is it about colour that evokes an emotional response from these wavelengths of light?
How or what we feel about it varies from person to person. Some colours give us a sense of serenity and calm; these usually lie within the cool spectrum – blue, green and purple hues. While the warm spectrum – red, orange and yellow hues can make us excited, passionate or angry. Keep in mind that colour perception is subjective, and while certain colours have a very universal significance many interpret and respond to colour differently.
If you are looking to evoke a very particular emotion or create a certain atmosphere in a room take a look at the psychology and colour theory charts below to understand both the positive and negative emotions that one could feel when enveloped in particular colours.
Positive: Physical courage, strength, warmth, energy, survival, stimulation, masculinity, excitement.
Negative: Defiance, aggression, visual impact, strain.
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. Hence its effectiveness in traffic lights the world over. Its effect is physical; it stimulates us and raises the pulse rate, giving the impression that time is passing faster than it is. It is stimulating and lively, very friendly while at the same time, could be perceived as demanding and aggressive.
Positive: Intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty, logic, reflection, calm.
Negative: Coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion, unfriendliness.
Blue is the colour of the mind and is essentially soothing; it affects us mentally, rather than physically. Strong blues will stimulate clear thought and lighter, soft blues will calm the mind and aid concentration. Consequently, it is serene and mentally calming. It is the colour of clear communication. Blue objects do not appear to be as close to us as red ones. Time and again in research, blue is the world's favourite colour. However, it can be perceived as cold, unemotional and unfriendly.
Positive: Optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extraversion, emotional strength, friendliness, creativity.
Negative: Irrationality, fear, emotional fragility, depression, anxiety.
The yellow wavelength is relatively long and essentially stimulating. In this case the stimulus is emotional, therefore yellow is the strongest colour, psychologically. The right yellow will lift our spirits and our self-esteem; it is the colour of confidence and optimism. Too much of it, or the wrong tone in relation to the other tones in a colour scheme, can cause self-esteem to plummet, giving rise to fear and anxiety.
Positive: Harmony, balance, refreshment, universal love, rest, restoration, reassurance, peace.
Negative: Boredom, stagnation, blandness, enervation.
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 - a more important concept than many people realise. When the world about us contains plenty of green, this indicates the presence of water, and little danger of famine, so we are reassured by green, on a primitive level. Negatively, it can indicate stagnation and, incorrectly used, will be perceived as being too bland.
Positive: Spiritual awareness, containment, vision, luxury, authenticity, truth, quality.
Negative:Introversion, decadence, suppression, inferiority.
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. It has associations with royalty and usually communicates the finest possible quality. Being the last visible wavelength before the ultra-violet ray, it has associations with time and space and the cosmos. Excessive use of purple can bring about too much introspection and the wrong tone of it communicates something cheap.
Positive: Physical comfort, food, warmth, security, sensuality, passion, abundance, fun.
Negative: Deprivation, frustration, frivolity, immaturity.
Since it is a combination of red and yellow, orange is stimulating and one’s reaction to it is both physical and emotional. It focuses our minds on issues of physical comfort - food, warmth, shelter etc. - and sensuality. It is a 'fun' colour. Negatively, it might focus on the exact opposite - deprivation. This is particularly likely when warm orange is used with black. Equally, too much orange suggests frivolity and a lack of serious intellectual values.
Positive: Physical tranquillity, nurture, warmth, femininity, love, sexuality.
Negative:Inhibition, emotional claustrophobia, physical weakness.
Being a tint of red, pink also affects us physically, but it soothes, rather than stimulates. Pink is a powerful colour, psychologically. It represents the feminine principle, it is nurturing and physically soothing. Too much pink is physically draining.
Negative: Lack of confidence, dampness, depression, hibernation, lack of energy.
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: Sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance.
Negative:Oppression, coldness, menace, heaviness.
Black is all colours, totally absorbed. 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. Positively, it communicates absolute clarity, with no fine nuances. It communicates sophistication and uncompromising excellence and it works particularly well with white. Black creates a perception of weight and seriousness.
Positive: Hygiene, sterility, clarity, purity, cleanness, simplicity, sophistication, efficiency.
Negative: Sterility, coldness, barriers, unfriendliness, elitism.
Just as black is total absorption, white is total reflection. In effect, it reflects the full force of the spectrum into our eyes. White is purity and, like black, uncompromising; it is clean, hygienic, and sterile. The concept of sterility can also be negative. Visually, white gives a heightened perception of space. The negative effect of white on warm colours is to make them look and feel garish.
Positive: Seriousness, warmth, Nature, earthiness, reliability, support.
Negative:Lack of humour, heaviness, lack of sophistication.
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. It has elements of the red and yellow properties. Brown has associations with the earth and the natural world. It is a solid, reliable colour and most people find it quietly supportive.