Have you noticed the number of suburban houses being painted in bright contrasting colors these days? Psychologists will tell you that hues chosen for house painting reflect the happiness, or otherwise, in the tenants. Even more interesting is the fact that the colors chosen may reflect the opposite of the general feeling of the environment. If things are on the down, it makes sense to try and brighten things up. On the other hand, grey is literally a “middle-of-the-road” color, being dull or even depressing if things are really on the way up. Nature looks for a balance.
While the psychology of color vision has been studied for over 400 years, the physical side is also very interesting. For example, did you know just ‘how’ you see and describe colors? This is not an absolute, but is something your mother taught you. She told you the duck in the bath is yellow. However, the yellow you see is not necessarily the yellow I see, but we both call it “yellow”, because the color is what we have always called “yellow”.
Then there is the vexed question of color deficiencies or ‘color blindness’. Inability to distinguish color does not necessarily preclude the ability to become a celebrated photographer or artist. The 20th century expressionist painter Clifton Pugh, three-time winner of Australia’s Archibald Prize, was found on biographical, gene inheritance and other grounds to be red/green deficient. 19th century French artist Charles Méryon became successful by concentrating on etching rather than painting after he was diagnosed as having a red/green deficiency. And traffic lights? The red one is on the top, yellow in the middle and green at the bottom.
There is also an entity we have used for 300 years called the Color Wheel. This natty device shows what happens when you add or subtract colors such as blue plus yellow makes green.
Another interesting fact – the reason that the Wimbledon tennis tournament uses purple on the Wimbledon official logo is that purple is located almost opposite of green on the color wheel. Purple against green provides good contrast.
Now, before you buy the paint for redecorating, here are some interesting colors. Red raises a room’s energy level. The most intense color, it pumps the adrenaline like no other hue. It is a good choice when you want to stir up excitement, particularly at night. In the living room or dining room, red draws people together and stimulates conversation. In an entryway, it creates a strong first impression. Red has been shown to raise blood pressure and speed respiration and heart rate. It is usually considered too stimulating for bedrooms, but if you’re typically in the room only after dark, you’ll be seeing it mostly by bedside light, when the color will appear muted, rich and elegant.
Red also represents danger, warning, or error, but also warmth, love, passion, and intense emotion. Can also symbolize bravery, war, or blood. Some studies have shown it to stimulate appetite (is this why there’s so much red at McDonald’s restaurants) and improve accuracy on certain tasks.
Pink: the lighter shade of red, represents love and romance, as well as femininity. It is the favorite color of young girls – look at the number of pink school bags. Yes, Hello Kitty!
Yellow: this bright, attention-getting color is seen as a sunny, happy color, yet studies have also shown, paradoxically, that prolonged exposure to it can make adults lose their tempers and babies cry. Yellow is also the most fatiguing color to the eye. Stick to the yellow duckies.
Blue: seen as having a calming effect. Darker shades of blue (as in business suits) may suggest reliability and security. The color is also often associated with sadness. Studies suggest that the color blue can increase productivity and creativity, and may actually lower body temperature and pulse rate. Does this happen with a blue moon, I wonder?
Green: a combination of blue and yellow, this color is generally a physically soothing color that may simultaneously produce an emotional lift. Green is the color most associated with nature, and sometimes signifies good luck or money (which may be why at its extreme, green is associated with envy).