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The impact of colour on mood

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Do you ever look at a painting and suddenly feel a wave of calm wash over you? Art is made to evoke an emotional response, and often colour plays a big role. Warm colours, such as red, orange and yellow can make us feel comfortable and happy. Cool colours, such as green, blue, indigo and violet can make us feel calm and serious. When we look at certain colours, we feel different emotions.

Fabian Perez, Flamenco Dancers

Red: excitement, strength, love, energy

Red is exciting and stimulating. It signifies strength, power, courage and danger. It links us to our physical needs and will to survive. Red motivates us and gives us confidence.

Mark Rothko, Untitled

Orange: confidence, access, bravery, sociability

Orange is the colour of extroverts, symbolizing encouragement and optimism. It exudes happiness and, encourages rejuvenation and hunger. It is used in marketing to imply affordability and success.

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss

Yellow: creativity, happiness, warmth, cheer

Yellow is the colour of creative thinkers and innovators. It represents hope, happiness and fun. Yellow is associated with intellect and reasoning. Too much yellow is known to cause agitation, apprehension and anxiety, especially in people already experiencing stress.

Haida Frog Art- Original Artist Unknown

Green: nature, healing, freshness, quality

Green is the colour of nature. It symbolizes balance and growth and encourages stability. It is used in marketing to signify natural and organic health and healing. It can also be the colour of greed and envy.

Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist

Blue: trust, peace, loyalty, competence

Blue is the colour of peace. It represents trust and serenity. It is calming, reducing fear as well as appetite. Blue is seen as trustworthy and dependable, so it is used often in marketing, especially for airlines and business. Blue can be seen as mature and sometimes boring or rigid.

Georgia O’Keefe, Purple Petunias

Purple: royalty, luxury, spirituality, ambition

Purple is the colour of the spirit. It signifies imagination and spirituality. It can be creative, individual, immature or impractical. Purple symbolizes quiet dignity and tranquility. It represents wealth, royalty and fantasy.

Edgar Degas, Dancers in Pink

Pink: compassion, sincerity, sweet

Pink is the colour of love. It is associated with kindness and femininity. Pink has a calming effect and is sometimes used in prisons to calm inmates and in visiting team locker rooms to make the opponents relaxed and throw them off their game. In marketing, pink is used in women’s and girl’s products as a way of promoting traditional femininity.

Franz Kline, Black and White

Black: formality, dramatic, sophistication, security

Black isn’t actually a colour; it’s the absorption of all colours. Black is associated with attractiveness, elegance and sophistication. It is used in marketing to show power and high status. Black also can remind people of evil and death, and it is often used in the media to identify the villain.

Henmi Takashi, Tateyama Mountains from White Horse Peak

White: clean, simplicity, innocence, honest

White, also not a colour, typically signifies purity and innocence. In Western cultures, it is associated with weddings, hospitals and angels. Some people see white as meaning cold and empty. In many Eastern cultures, white is linked to death and sadness and is often used in funeral ceremonies.

Whether you prefer warm or cool colours in art, how you feel may change depending on the prominence. Next time you visit the gallery, take a moment to reflect on how you feel when you walk in, compared to when you leave.

By Kate Long


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