The Psychology of Color

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"The Psychology of Color"


An Essay


Color often “speaks” to people on a personal. For instance, a single splash of color without form can arouse an intense reaction from a person. And when color its used purposefully, it becomes a message carrier. Light is seen only through its effect on color; thus, light and color are inseparable. Impressionist and Postimpressionist painters focused keenly on the quality of light and color in their artwork. Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, and Vincent van Gogh were among the many painters belonging to these famous schools of art.

The Psychology of Color:

Colors are strongly associated with moods and emotions. Expressions such as “in the pink,” “a rosy outlook,” and “feeling blue” all reflect these associations. For example, most people consider yellow, orange, and red to be warm, stimulating colors, associated with fire and the sun. Blues, greens, and violets are usually thought of as cool and serene; these colors are often visually associated with cool forests, the sky, and bodies of water. Table 1 lists the emotional impressions associated with six common colors.

The colors listed in table 1 are all pure colors. But any color can be made lighter, darker, duller, or sharper. This generally alters the psychological associations of that color. For instance, an artist who changes a dark royal blue into a light, delicate sky blue is effectively converting the color’s emotional impact. The same is true of a bright red that’s turned into a rich, dark, wine-colored red. These shades and variations are what make up the artist’s repertoire of colors.

Common Color Associations – TABLE 1

red – strong, dangerous, aggressive, loving

orange – cheerful, warm, festive (autumnal)

yellow – bright, radiant, sunny

green – restful, calm (grass, spring)

blue – serene, cool, remote (winter)

violet – majestic, royal, wealthy

Most artists have distinct color preferences. Despite the general common reactions to color, artists’ specific likes and dislikes may be conditioned by what they’ve experienced in life and by their individual dispositions. One artist’s color preferences may include rich reds, oranges, and yellows. Another’s may consist of tranquil blues and blue-greens. Still another artist may gravitate to earth colors-warm browns, golds, and rust-colored reds. As an artist, you’ll soon discover a specific range of colors that appeals to you most, and you’ll find yourself using those colors over and over in your work. Your favorites may prove to be subtle mixtures of color that you aren’t even aware of now.

There are two types of color systems: one applies to light and the other applies to pigments. Light is additive color while pigment is known as subtractive color;

Additive Mixtures…

The colors you see on television screens, computer and video monitors, and rock concert stages are produced by mixing red, green, and blue light in certain proportions.In the light color system, red, green, and blue (often designated together as RGB) are primary colors. Primary colors, or parent colors, are colors that can’t be made by mixing other colors together.

When artists and technicians mix light as in the previously mentioned monitors and stage lights, the process is called, additive color mixing. In additive color mixing, one beam of colored light is simply projected upon another of a different color. If you were to project three lights-one red, one green, and one blue- and arrange them so that their beams overlap equally, the result would appear similar to the illustration in Figure 1.




Figure 1

Notice that the area in which all of the Primaries overlap is pure white. This is because adding equal amounts of red, green, and blue light yields white light. Just as a prism refracts a beam of sunlight into the visible spectrum, the spectrum can be refracted again into white light via additive color mixing.

Looking at Figure 1 again, we see that blue and green light yields cyan; green and red light forms yellow; and red and blue light yields magenta. Because they’re a combination of primary colors, cyan, yellow, and magenta are known as secondary, colors. You’ll find that 1 adjusting the Primary additive colors to various intensities results in a wide variety of colors.

To create colored light, FIGURE 1 – Example of Additive Color Mixing you place a color filter called a gel, in front of a white light. Α gel allows only its own color to pass through. For example, placing a red gel before a white light produces red light. This is the way tinted sunglasses work, by keeping out certain color wavelengths.

Green-tinted sunglasses allow only the wavelength of the color green within the lenses to pass on to your eyes.

© 2016 Emmanuel G. Mavros


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