The Psychology of Color

Color Swatch Book I love color. I embrace it. Psychologically, I need color to make me feel alive. As with most people (whether they're aware of it or not) I get an emotional response from color. It can also create a mood in any room where it is used.

When I first started my business as a decorative painter, I thought I would be surrounded by people who, like myself, were wildly enthusiastic about using color. What a shock! Most people are intimated by color. They tell us how much they want to use color but mostly they are terrified that their color choice will overwhelm them or their rooms. It doesn’t have to be scary. It should be great fun and something to experiment with. So let's talk a little about some colors and how their use can impact you. Red is a great color for love, richness and warmth. It also works as a stimulating influence to make you feel excited or prone to increased intensity. You tend to act quicker in a red room. Restaurants use red so that you eat quickly and with gusto, making room for the next patron. Bordellos use red too. I assume for similar reasons.

Pepto Bismol Pink can zap your strength. If I have you lift a 5 gallon bucket of paint, it might be heavy, but most people would be able to do it. If I have you stare at a wall painted hot pink for 5 minutes and then asked you to lift the bucket, you might not be able to. Why? It plays with your brain and measurably weakens you. That's why it is used in "drunk tanks" in jails where people can become violent. (I wish I knew about this when my kids were little!)

In our last blog we talked about how pale yellow can make babies cranky but primary yellow can raise their intelligence.

Blue can convey a feeling of serenity, calmness and a sense of order. I always thought men choose blue for rooms because it matched their clothing, i.e., blue suits, navy, ties, etc., but maybe it's the other way around. It gives the wearer a business-like appearance. Blue is also the most popular color, but you'll notice it's not common in food. It can make food items appear unappetizing. When I think of blue food all that comes to mind is blueberries and that weird blue frosting on birthday cakes.

Green just screams nature. It’s tranquil and is a sign of fertility. When you think about it, green goes with everything. Visualize flowers and leaves. No matter what the color of the flower the green leaf is going to match. Some people refer to green as the new neutral. No matter where you put it, it looks great.

Orange is a real statement color. It's warm and energetic so it gets people's attention. Right now we are seeing really hot orange colors in design. It can infuse a room with a real liveliness.

Purple is regal and very formal. Royal crests and exotic places are what comes to mind when purple is used in design. Eggplant is one of the few foods that is purple and for some, pretty exotic.

I like gray but mostly as an accent. Grey can be sad and sterile. The same with beige. Beige can be warm but mostly it’s neutral. It doesn’t say much. It’s a safe color. Most people use these colors in reverse order. A lot of beige and gray with a tiny bit of color instead of a lot of color with accents of neutrals. Color doesn’t have to be super strong to impact your design. Soft hues and tones of any color can work just as well.

When I'm working with homeowners, I take note of what color clothes they wear, especially women. Women know what looks best on their skin tones and they tend to choose those colors for their rooms. Smart on their part. You always want to look your best in your own surroundings.

When I know a client's favorite color but they haven’t used it in their home, I encourage then to create an entire room with it. Doing a large sample of the final finish helps them make that leap into new colors. Ultimately, they surprise themselves with how much they enjoy these spaces. After that, having them incorporating color into their home is a piece of cake.

Color can transform a space so quickly. I know it can go either good or bad, but by playing around with color you’ll get an opportunity to create a setting that is truly yours.

Janie's Signature

Janie Ellis, RID, ASID-IP, CF,
Master Artisan