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The Psychology of Colours

What is it about the rainbow that gives most people a sense of happiness? Sure, it signifies the calm after a
storm, but the colours themselves have an effect on our minds.

Our personal and cultural associations affect our experience of colour. Colours are seen as warm or cool
mainly because of long-held (and often universal) associations. Yellow, orange and red are associated with the heat
of sun and fire; blue, green and violet with the coolness of leaves, sea and the sky. Warm colours seem closer to the
viewer than cool colours, but vivid cool colours can overwhelm light and subtle warm colours. Using warm colours for
foreground and cool colours for background enhances the perception of depth.

There is a reason why people prefer certain colours over others. This preference says volumes about our
personalities, because each colour has an association with a reaction our brain has when we internalize it.

Colour psychology is a well-known, yet less explored branch of the study of how our brain perceives what it
visualizes. As far as scientific research goes, there is not much to work with. However, the impact that colours have
on our brains is used to manipulate our decision making by multiple facets of society. Colours have deep subliminal
meanings that affect our thinking and rational. They have symbolic meaning that changes amongst different cultures
and countries. We are faced with colour choices all the time. The first crucial decision of the day usually comes in
the morning when deciding what to wear. Often times we will choose our clothes based on the colour of the mood we
are feeling or wish to portray that day. Even more important than choice of wardrobe is the colour selection for your
brand or website. Colour research and planning is a vital part of the design process. Before you even begin a design
you must choose the appropriate colours that are effective in re enforcing the brand, message and overall tone.

There are the three primary colours of Red, Yellow and Blue. Then there are secondary colours of Green,
Orange and Purple. Additionally, there are Tertiary colours that are combinations of the first two sets. Complimentary
colours are opposite each other on the colour wheel and often evoke feelings of excitement. Analogous colours are
those that are close to each other on the colour wheel. These give a particular feeling whether it be warm and cozy or
cold and depressing.

If you want to draw attention, use red. It is often where the eye looks first. Red is the colour of energy. It's
associated with movement and excitement. People surrounded by red find their heart beating a little faster and often
report feeling a bit out of breath. It's the absolute wrong colour for a baby's room but perfect to get people excited.
Wearing red clothes will make you appear a bit heavier and certainly more noticeable (some studies show red cars
get more tickets but that may be because the red car owners drive faster or the ticket giver notices the movement of
the red car more prominently). Red is not a good colour to overuse but using a spot of red in just the right place is
smart in some cases (one red accent in an otherwise neutral room draws the eye; a red tie with a navy blue suit and
a white shirt adds just the right amount of energy to draw the eye (no wonder it's the "uniform of the day" at the seats
of government). Red is the symbol of life (red blooded life!) and, for this reason, it's the colour worn by brides in
China. Red is used at holidays that are about love and giving (red roses, Valentines hearts, Christmas, etc.) but the
true colour of love is pink. Pink is the most calming of all colours -- often our most dangerous criminals are housed in
pink cells as studies show that the colour drains energy and calms aggression. Think of pink as the colour of
romance, love, and gentle feelings, to be in the pink is to be soothed.

The most flamboyant colour on the planet! It's the colour tied most this fun times, happy and energetic days,
warmth and organic products. It is also associated with ambition. There is nothing even remotely calm associated
with this colour. Orange is associated with a new dawn in attitude.
Cheerful yellow is the colour of the sun, associated with laughter, happiness and good times. A person
surrounded by yellow feels optimistic because the brain actually releases more seratonin (the feel good chemical in
the brain) when around this colour. It is the colour associated with optimism but be careful with yellow; when intense,
it is the colour of flames and studies show babies cry more in (bright) yellow rooms and tempers flare more around
that colour too. It has the power to speed up our metabolism and bring out some creative thoughts (legal tablets are
yellow for good reason!). Yellow can be quickly overpowering if over-used, but used sparingly in the just the right
place it can be an effective tool in marketing to greater sales. Some shades of yellow are associated with cowardice;
but the more golden shades with the promise of better times.

Black is the colour of authority and power, stability and strength. It is also the colour associated with
intelligence (doctorate in black robe; black horn rimmed glasses, etc.) Black clothes make people appear thinner. It's
a somber colour sometimes associated with evil (the cowboy in the black hat was almost always the "bad guy"). In
the western hemisphere black is associated with grieving. Black is a serious colour that evokes strong emotions; it is
easy to overwhelm people with too much black.

Ask people their favorite colour and a clear majority will say blue. Much of the world is blue (skies, seas). Seeing
the colour blue actually causes the body to produce chemicals that are calming; but that isn't true of all shades of blue.
Some shades (or too much blue) can send a cold and uncaring message. Many bedrooms are blue because it's calm,
restful colour. Over the ages blue has become associated with steadfastness, dependability, wisdom and loyalty (note how
many uniforms are blue). People tend to be more productive in a blue room because they are calm and focused on the
task at hand. Some studies are showing that weight lifters can lift more weight in a blue gym - in fact, nearly all sports are
enhanced in blue surroundings.

Gray is most associated with the practical, timeless, middle-of-the-road, solid things in life. Too much gray leads to
feeling mostly nothing; but a bit of gray will add that rock solid feeling to your product. Some shades of gray are associated
with old age, death, taxes, depression or a lost sense of direction. Silver is an off-shoot of gray and often associated with
giving a helping hand, strong character (sterling in-fact!).

For most of the world this is the colour associated with purity (wedding dresses); cleanliness (doctors in white
coats) and the safety of bright light (things go bump in the night ... not the bright sunshine!). It is also used to project the
absence of colour, or neutrality. In some eastern parts of the world, white is associated with mourning. White is also
associated with creativity (white boards, blank slates). It is a compression of all the colours in the colour spectrum.

What colour were the robes of kings and queens? Yes, they were purple, our most royal colour that is
associated with wealth, prosperity, rich sophistication. This colour stimulates the brain activity used in problem
solving. However, when overused in a common setting it is associated with putting on airs and being artificial. Use
purple most carefully to lend an air of mystery, wisdom, and respect. Young adolescent girls are most likely to select
nearly all shades of purple as their favorite colour.

This colour is most associated with reliability, stability, and friendship. More are likely to select this as their
favorite colour. It's the colour of the earth itself "terra firma" and what could represent stability better. It too is
associated with things being natural or organic. Caution however, for in India it is the colour of mourning.
Colour is, simply stated, broken down white light. This is a dissection of light at different 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, it is the yellow wavelength that is being reflected while all others are being absorbed. Now that we
have understood what colour means, let’s explore some of the ways it influences our mood.

We feel colour. 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 blue side of the spectrum-that consists of purple and green too, known
as the cool side. Others induce rage and make us uncomfortable , or signify passion; these lie within the red
spectrum-which includes orange and yellow, known as the warm side. Colour perception is subjective, and certain
colours have a very universal significance. This is coded into our reptilian brain, giving us that instinctive feeling of
fire being dangerous and the beach being relaxing.

Colour psychology is a very important tool used by artists, interior decorators, and as a marketing
mechanism in many industries. It is the palette used by Dali that makes his artwork bizarre, and amplifies the
hyperrealism he intends to create.

Colour can influence how people perceive the area around them. Different light sources affect how the
colours of walls and other objects are seen. Specific hues of colours seen under natural sunlight may vary when seen
under the light from an incandescent (tungsten) light-bulb: lighter colours may appear to be more orange or
"brownish" and darker colours may appear even darker. Colour of an object can affect how one perceives its
positioning. If light or shadow, or the colour of the object, masks an object's true contour (outline of a figure) it can
appear to be shaped differently from reality. Objects under a uniform light-source will promote better impression of
three-dimensional shape. The colour of an object may affect whether or not it seems to be in motion. In particular, the
trajectories of objects under a light source whose intensity varies with space are more difficult to determine than
identical objects under a uniform light source. This could possibly be interpreted as interference between motion and
colour perception, both of which are more difficult under variable lighting

When we visit a museum to appreciate a work of art, we take it in through the colours we see because they
invoke within us certain emotions, making the claim that everyone sees it differently a reality. Interior decorators
survey the effect of colours when deciding what colour (Or rather colour associations) the walls of a certain area in a
building will be painted.

The reason that many offices have a lot of greys, blues and browns incorporated in their décor is because
these colours tends to increase productivity. Yet, this is not a rule of the thumb. This does hold true for a corporate
environment, but if one were to work say for example in the fashion industry, or the media, the use of brighter and
more “colourful” paints would help encourage creativity. Many car commercials show black as their model, because
this certain colour is associated with affluence and seriousness. This leads the consumer to believe that the product
is worth buying. Even the food and drink industry uses colour to attract more people to certain brands. The purple
and gold packaging of a certain brand of candy bar is a technique to lure the consumer into believing that this is
chocolate royalty, and why would one not want to buy the best of best. Culturally speaking, colours have different
values attached to them too. A bride in the western world wears white, where as it is what a widow wears in South
Asia.

Colour stimulates our brain, and from the ancient times has proven to be useful alternative psychotherapy.
The Egyptians and Chinese used colours to heal, a process that is known is chromotherapy. Colours were used to in
order to help the body function better.

However there is a lot of doubt that prevails today as far as the effectiveness of colour therapy is concerned.
Since every human being has different emotions attached to different colours, the universal significance of colours
may or may not work in these cases. Bottom line being, colour psychology and associations are an interesting part of
the complex working system of our brain, yet with so many scientific questions about it still left unanswered , and
differences in cultural attachments to colours, it can only be utilized through observation and experience of how
colour has influenced brains over the years.