What is Colour Psychology ?

Put simply Colour psychology is our subconscious response to colour - in other words - how colour makes us feel.

“It is the effects of the electro-magnetic radiation of light on human mood and behaviour” -Angela Wright

In it’s simplest terms - colour is light, light is a source of energy - we feel energy so therefore doesn’t it make sense to assume that we feel colour in some way. I’m sure you’ve all experienced times when a particular colour has caused a physical response in you - maybe a room was painted a colour that made you feel uncomfortable; have you ever put out clothes the night before only to wake up the next morning having a complete change of mind ? - that’s because your mood has changed overnight and those particular colours no longer suit. If you were presented with a blue banana it’s likely your first reaction would be uuurgh !! as it just wouldn’t ‘feel’ appetising.

On a wider level, the colours of our environment also affects us - when spring bulbs begin to appear in their bright, fresh colours - think of daffodils and bluebells - we all start to feel a bit more energised and livelier. Likewise when the skies are grey and gloomy and the leaves fall from the trees we tend to withdraw and go into hibernating mood ! That is our subconscious response to the colours around us and the basis of colour psychology.

Colour psychology is our subconscious, universal response to colour.

Colour psychology is not to be mixed up with colour symbolism. Colour symbolism is our conditioned response and associations with colour. We are all influenced by colour from birth - often in very subtle ways and is often based on preconceptions and biases. One of the best examples of cultural colour bias is black and white - in our culture we wear black to mourn the dead and we get married in white. In Japan their funeral coffins are draped in white and their brides wear black. In addition to cultural bias we often develop our own bias through personal experience. I remember having to wear a purple knitted dress when I was a kid - I hated it then and I’m sure its why I don’t like purple now !

In 1984, Angela Wright developed a theory (The Wright Theory) which challenged the idea that our response to colour is purely subjective. She discovered that there were links between patterns of colour and patterns of human behaviour and that by combining colour harmony with the science of psychology our responses could be predicted with a high level of accuracy.

Based on the theories of Carl Jung she came to the conclusion that all colours in the world can be divided into four tonal groups of colour and that each group is aligned with a personality type. Through a series of experiments it was proved that as humans we are naturally drawn to harmonious colour groups over disharmonious ones - even if we don’t particularly like the colours. Also her colour harmony theory was backed up scientifically as it was proved that her colour groups had a mathematical correlation.

She proved that colour preference is not purely subjective but by combining certain colours in particular tones our response could be predicted.

“The psychological properties of the basic hues and the difference that the tonal variations in combination with specific shades will create visual harmony and a predictable psychological effect”

Angela Wright

Obviously this is fantastically useful for anyone who uses colour as a way of selling a product or service as it can be used to subconsciously affect us in a positive or negative way. It can be used to influence and persuade our clients to buy from us; it can be used in our branding to reinforce our brand message and add authenticity and trust to our brand ; it can be used by textile/fashion designers to ensure their colour palettes are right for their chosen market. Basically it is essential knowledge for anyone who uses colour in their business - why wouldn’t you want to know more ?

It is also useful as a tool for personal discovery and insight into our authentic selves - ‘colour’ never lies !

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The Colour Affects System

-there are four colour families within which every colour harmonises

-there are four basic personality types

-each personality type has a natural affinity with one group of colours

-each group of colours expresses a personality type.


This group of colours are warm, light and bright with not too high saturation. Morninglight people love ‘light’, love to dance and are full of ideas. They can sometimes come across as being a bit scatty but don’t underestimate them as they are also very clever. They are externally motivated and are good communicators.

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Dreamlight colours are cool midtones - colours with grey in them. Dreamlight people are internally motivated and usually come across as being cool, calm and collected. They can appear serious but have a witty, dry sense of humour and are very sensitive to what other people are feeling. They abhor vulgarity and need order in their lives.

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Firelight colours are warm and intense - they are all slightly ‘off’ and usually have black in them. This personality type is usually intense and strong and all have a fiery element. They tend to have a strong sense of justice and love to know how things work. Comfort and substance are key words.

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Starlight colours are cool, clear and strong - a bit like a starlight personality ! Starlight people automatically command respect and maybe that’s probably why this group of colours are aspirational. (this is the only group where you will find black). They are not easily diverted from their goal and are very efficient and precise. They do care but are not sentimental and would make great surgeons.

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Do you find yourself drawn to one of the colour groups above ?

I hope you found this brief explanation useful and interesting. It’s a fascinating subject to delve into and the more you learn the more you realise how it permeates into all aspects of our lives. It can be applied to our homes, the colours we choose to wear and if you are a business owner - your brand colours.

-no more mixed messages

-make rational colour decisions with confidence

  • the ability to back up your colour choices

If you would like to learn more checkout my workshops - COLOUR YOUR HOME and NEW for this year - COLOUR MIXOLOGY