Wednesday, 27th May 2020
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The psychology of colour

The psychology of colour

Are you thinking of changing the colour of your bedroom or drawing room?

Perhaps you should spend a minute or two considering the psychological effect that your choice may have on yourself, your family and even your guests.

There are certain rules of thumb that can be used when attempting to predict and control the psychological effect a colour might produce in an interior space. If you have any doubts, though, test the colour in your space before committing to it, but what is important is the position of the colour in the space. The same colour will appear very different on the floor from the wall or ceiling. So take a large swatch of the colour and hold it in each of the three different locations. The starkest is the ceiling, which will make the colour appear greyer.

The position of a colour in the space also has a significant impact on the psychological effect of the colour. For example, a rich burgundy carpet on the floor will feel warm, solid, and almost regal. That same burgundy on the ceiling will most likely look heavy, intrusive, and disturbing. So, orientation is a key consideration when you try to predict the psychological effect of a colour selection.

Each colour creates a relatively commonly shared set of psychological associations. These associations vary slightly from person to person, and they vary significantly depending on the context and surrounding colours.

We give here below a set of general points of reference to help better understand the effect that each colour normally creates.


Common colour associations
• Red - arousing, exciting, stimulating. Considered strong and masculine. It’s a warm colour often thought of as hot. It advances relative to other colours, making it appear closer. Red is associated with passion and vigour.

• Pink - soft, acquiescent, and sensuous. As red shifts to pink, it often shifts gender association from masculine to feminine.

• Orange - exciting, stimulating, intense. The liveliness of orange has an almost whimsical quality that is less serious than red.

• Peach - soft, sunny, and warm. Soft peach has a feminine quality to it.

• Yellow - luminous, sunny, cheerful. Soft yellows can seem expansive and open, which magnifies the feeling of spaciousness. Intense, pure yellows can be acidic and irritating in large amounts but whimsical and energizing in smaller amounts.

• Pale yellow - neutral, expansive. As yellow pales, it loses its colour and requires a cool adjacent colour to react with.

• Green - restful, relaxing, quiet. Deep greens can be sombre on their own but are fresh and full of life when contrasted against warmer colours. Pure greens have an association with vegetation.

• Pale green - lively when mixed with yellow. More quiet and introspective when mixed with blue.

• Blue - peaceful, calm, tranquil. When used in large amounts in its pure hues, it can feel cool and melancholy.

• Pale blue - atmospheric, calm, spacious. Pale, cool blue tends to recede and often makes spaces feel larger, especially when used on high ceilings.

• Purple/violet - rich, regal, mystical. Purple has both a calm yet mysterious psychological association. Deeper purples and violets have a powerful yet introspective association.

• Pale purple/lavender - soft, sensual, quiet. Pale purple and lavender often have a feminine association.

• White - purity, light, cleanliness. White has strong associations, even though we are often not fully aware of them. When used in excessive amounts, white feels sterile.

• Black - power, elegance, dignity. Black also has strong psychological associations. When used in excessive amounts, black feels oppressive.

• Grey - conservative, quiet, calm. When mixed with quiet browns, grey can combine a warm richness with the sense of quiet dignity.

• Brown - earthy, stabile, secure. Brown is associated with the earth and natural materials. It often conveys a sense of permanence and familiarity

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