Make & Hue, Make & Hue // issue 001 // Colour

More than just a pretty colour: colour psychology

Transported. Transfixed. Transformed. It’s one of the ideas that I’ve been turning over in my head for the past several years. That colour is powerful and it can make you think things. It can make you believe things. It can seriously mind control you.

Consider the colour Red. I love red. All my kitchen and bakeware is flaming red and I adore it. But how would it feel if you painted your kitchen red? Excited? Hungry? How about your bedroom? If your bedroom was painted red, would it be conducive to gently drifting off to sleep? Or would it be energizing and drive your mind to ruminate over all the things on your todo list? It seems like it might be a little woo woo, but I do believe that colour makes a difference in how you think and feel. Colour has the power to affect us physiologically as well as emotionally.

In university, I studied pharmaceutical sciences and even worked as a pharmacist for a few years in my early 20’s. This field definitely was not my passion and I eventually quit my job as a pharmacist so that I could work in graphic design. But I find the marketing side of the pharmaceutical industry pretty fascinating.

There have been studies that show how colours affect our perception. Like when a group of test subjects were given placebo painkillers of different colours, the group that received the red pills claim to have less pain and fewer headaches than people who received green, white, or blue pills. Nothing was changed… and there was no actual medication in any of the pills. The only difference is the colour.

Red is a hue that can increase your blood pressure, breathing rate, and muscle tension. It can also boosts your mood and stimulate creativity, conversation, and appetite. This is the reason why so many restaurants have red as part of their logo or interior decor. Painting your dining room red is a wonderful way to encourage indulgent and vibrant dinner parties. Combined with yellow or orange, hues which encourage people to do things quickly, you’ll find a ton of fast food restaurants with red and yellow as part of their logo. They want you to order a lot and to do it quickly. The opposite is true for colours like blue. In fact, it’s been suggested that eating off of a blue plate can diminish your appetite and help you lose weight, even.

The colour yellow exudes light and warmth. It is the colour that we imagine the sun to be. Yellow can encourage better moods and energy levels and combats gloom and fatigue. But too much “up” energy can be draining after an extended period of time and can sometimes end up being irritating. I’ve read anecdotes about babies fussing and crying for longer periods of time if their nursery is painted yellow.

My husband and I have lived through the heavy effect of yellow! The inside of our house was painted a muted mustard yellow by the previous owners. Not just a room or two. The whole house. Floor to ceiling. Seriously, even the ceiling was painted yellow. We’ve slowly been re-painting the house in new colours, room by room, and each time we finish re-painting a room, we are refreshed! Shedding the dark and dingy deep yellow colour makes everything feel instantly lighter.

Green can increase your ability to concentrate while also reducing muscle tension and stress. Consider pale and warm sage greens and how relaxing and restorative they can be. Or brighter melon and lime greens and how refreshing they can seem. Green is an excellent colour to encourage meditation and learning.

Various hues of blue can help lower blood pressure, breathing rate, and give a sense of calm, serenity, peace, and relaxation. Deep shades of blue often give people the feeling of trustworthiness and institutional reliability. Consider bank logos and conservative law firms and how they often use navy blue to convey trust.

These are just a small handful of examples of the types of psychological effects that various hues can have. There are already so many different considerations when choosing colours for a knitting or fibre arts project and this just adds one more layer to the mix. Perhaps that cool, pale blue scarf that perpetually sits in the WIP pile is boring you with it’s reserved and low-key nature. Or perhaps you’re zooming through a red lace shawl because you’re energized and pepped up every time to lay eyes on that hue. Whether you need restoration or comfort, cheering up, or a little levity, there is a colour that can give you that boost.

I recently read and was reminded that colour is what your mind perceives when wavelengths of light energy are reflected back from objects. Colour is a vibration. Colour is energy. It’s no wonder that colour feels like it has life flowing through it, vibrating in your hands as you work those stitches.

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  • Grumpy Knitter

    This was fascinating to read! I think I need more blue in my life!

    • Thanks for that! Yes, who doesn’t need more calm and relaxation? ;)

  • Oh good call, thanks Liz… yes, I would love to explore black, grey, and neutrals a bit more too… “colour psychology-wise”, I have talked about my personal “grey sweater syndrome” where I wear grey sweaters almost every time I’m feeling nervous or shy about something… hmm…