Formal Elements‎ > ‎Colour‎ > ‎

What do colours mean?

Here you will find the meanings and symbolism of different colours.  Colours can have very different meanings in different countries.

Uses and psychological effects

Physiological effects - mystics have long held we emanate a coloured glow, or aura, which is thought to effect the state of a person's health and spirituality. Today, chromotherapy is used to heal with colours. This form of treatment dates back thousands of years to the ancient "colour halls" of Egypt, China, and India. A more prominent use of colour therapy occurs in environmental design (the effect of colour on health and behavior).

Colour symbolism - our responses to colour are not just biological. They are also influenced by colour associations from our culture.

Personal colour preferences - not only have we inherited cultural associations, but we also respond to colours in individual ways. Research has revealed some variables that help explain individual differences in colour responses. One thing remains the same in colour and that is our own color preferences are important to us.

Emotional effects - the actual emotional effect of a specific colour in an artwork depends partly on its surroundings and partly on the ides expressed by the work as a whole. To be surrounded by blue lighting in an installation is quite different from seeing a small area of blue in a larger colour context. For many of us the emotional effects of art may be difficult to articulate.

Local and expressive colour - there are two opposite ways of using colour in representational art. At one extreme is the local colour - the colour that something appears from nearby when viewed under average lighting conditions. We think of the local colour of a banana as yellow, for example. At the other end of the extreme is the expressionistic use of colour, whereby artists use colour to express an emotional rather than a visual truth.

 


Remember that most colours carry physiological, cultural, personal, emotional, and expressive implications.