Colour is all around us, and we can interpret our feelings towards colour through colour psychology.
We all attach subconscious emotions to certain colours. And this can then impact how others perceive us. This in turn, affects our personal branding through what we choose to wear.
The Power of Colour and Colour Psychology
Colour is one of the first things we see. It is often the easiest way to describe items, situations, and experiences. Picture trying to describe a car, a dress, a meal, a film or a scene in nature, without using colours…..
- Colour can affect our mood and behaviour
- Colour can affect other people’s mood and behaviour towards us
- Colour can express our feelings and personality
Imagine how a world in black & white would look and feel – a world completely devoid of colour. No colour to inspire, influence, protect or guide us – it would be challenging wouldn’t it?
Have you ever watched a film that mixes black and white scenes with colour scenes? Think how the addition of colour transformed the following films, The Wizard of Oz, Pleasantville and Schindler’s List.
When we add colour, the impact of the film intensifies, as our senses are heightened.
Look at the difference between these two photographs, illustrating how colour changes everything.
Colour in Nature
This is especially so in nature. Imagine living without the toning shades of autumn leaves, the rainbow of fruit and vegetable colours, the blue of the sky or the amazing colours in a sunset across the sea.
Colour can protect us: Certain colours will alert us to danger. If an insect has the potential to sting us, whether a food is ripe or poisonous or if a road is safe to cross. We can also use it as camouflage to hide from predators.
Colour can attract: Birds have different coloured plumage to attract a mate. In the same way, brands and people will use certain colours to attract suitors and clients.
The Meaning of Different Colours
Research into Colour Psychology has demonstrated that every colour has specific attributes. These attributes can impact us on both an emotional and physical level. Much of this impact is unconscious and will have built up over time due to our experiences and our culture. This will in turn influence how we react or relate to a colour.
You may have a favourite colour or shade of colour – can you think of why this became your favourite? It could it be a memory you have of that colour or how the colour makes you feel? Likewise, what colours do you dislike and would avoid at all costs? I often find when talking to clients that they have an aversion to their school uniform colour!
This is colour psychology and the meanings that we have attached to certain colours.
Colour can have different meanings in different parts of the World. For example, white in the West symbolises purity, peace & innocence. Whereas in many parts of the East it represents mourning and is the colour worn for funerals. Red in China denotes prosperity and good luck, whereas in South Africa it is the colour of mourning.
The Psychological Traits of Individual Colours
These are different to the cultural meanings attached to a colour. These traits prove how a colour can impact our unconscious thoughts and emotions.
Understanding these attributes can be useful when selecting clothes colours for different situations. This is because your audience could be having a similar reaction to a colour.
Here is a quick overview of the key colour psychology attributes for the main colour groups.
NB all colours have both positive and negative associations. If a colour doesn’t support your colouring or you dislike it you will see the downsides.
Red has the longest wavelength of all colours, so it has the appearance of being nearer than it actually is. So, if you wear red, you will get noticed! We also use it to denote danger – in signs and traffic lights.
It is the colour of energy, passion, and excitement. It is an assertive colour but, others could see it as aggressive and confrontational. It can also be overwhelming if there is too much of it.
Blue is the colour of intellect, logic, mental clarity, and calm. It is often called the world’s favourite colour. Did you know that at least 70% of the stock in most menswear departments will be in a shade of blue!
It is the colour of business, professionalism, expertise, and communication. But, it can sometimes be cold, aloof, and uncaring. The shade of blue will make a difference to how we perceive it. For example, traditional nurses’ uniforms cover a range of shades. The lighter shades generally denote junior roles whereas navy blue is for matron!
Pink is often seen as nurturing and caring, although on the flip side we could see it as weak and helpless. The intensity of the pink will change these perceptions. If it is brighter, like a magenta pink its attributes are closer to those associated with red.
Many prison holding cells are painted soft pink to calm down inmates when they first arrive!
Yellow is the colour of optimism, positivity, and confidence – think how you feel on a sunny day? Yet, use too much of it and it could cause anxiety and irritation. It is a notoriously difficult colour to wear. But if you can find the right tone for you it is great to use as an accent colour.
Orange is a warm colour that combines the elements of red and yellow, so it is a fun, friendly and energetic colour. Conversely, some view it as frivolous, childish, and cheap. Especially if worn when you have a cool skintone.
Green is the colour of harmony, balance, and nature. Although the wrong green could indicate stagnation. There are many different tones of green. And again many clients avoid green because they haven’t found the right shade for them. There is a big difference between olive green, emerald green, lime green and sea green. They will each suit different people, so it is worth experimenting.
Brown is safe, strong, supportive, and reliable – think of earth and tree trunks. But, it could also be boring, dull, and unsophisticated. Again, finding the right tone of brown is key to it working for you. Cool skin-tones should focus on taupe and mushroom. Whilst warm skin-tones can revel in chocolate, tan, and camel.
In the past, purple was the colour of royalty and the clergy. This is because it was a difficult dye to create so it was restricted to those that could afford it. It is the colour of success, creativity, spirituality, and quality. But too much purple could indicate introspection.
Grey is the colour of neutrality, stuck as it is between black and white. It is also seen as consistent, reliable, and efficient. It is a great colour to wear when you want to be in the background. Perhaps when observing a situation &/or when wanting to avoid a confrontation. It is said that Kofi Annan only wore grey when he was Secretary-General of the UN. Yet, too much grey could be tiring.
Black has many advocates and can convey sophistication, glamour, authority, and power. But it is a colour that many people hide behind because it offers a protective barrier. Think how well Victoria Beckham utilises this trait! Black can also be unapproachable, stand-offish, serious, and heavy.
White indicates purity, innocence, clarity, and wealth. But it could also be cold, remote, and uncaring. If you want to project authority it works well with a deeper colour. Think of a police uniform or a dark suit with a white shirt or blouse.
I have barely scratched the surface of this amazing topic. I hope that this whistle-stop tour through some of the elements of colour psychology has whetted your appetite to find out more. When we wear the colours that flatter our skintone and support our values then something magical occurs.
Would you like to discover the colours and the exact shades of colours that suit and support you and your personal brand?
Then I would highly recommend a colour analysis session. I offer this service both online and face to face.