Project: Understanding colour

Draw two grids of squares, filling one with colours that you like and the other with colours you dislike. Then put the two grids side by side and ask the question ‘which one looks better?’

On the left are the colours I like. I wear these colours and my house is decorated in them. On the right are the colours I don’t like.


A couple of images of my ‘wardrobe’ would indicate the colours I like and wear. People made a lot of money out of a service”Colour me Beautiful” which I found intriguing. I have always known the colours in which I feel comfortable.

cloths_1 cloths_2

The usual result is the grid full of colours you dislike. This is because we tend to pick bright colours as the colours we like, which when placed side-by-side look garish and jarring. By contrast the colours we think we don’t like as much are often the more subtle and muddier mixed colours, tertiary colours and occasional bright hues. When placed side by side the effect is more balanced.

I think the colours I like look best! I don’t know if this makes me a freak!!

Next try experimenting with placing colours together as Itten did. Try and find different combinations of two colours to illustrate each of these ideas:

Angry  Brave  Creative  Dangerous  Energetic  Familiar  Gregarious Hopeful  Independent  Jumpy  Kinetic  Luxurious  Masculine  New  Open Precious  Quiet Reasonable  Sociable  Tasteful  Unhappy  Vital  Wonderful Extra special  Youthful  Zany

I was not quite sure how to approach this exercise so I looked up Itten and the colour wheel. In so doing I came across an interesting online blog by David Briggs in which both modern and traditional colour theory are explained.(1).

The following figure explains the modern theory of colour:


The traditional RGB or primary colour triangle has been updated to the Yellow Blue red and Green model. These are the four psychological primaries. Our brain registers these due to the light falling on the retina which has three colour cone receptors. These receptors see the whole spectrum of colour between them and these are then registered on the brain.

However there has been a move back to the traditional theory of colour. Briggs does not approve of this and indicates it is a dumbing down of art teaching in the same way that anatomy is no longer taught in many art schools.

The blog also contains the following neat image of the Primary colours for mixing paints and the three additive colours for mixing lights:


Researching the emotions associated with colours I found this site.(2) where certain emotions and effects were discussed in relation to certain colours. For danger, for example, both red and yellow could be associated with danger. I looked at this combination to see how I felt about it.

I decided to go and make Itten type colour squares in my log for each of the above emotions. I just based these on how I ‘felt’ about the colour and it’s association with the particular emotion.

Then I decided to work on each emotion using a more ‘informed’ approach by reading what I could find about the association of the emotion with a colour or colours.

I will slot my log colour squares in here and there to see how my own personal emotions informed my colour choices.


anger2_Angry:Red is traditionally associated with anger. . Orange is close to red and might be interpreted as slightly less angry but nonetheless anger or aggressiveness is associated with the colour

In my emotional depiction I chose red/blue



ANGER                             DANGER                    BRAVE                     VITAL



Yellow is associated with liveliness and energy both characertistics required for bravery. green is associated with durability and endurance.

Interestingly I chose green as one of my ’emotional’ brave colours.




Both orange and purple are associated with creativity. Purple is also associated with sophistication. I dislike both of these colours – does this mean I am neither creative nor sophisticated?

I chose orange and mauve instead of purple for creative for my emotional choice.


CREATIVE                                                        ENERGETIC       GREGARIOUS



Red is traditionally associated with danger so my mind reacts to this colour indicating danger. Yellow is quite often associated with danger also. For example in the road signs survey the exclamation mark is usually displayed on a yellow background indicating some unknown danger. The colour obtained by mixing these two colours is orange so the whole is skewed towards the red end of the spectrum.



It is interesting that both danger and energy come up with the same colour pairing. Red is associated with energy normally but looking at the shell logo I assume they want to indicate that their product provides energy…




familiar_2I think from my reading that blue could be classified as familiar because it is the most communally used colour. It is the colour of the sky and Summer. Green is the colour of nature and is therefore extremely familiar.




talkative_2In the meaning of colors, orange is outgoing and uninhibited, often encouraging exhibitionism or at least it is a color that wants to show off. The color orange relates to social communication and it encourages two-way conversation. (3)

I added red to back up the above ‘observation’



hope_2Colours associated with hope vary from one culture to another but green seems to be almost universal. I decided on a light green as for me this gives the impression a lightness and hopeful ness. Yellow is also associated with hope in some cults so I put these two colour together to represent hope.



independence_2While researching colours which could symbolise independence I cam across this article (4). Many meanings were attributed to each colour discussed together with cultural differences for colours. I remember this in Nepal where white is associated with death and red with marriage.




Jumpy and Kinetic:

jumpy_2The colour yellow is a lively colour according to much of what I read. It is playful and enthusiastic and could therefore be associated with movement. When placed with orange the two colours together produce, for me, a jumpy effect.

I used deep lilac with yellow for jumpy and with red for kinetic.


luxury_2Silver and gold are often associated with luxury but the most consistent colour that I found to be associated with luxury was purple. So I combined purple with silver.

For my emotional reaction I used light grey on black for luxurious and mauve on black for tasteful.



JUMPY                             KINTIC                     LUXURIOUS   TASTEFUL


masculine_2Blue is the traditional colour associated with the male child in our culture but does this mean masculine.

Words associated with masculinity include strong, silent, handsome and rugged. Colors that are defined with these characters are also perceived as masculine. Athletic team colors, such as navy and crimson personify strength and unity, and are considered masculine. Many shades of gray and taupe have understated masculine appeal, and are often paired with blue and burgundy in male-influenced spaces. Warm tones of brown, tan, gold, green and beige are considered masculine colors and can work together to create a masculine outdoor color scheme. (5)

So many colour combinations seem to define masculinity but they are mostly muted.


new_2Generally I think white would be associated with pure, clean and therefore ‘new’. I combined this with yellow which is associated with sunshine and happiness and I stretched this to ‘newness”.

For my emotional reaction to masculine colour I used browns but the only material i had was a wool!!! My friend thought it looked like an old cat!!!! For New I used blue with white instead of yellow.


MASCULINE                                              NEW


open_2On the touchy-feely level, blue symbolizes openness, intelligence, and faith, and has been found to have calming effects.(6). I also found reference to the fact that white can symbolise open.





precious_2I think since silver and gold are precious metals they are automatically associated with  preciousness. It is hard to represent these colours without some highlighting which would be found in advertising.




quiet_2Calmness and quietness are associated with pale blues and greens in most of the literature.









Green represents quietness and relaxation the demeanour of a reasonable person. Orange represents flexibility and generosity. Again associated with reasonableness.





QUIET                                             REASONABLE


Interesting when I looked up ‘sociable’ the colours of the social media sites came up here. Blue seems to be widely used for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress and Vimeo which must mean it is a ‘sociable’ colour. The other prominent colour was orange for Pintarest, GooglePlus, YouTube etc.



tastefulThe is really interesting as looking up ‘tasteful colour combinations’ one finds mostly fashion sites. Fashion is a matter of personal taste so I would decide what I like to wear as a combination. I like navy and white or red.  I don’t know about the psychology of this colour combination but I like it…



unhappyThis  research into mood association for colours is interesting (7). Although the conclusions are not rigid unhappiness was associated with shades of grey and dark blue.





vitalUsing vital in the sense of vitality or alive then the colour most associated with this attribute are red and yellow again






wonderfulWonderful is associated with youth and happiness which is often represented by orange. Red is the colour of passion and energy so red and orange are my choice.





VITAL                                                   WONDERFUL

Extra special:

I cannot find anything about colours for special except colours used for special causes. Pink, is associated with breast cancer cause and yellow is a sunny colour for someone special.




youthAgain youth is associated with pink and orange. It is a zany combination also!






zanyA hair colour site suggested their zaniest colours…

For Zany all I could see in my minds eye was a kaleidoscope of colours so I made the triangles below into a square…




YOUTHFUL                                                             ZANY


If I work with raw emotion I do not come up with the same colour representation. I do not understand yet if this is because I am not yet fully informed about the psychological effects of colour or if I have a skewed sense of colour…. Time may tell


Finally I found this interesting wheel of colour emotions,


I found an amusing graphic for emotions related to colour here 


  1. The Dimensions of Colour. 2016. The Dimensions of Colour. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 November 2016].
  2. Creative Bloq. 2016. 12 colours and the emotions they evoke | Creative Bloq. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 November 2016].
  3. 2016. Orange Color Meaning – The Color Orange. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 November 2016].
  4. Art Therapy. 2016. Color Meanings | Color Symbolism | Meaning of Colors. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 November 2016].
  5. Masculine and Feminine Colors | Home Guides | SF Gate. 2016. Masculine and Feminine Colors | Home Guides | SF Gate. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 November 2016].
  6. Site Point . 2016. The Psychology of Color. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 November 2016].
  7. Live Science. 2016. Different Colors Describe Happiness vs. Depression. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 29 November 2016].