“COLOUR INTERACTION AND DYNAMICS”
PRASHANT S. TRIPATHI
M.E. (MANUFACTURING SYSTEM ENGINEERING)
TABLE OF CONTENT
Sr. No. Title Page No.
1. Introduction 1
1.1 What is colour? 1
1.2 Why study colour theory? 1
1.3 Communicating colour 2
1.4 Colour Application 2
2. Historical Background 3
3. Colour Basics 6
4. Colour Harmony 8
5. Colour Systems 10
5.1 Subtractive Colour 10
5.2 Additive color 11
5.3 Working with systems 12
6. Colour Wheel 13
6.1 Colour Terminology 14
6.2 Active and Passive colours 16
6.3 Colour Relationships/Schemes 17
7. Complementary Colours 18
7.1 Visual Illusions 19
7.2 Perceptual Opposites 19
8. Colour Combinations/Schemes 20
9. Colour & Contrast 23
9.1 Simultaneous contrast 23
9.2 Colourblind defenciencies 24
10. Colour Psychology 25
10.1 What is color psychology? 25
10.2 Psychological properties of colour 26
11. Colour preferences by gender 33
12. Colour Therapy 37
12.1 Introduction to color therapy 37
12.2 History of colour therapy 38
13. Conclusion 39
1.1 What is Color?
As most of you know, color is light and energy. Color is visible because it reflects, bends, and
refracts through all kinds of particles, molecules and objects. There are a variety of wavelengths
that light can be categorized, producing different types of light. Visible wavelengths fall
approximately in the 390 to 750 nanometre range and is known as the visible spectrum. Other
wavelengths and frequencies are associated with non-visible light such as x-rays & ultraviolet
rays. Most people are aware of the effects of non-visible light, so it makes sense that visible light
would also affect us.
One example of the way light can affect us is a mild form of depression known as Seasonal
Affective Disorder (SAD), which causes many people suffering during winters.In the visual arts,
color theory is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual effects of a specific
color combination. There are also definitions (or categories) of colors based on the color wheel:
primary color, secondary color and tertiary color. Although color theory principles first appeared in the
writings of Leone Battista Alberti (c.1435) and the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (c.1490), a tradition
of "colory theory" began in the 18th century, initially within a partisan controversy around Isaac
Newton's theory of color (Opticks, 1704) and the nature of primary colors. From there it developed
as an independent artistic tradition with only superficial reference to colorimetry and vision science.
1.2 Why study color theory?
If you are involved in the creation or design of visual documents, an understanding of color will
help when incorporating it into your own designs. Choices regarding color often seem rather
mystical, as many seem to base decisions on nothing other than "it looks right." Although often
told I had an eye for color, the reason why some colors worked together while others did not
always intrigued me and I found the study of color theory fascinating.
While attending the University of Minnesota I enrolled in almost every course I could from
different departments: graphic design, interior design, and fine arts. During my studies, I learned
that there were 2 main reasons why scholars investigated color—the first involved the
communication of colors; the other involved the application of color.
1.3 Communicating color
What is red? Candy apple red, blood red, catsup red, rose red... to try and communicate a
specific hue is difficult without some sort of coding system. Early in the 1900's, Albert Munsell,
a professor at an art school in Boston developed a color system which offered a means to name
colors. With a published system, people could be specific about which red they were referring.
Munsell's system has been reworked for today's use with the Pantone color system,
TRUEMATCH, CIE systems and others.
Pantone Warm Red
1.4 Color Application
With respect to the arts, color was part of the realistic, visual representation of form, but
one group of painters abandoned the traditional practices regarding color in painting. This group
of artists were influenced by Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin. Led by Henri Matisse, they were
known as the Fauves, or "the wild beasts." Their exuberant use of brilliant hues seem to disregard
. Whereas other artists had used color as the description of an object, the Fauves
let color become the subject of their painting. A painting in the "Fauvist Manner" was one that
related color shapes; rather than unifying a design with line, compositions sought an
expressiveness within the relationships of the whole. This turn from tradition brought an integrity
to color in that color was regarded on its own merit.
2. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Color theory was originally formulated in terms of three "primary" or "primitive" colors—
red, yellow and blue (RYB)—because these colors were believed capable of mixing all other
colors. This color mixing behavior had long been known to printers, dyers and painters, but these
trades preferred pure pigments to primary color mixtures, because the mixtures were too dull
Fig 2.1:- Goethe's color wheel from his 1810 Theory of Colours
The RYB primary colors became the foundation of 18th century theories of color vision,
as the fundamental sensory qualities that are blended in the perception of all physical colors and
equally in the physical mixture of pigments or dyes. These theories were enhanced by 18th-
century investigations of a variety of purely psychological color effects, in particular the contrast
between "complementary" or opposing hues that are produced by color afterimages and in the
contrasting shadows in colored light. These ideas and many personal color observations were
summarized in two founding documents in color theory: the Theory of Colours (1810) by the
German poet and government minister Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and The Law of
Simultaneous Color Contrast (1839) by the French industrial chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul.
Subsequently, German and English scientists established in the late 19th century that color
perception is best described in terms of a different set of primary colors—red, green and blue
violet (RGB)—modeled through the additive mixture of three monochromatic lights. Subsequent
research anchored these primary colors in the differing responses to light by three types of color
receptors or cones in the retina (trichromacy). On this basis the quantitative description of color
mixture or colorimetry developed in the early 20th century, along with a series of increasingly
sophisticated models of color space and color perception, such as the opponent process theory.
Fig 2.2 :- Newton's color circle (1704) displayed seven colors.
Newton declared that colors opposite each other had the strongest contrast and harmony.Across the same
period, industrial chemistry radically expanded the color range of lightfast synthetic pigments,
allowing for substantially improved saturation in color mixtures of dyes, paints and inks. It also
created the dyes and chemical processes necessary for color photography. As a result, three-color
printing became aesthetically and economically feasible in mass printed media, and the artists'
color theory was adapted to primary colors most effective in inks or photographic dyes: cyan,
magenta, and yellow (CMY). (In printing, dark colors are supplemented by a black ink, known
as the CMYK system; in both printing and photography, white is provided by the color of the
paper.) These CMY primary colors were reconciled with the RGB primaries, and subtractive
color mixing with additive color mixing, by defining the CMY primaries as substances that
absorbed only one of the retinal primary colors: cyan absorbs only red (−R+G+B), magenta only
green (+R−G+B), and yellow only blue violet (+R+G−B). It is important to add that the CMYK,
or process, color printing is meant as an economical way of producing a wide range of colors for
printing, but is deficient in reproducing certain colors, notably orange and slightly deficient in
reproducing purples. A wider range of color can be obtained with the addition of other colors to
the printing process, such as in Pantone's Hexachrome printing ink system (six colors), among
Fig 2.2:- Munsell's color system represented as a three-dimensional solid showing all three
color making attributes: lightness, saturation and hue.
For much of the 19th century artistic color theory either lagged behind scientific
understanding or was augmented by science books written for the lay public, in particular Modern
Chromatics (1879) by the American physicist Ogden Rood, and early color atlases developed by
Albert Munsell (Munsell Book of Color, 1915, see Munsell color system) and Wilhelm Ostwald
(Color Atlas, 1919). Major advances were made in the early 20th century by artists teaching or
associated with the German Bauhaus, in particular Wassily Kandinsky, Johannes Itten, Faber
Birren and Josef Albers, whose writings mix speculation with an empirical or demonstration-
based study of color design principles.
3. COLOR BASICS
Color is the perceptual characteristic of light described by a color name. Specifically,
color is light, and light is composed of many colors—those we see are the colors of the visual
spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Objects absorb certain wavelengths and
reflect others back to the viewer. We perceive these wavelengths as color.
3.1 Describing Colors
A color is described in three ways: by its name, how pure or desaturated it is, and its value
or lightness. Although pink, crimson, and brick are all variations of the color red, each hue is
distinct and differentiated by its chroma, saturation, intensity, and value.Chroma, intensity,
saturation and luminance/value are inter-related terms and have to do with the description of a
Chroma: How pure a hue is in relation to gray.
Saturation: The degree of purity of a hue.
Intensity: The brightness or dullness of a hue. One may lower the intensity by adding white or
Luminance / Value: A measure of the amount of light reflected from a hue. Those hues with a
high content of white have a higher luminance or value.
Shade and tint are terms that refer to a variation of a hue.
Shade: A hue produced by the addition of black.
Tint: A hue produced by the addition of white
Tints and shades-
When mixing colored light (additive color models), the achromatic mixture of spectrally
balanced red, green and blue (RGB) is always white, not gray or black. When we mix colorants,
such as the pigments in paint mixtures, a color is produced which is always darker and lower in
chroma, or saturation, than the parent colors. This moves the mixed color toward a neutral color—
a gray or near-black. Lights are made brighter or dimmer by adjusting their brightness, or energy
level; in painting, lightness is adjusted through mixture with white, black or a color's complement.
It is common among some painters to darken a paint color by adding black paint—producing
colors called shades—or lighten a color by adding white—producing colors called tints. However
it is not always the best way for representational painting, as an unfortunate result is for colors to
also shift in hue. For instance, darkening a color by adding black can cause colors such as yellows,
reds and oranges, to shift toward the greenish or bluish part of the spectrum. Lightening a color
by adding white can cause a shift towards blue when mixed with reds and oranges. Another
practice when darkening a color is to use its opposite, or complementary, color (e.g. purplish-red
added to yellowish-green) in order to neutralize it without a shift in hue, and darken it if the
additive color is darker than the parent color. When lightening a color this hue shift can be
corrected with the addition of a small amount of an adjacent color to bring the hue of the mixture
back in line with the parent color (e.g. adding a small amount of orange to a mixture of red and
white will correct the tendency of this mixture to shift slightly towards the blue end of the
4. COLOR HARMONY
It has been suggested that "Colors seen together to produce a pleasing affective response
are said to be in harmony".
However, color harmony is a complex notion because human
responses to color are both affective and cognitive, involving emotional response and judgement.
Hence, our responses to color and the notion of color harmony is open to the influence of a range
of different factors. These factors include individual differences (such as age, gender, personal
preference, affective state, etc.) as well as cultural, sub-cultural and socially-based differences
which gives rise to conditioning and learned responses about color. In addition, context always
has an influence on responses about color and the notion of color harmony, and this concept is
also influenced by temporal factors (such as changing trends) and perceptual factors (such as
simultaneous contrast) which may impinge on human response to color. The following conceptual
model illustrates this 21st century approach to color harmony:
Wherein color harmony is a function (f) of the interaction between color/s (Col 1, 2, 3, …,
n) and the factors that influence positive aesthetic response to color: individual differences (ID)
such as age, gender, personality and affective state; cultural experiences (CE), the prevailing
context (CX) which includes setting and ambient lighting; intervening perceptual effects (P) and
the effects of time (T) in terms of prevailing social trends.
In addition, given that humans can perceive over 2.8 million different hues,
it has been
suggested that the number of possible color combinations is virtually infinite thereby implying
that predictive color harmony formulae are fundamentally unsound.
Despite this, many color
theorists have devised formulae, principles or guidelines for color combination with the aim being
to predict or specify positive aesthetic response or "color harmony". Color wheel models have
often been used as a basis for color combination principles or guidelines and for defining
relationships between colors. Some theorists and artists believe juxtapositions of complementary
color will produce strong contrast, a sense of visual tension as well as "color harmony"; while
others believe juxtapositions of analogous colors will elicit positive aesthetic response. Color
combination guidelines suggest that colors next to each other on the color wheel model
(analogous colors) tend to produce a single-hued or monochromatic color experience and some
theorists also refer to these as "simple harmonies". In addition, split complementary color
schemes usually depict a modified complementary pair, with instead of the "true" second color
being chosen, a range of analogous hues around it are chosen, i.e. the split complements of red
are blue-green and yellow-green. A triadic color scheme adopts any three colors approximately
equidistant around a color wheel model. Feisner and Mahnke are among a number of authors who
provide color combination guidelines in greater detail.
Color combination formulae and principles may provide some guidance but have limited
practical application. This is because of the influence of contextual, perceptual and temporal
factors which will influence how color/s are perceived in any given situation, setting or context.
Such formulae and principles may be useful in fashion, interior and graphic design, but much
depends on the tastes, lifestyle and cultural norms of the viewer or consumer.
As early as the ancient Greek philosophers, many theorists have devised color associations
and linked particular connotative meanings to specific colors. However, connotative color
associations and color symbolism tends to be culture-bound and may also vary across different
contexts and circumstances. For example, red has many different connotative and symbolic
meanings from exciting, arousing, sensual, romantic and feminine; to a symbol of good luck; and
also acts as a signal of danger. Such color associations tend to be learned and do not necessarily
hold irrespective of individual and cultural differences or contextual, temporal or perceptual
It is important to note that while color symbolism and color associations exist, their
existence does not provide evidential support for color psychology or claims that color has
5. COLOR SYSTEMS
Available color systems are dependent on the medium with which a designer is working.
When painting, an artist has a variety of paints to choose from, and mixed colors are achieved
through the subtractive color method. When a designer is utilizing the computer to generate digital
media, colors are achieved with the additive color method.
4.1 Subtractive Color
When we mix colors using paint, or through the printing process, we are using the
subtractive color method. Subtractive color mixing means that one begins with white and ends
with black; as one adds color, the result gets darker and tends to black.
• The CMYK color system is the color system used for
• Those colors used in painting - an example of the
subtractive color method.
4.2 Additive Color
If we are working on a computer, the colors we see on the screen are created with light
using the additive color method. Additive color mixing begins with black and ends with white;
as more color is added, the result is lighter and tends to white.
4.3 Working With Systems
• The RGB colors are light primaries and colors are created
• Percentages of red, green, & blue light are used to
generate color on a computer screen.
6. COLOR WHEEL
A color wheel (also referred to as a color circle) is a visual representation of colors arranged
according to their chromatic relationship. Begin a color wheel by positioning primary hues
equidistant from one another, then create a bridge between primaries using secondary and tertiary
colors. The color wheel or color circle is the basic tool for combining colors. The first circular
color diagram was designed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666.
The color wheel is designed so that virtually any colors you pick from it will look good
together. Over the years, many variations of the basic design have been made, but the most
common version is a wheel of 12 colors based on the RYB (or artistic) color model.
Traditionally, there are a number of color combinations that are considered especially
pleasing. These are called color harmonies or color chords and they consist of two or more colors
with a fixed relation in the color wheel.
5.1 Color Terminology
• Primary Colors: Colors at their basic essence; those colors
that cannot be created by mixing others.
• Secondary Colors : Those colors achieved by a mixture of
• Tertiary Colors : Those colors achieved by a mixture of
primary and secondary hues.
• Complementary Colors : Those colors located opposite
each other on a color wheel.
5.2 Active & Passive Colors
The color wheel can be divided into ranges that are visually active or passive. Active
colors will appear to advance when placed against passive hues. Passive colors appear to recede
when positioned against active hues.
• Advancing hues are most often thought to have less visual weight than the receding hues.
• Most often warm, saturated, light value hues are "active" and visually advance.
• Cool, low saturated, dark value hues are "passive" and visually recede.
• Analogous Colors : Those colors located close together on a
• Tints or hues with a low saturation appear lighter than shades or highly saturated colors.
• Some colors remain visually neutral or indifferent.
5.3 Color relationships
Color relationships may be displayed as a color wheel or a color triangle.
• The Painter's color triangle consists of colors we would
often use in art class—those colors we learn about as children.
The primary hues are red, blue and yellow.
• The Printers' color triangle is the set of colors used in the
printing process. The primaries are magenta, cyan, and
We look at a color wheel to understand the relationships between colors. Analogous colors
are positioned in such a way as to mimic the process that occurs when blending hues. The colors
that are positioned opposite one another are complementary colors.
• Nine-part harmonic triangle of Goethe begins with the
printer's primaries; the secondaries formed are the painter's
primaries; and the resulting tertiaries formed are dark
To call those hues in direct opposition to each other "complements of each other" is
appropriate. Complementary colors bring out the best in each other. When fully saturated
complements are brought together, interesting effects are noticeable. This may be a desirable
illusion, or a problem if creating visuals that are to be read.
6.1 Visual Illusions
Notice the illusion of highlighted edges and raised text. This may occur when opposing
colors are brought together.
6.2 Perceptual Opposites
We learn from the relationships displayed by a color wheel that every color has an
opposite. Every color has both a color wheel opposite as well as a perceptual opposite. Without a
color wheel, it is still possible to find the opposite of a color and this is due to a phenomenon of
our eyes. Due to the physiological differences between individuals, everyone's perceptions do
vary—the complements shown below are my own perceived opposites:
8. COLOR COMBINATIONS
Color combinations/schemes may pass unnoticed when pleasing, yet offend dramatically
when compositions seem to clash. One outcome we seek in the final form or composition, is a
successful use of color.
We determine whether or not we are successful by critically assessing the visual balance
and harmony of the final composition—balance and harmony are achieved by the visual contrast
that exists between color combinations. Planning a successful color combination begins with the
investigation, and understanding, of color relationships.
Using a color wheel and a template, the relationships between colors are easy to identify.
• Monochromatic Relationship - Colors that are shade or tint
variations of the same hue. Monochromatic colors are all the
colors (tints, tones, and shades) of a single hue.
Monochromatic color schemes are derived from a single base
hue, and extended using its shades, tones and tints (that is, a
hue modified by the addition of black, gray (black + white) and
white. As a result, the energy is more subtle and peaceful due
to a lack of contrast of hue.
• Complementary Relationship - Those colors across from
each other on a color wheel. For the mixing of colored light,
Newton's color wheel is often used to describe complementary
colors, which are colors which cancel each other's hue to
produce an achromatic (white, gray or black) light mixture.
Newton offered as a conjecture that colors exactly opposite one
another on the hue circle cancel out each other's hue; this
concept was demonstrated more thoroughly in the 19th century.
A key assumption in Newton's hue circle was that the "fiery" or maximum saturated hues
are located on the outer circumference of the circle, while achromatic white is at the center.
Then the saturation of the mixture of two spectral hues was predicted by the straight line
between them; the mixture of three colors was predicted by the "center of gravity" or
centroid of three triangle points, and so on.
• Split-Complementary Relationship - One hue plus two
others equally spaced from its complement. The split-
complementary (also called Compound Harmony) color scheme
is a variation of the complementary color scheme. In addition to
the base color, it uses the two "Analogous" colors adjacent to its
complement. Split-complementary color scheme has the same
strong visual contrast as the complementary color scheme, but
has less pressure.
• Double-Complementary Relationship -Two
complementary color sets; the distance between selected
complementary pairs will effect the overall contrast of the final
composition. The tetradic (double complementary) colors
scheme is the richest of all the schemes because it uses four
colors arranged into two complementary color pairs. This
scheme is hard to harmonize and requires a color to be dominant
or subdue the colors.; if all four colors are used in equal
amounts, the scheme may look unbalanced.
• Analogous Relationship - Those colors located adjacent to
each other on a color wheel. Analogous colors (also
called Dominance Harmony) color scheme are groups of colors
that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel, with one being
the dominant color, which tends to be
a primaryor secondary color, and two on either side
complementing, which tend to be tertiary.The term analogous
refers to the having analogy, or corresponding to something in
particular. An analogous color scheme creates a rich, monochromatic look. It’s best used
with either warm or cool colors, creating a look that has a certain temperature as well as
proper color harmony. While this is true, the scheme also lacks contrast and is less vibrant
than complementary schemes. Red, yellow and orange are examples of analogous colors.
• Triad Relationship - Three hues equally positioned on a
color wheel. The triadic color scheme uses three colors equally
spaced around the color wheel. The easiest way to place them
on the wheel is by using a triangle of equal sides. Triadic color
schemes tend to be quite vibrant, even when using pale or
unsaturated versions of hues, offers a higher degree of contrast
while at the same time retains the color harmony. This scheme
is very popular among artists because it offers strong visual
contrast while retaining balance, and color richness. The triadic scheme is not as
contrasting as the complementary scheme, but it is easier to accomplish balance and
harmony with these colors.
9. COLOR & CONTRAST
Every visual presentation involves figure-ground relationships. This relationship between
a subject (or figure) and its surrounding field (ground) will evidence a level of contrast; the more
an object contrasts with its surrounds, the more visible it becomes.
Some combinations are difficult to read due to the low level of contrast between figure and
Yellow text on a white background
Blue text on a black background.
When we create visuals that are intended to be read, offering the viewer enough contrast
between the background (paper or screen) and the text is important. Text presentations ideally
offer at least an 80% contrast between figure and ground. (Black text on a white background is
ideal.) If there is not enough contrast between figure and ground, a viewer will squint to view the
text, causing eye fatigue.
8.1 Simultaneous contrast
Some color combinations can cause illusions when positioned together :
Red text on a blue background
An occurrence known as 'simultaneous contrast' (or chromostereopsis,) may happen when
opposing colors are placed in close proximity to each other. Text may appear to vibrate, or cast a
shadow. Eye strain and fatigue will result if a viewer focuses on a document displaying similar
properties for an extended time period.
8.2 Colorblind Deficiencies.
The Design of visual documents or signage without thought to the overall contrast level
between figure and ground can be problematic for people with sight deficiencies. My first-hand
experience with this occurred years ago when visiting a hospital with a friend who was colorblind.
The hospital had creatively marked the floor with "road maps" to various areas like the lab, lobby,
etc. Unfortunately, they used red and green lines and my friend could not distinguish between the
colors. If a visual document uses color to relate important information, insure that no information
is lost, or potentially misunderstood, when the color is not available.
10. COLOR PSYCHOLOGY
10.1 What is Color Psychology?
The psychology of color is based on the mental and emotional effects colors have on
sighted people in all facets of life. There are some very subjective pieces to color psychology as
well as some more accepted and proven elements. Keep in mind, that there will also be variations
in interpretation, meaning, and perception between different cultures.It is the effects of the
electro-magnetic radiation of light on human mood and behaviour - a universal, psychophysical
reaction, which is not as heavily influenced by culture, age and gender as is generally thought.
It is important to understand that there is a great difference between colour psychology
and colour symbolism. Historically, what is often described as colour psychology is actually
colour symbolism - the conscious associations that we are conditioned to make. Cultural
responses to colour derive from a variety of causes: for example, green is the sacred colour
throughout Islam, being the colour of the Prophet's robe; in Ireland it is considered lucky, perhaps
because when the world around us contains plenty of green this indicates the presence of water
and therefore little danger of famine; in England it is considered unlucky, possibly because of its
association with decay and disease.
There are many examples of colour symbolism: purple is associated with royalty for the
simple reason that, until relatively recently in our history, it was an extremely expensive dye and
only royalty could afford it; red is the colour of blood and has associations with war.
These associations often coincide with colour psychology (red actually can trigger
aggression) but they are by no means the same thing. More about the psychological properties of the main
10.2 Psychological Properties of Colours
There are four psychological primary colours - red, blue, yellow and green. They relate
respectively to the body, the mind, the emotions and the essential balance between these
three. The psychological properties of the eleven basic colours are as follows:
RED : Physical
Positive: Physical courage, strength, warmth, energy, basic survival, 'fight or flight', stimulation,
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 relates to the masculine
principle and can activate the "fight or flight"
instinct. Red is strong, and very basic. Pure red is the simplest colour, with no subtlety.
It is stimulating and lively, very friendly. At the same time, it can be perceived as
demanding and aggressive.
Positive: Intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency,
serenity, duty, logic, coolness, reflection, calm.
Negative: Coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion,
• Blue is the colour of the mind and is essentially
soothing; it affects us mentally, rather than the
physical reaction we have to red. 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, suicide.
• 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
• 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.
Our "yellow streak" can surface.
GREEN : Balance
Positive: Harmony, balance, refreshment, universal love,
rest, restoration, reassurance, environmental awareness,
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.
VIOLET : Spiritual
Positive : Spiritual awareness, containment, vision, luxury,
authenticity, truth, quality.
Negative : Introversion, decadence, suppression,
• 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
and nasty, faster than any other colour.
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 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.
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
Positive: Physical tranquillity, nurture, warmth, femininity,
love, sexuality, survival of the species.
Negative: Inhibition, emotional claustrophobia,
emasculation, physical weakness.
• 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. Tints of blue, green, yellow, etc.
are simply called light blue, light green etc.) Pink is
a powerful colour, psychologically. It represents the
feminine principle, and survival of the species; it is
nurturing and physically soothing.
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. The
psychological implications of that are considerable.
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. 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.
It is a myth that black clothes are slimming:
Which of these boxes do you think is bigger/heavier?
The truth behind the myth is that black is the most
recessive colour a matter of not drawing attention to
yourself, rather than actually making you look slimmer.
Positive: Hygiene, sterility, clarity, purity, cleanness,
simplicity, sophistication, efficiency.
Negative: Sterility, coldness, barriers, unfriendliness,
• 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. 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,
Negative: Lack of humour, heaviness, lack of
• 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 -
more positively than the ever-popular black, which
is suppressive, rather than supportive.
11.COLOR PREFENCES BY GENDER
Perceived appropriateness may explain why the most popular car colors are white, black,
silver and gray ... but is there something else at work that explains why there aren't very many purple
One of the better studies on this topic is Joe Hallock's Colour Assignments. Hallock's data
showcases some clear preferences in certain colors across gender.
It's important to note that one's environment--and especially cultural perceptions--plays a
strong role in dictating color appropriateness for gender, which in turn can influence individual
choices. Consider, for instance, this coverage by Smithsonian magazine detailing how blue became
the color for boys and pink was eventually deemed the color for girls (and how it used to be the
Here were Hallock's findings for the most and least favorite colors of men and women:
The most notable points in these images is the supremacy of blue across
both genders (it was the favorite color for both groups) and the disparity between
groups on purple. Women list purple as a top-tier color, but no men list purple
as a favorite color. (Perhaps this is why we have no purple power tools, a product
largely associated with men?)
Additional research in studies on color perception and color
preferences show that when it comes to shades, tints and hues men seem to
prefer bold colors while women prefer softer colors. Also, men were more likely
to select shades of colors as their favorites (colors with black added), whereas
women were more receptive to tints of colors (colors with white added):
12. COLOR THERAPY
12.1 An Introduction to Color Therapy
Color therapy and healing (also known as chromotherapy or light therapy) is a type of
holistic healing that uses the visible spectrum of light and color to affect a person’s mood and
physical or mental health. Each color falls into a specific frequency and vibration, which many
believe contribute to specific properties that can be used to affect the energy and frequencies
within our bodies.
While it is common knowledge that light enters through our eyes, it’s important to note
that light can also enter through our skin. Given the unique frequencies and vibrations of various
colors, people believe that certain colors entering the body can activate hormones causing
chemical reactions within the body, then influencing emotion and enabling the body to heal.
Colors are known to have an effect on people with brain disorders or people with
emotional troubles. For example, the color blue can have a calming effect which can then result
in lower blood pressure, whereas the color red might have the opposite effect. Green is another
color that may be used to relax people who are emotionally unbalanced. Yellow, on the other
hand, may be used to help invigorate people who might be suffering from depression. (We’ll dive
deeper into specific colors in a future article.)
Alternative therapies also believe that a person’s aura contains different layers of light which
can be used for cleansing and balancing. Knowing the colors in your aura can help you better
understand your spirit, and thus help you better understand how to heal. Additionally, the colors
surrounding you can also have various effects.
12.2 Brief History of Color Therapy
It’s no mystery that the sun and its source of light (or lack thereof), can have a profound
effect on us. Thousands of years ago, some countries began exploring color and its healing
capabilities. Egypt, Greece and China are known for their forays into color healing and therapy.
A few examples include:
• Painting rooms different colors with the hopes of treating certain conditions.
• Utilizing colors in nature in their surroundings (blue from skies, green from grass, etc.)
• Healing rooms that utilized crystals to break up sunlight shining through.
There is evidence of people attempting to use color for healing and therapy from as far back as
2000 years. And it has gained in popularity throughout the years, with numerous books being
written about it, including Johann Wolfgang Goethe who studied the physiological effects of
color. As we mentioned though, many people are skeptical about using color and light for healing
• Colour plays a vitally important role in the world which we live.
• Colour is a sensation which is optical in nature
• As a powerful form of communication, colour is irreplaceable.
• Colours cause powerful reactions
• Colours can be approached for several disciplines.
• “Colour is uncontainable.It effortlessly reveals the limits of language and evades our best
attempts to impose a rational order on it…To work with colour is to become aware of the
insufficiency of language and theory – which is both disturbing and pleasurable.”