Have you ever thought about how the world interacts with color? About the associations we make with them and the emotions they produce? It’s such an intriguing concept that color holds more meaning than just giving life to what we see. Think about it! What does the color red mean to you? For me, it represents health and safety in relation to firefighters and the Red Cross. I relate it to love but also anger. Is that even possible? Lastly it gives life to the spirit at RPI. Our school color often replaces our mascot (we’re the engineers, pretty lame I know) in cheers and slogans.
Turns out color contradictions are everywhere! How is this even feasible? The context of color may have something to do with it. Think of all the major holidays and the colors that represent them. When you see red and green paired together outside of the Christmas season, you still associate them with that time of year.
It also has something to do with the variety of hues that are produced when mixing colors, especially with white or black. Here at California Paints we have almost 2,000 different colors! That’s a lot of color associations!
Shades and tints
Different shades and tints are a major reason contradiction is found among color associations. A shade is any color that has black added to it while a tint is any color that has white added to it. As a result you’ll get light pastels and dark, deep colors.
Take purple for example. Shades of purple often represent wealth and power. On the other hand, tints of purple are more likely related to romance and spring.
Blue presents us with the most opposition between tints and its natural state. Light blues are supposed to be relaxing while bright blues are said to be energizing. It appears that there is a correlation between deeper shades having bolder associations. Problem solved?! I think we have a bit more digging to do…
Color Culture Shock
In some instances the associations we make with color couldn’t be more different than other countries around the world. It’s tradition for a bride to wear white in most western cultures however in China it is a color of mourning. In Northern Ireland orange is associated with Protestantism and the Orange Order while in the Netherlands it is associated with the royal family. Even within our own culture we find major opposition. The last time I wore black was to a funeral, or was it out to my 21st birthday celebration? Black is the color of mourning but it is also the most commonly worn color for formal occasions. What woman doesn’t have a staple black dress in their closet these days? Although this concept of color psychology may not be a decided factor in choosing a color for your next project it plays a major role in international design!
Color and the subconscious: Chromotherapy
Did you ever realize how many restaurants use red in their logos? Maybe that’s because red is believed to increase appetite by enhancing the metabolism. Red is also suggested to raise blood pressure and increase circulation.
Blue on the other hand is said to having a calming effect. Glasgow put this to the test by installing blue street lights. The result was a lower crime rate in these areas! Blue is also thought to soothe pain. Maybe that’s why doctors wear scrubs in a variety of blues! And lastly, bright yellow rooms are the most common room color for people to lose their temper in. Who knew!? Fact or myth, why not consider experimenting with chromotherapy in your next painting project? The results may surprise you!
Whether color associations are cultural, contextual, or just plain human nature still requires plenty of further investigation by professionals. One thing that’s certain is that even though humanity tends to draw similar conclusions, individually we still create our own, unique meanings. Next time you go paint shopping don’t avoid yellow if it’s your favorite color! Just because it raises some tempers doesn’t mean the perfect shade won’t make you exceptionally happy you picked it! Always remember to put your own color associations above all else! You’ll be happy you did.
Now that we are all experts on color psychology picking the perfect color for your next paint project should be a breeze! Shall we go with a greedy green for that at home office space? Or maybe a classic red for the kitchen - to keep everyone coming back for their favorite dish of yours of course? I know I’ll leave the color yellow for exterior use only!
Still stumped? Check out my complete guide to color psychology featuring our most popular colors from our Perfect Palette and Historic color collections!
Look for more on color theory coming soon! Want to learn even more about color psychology? Visit http://californiapaints.com/find-color/color-theory.aspx