What effect does colour have on us?

This post written by Resident Artist - Dorothy Berry-Lound

Dorothy is 1stAngel Arts Magazine’s Resident Artist – April 2015
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In my earlier article (How do we ‘look’ at art?) I explained that colour affects the whole body and when we look at a piece of art we are using more than just our eyes.  But how does colour actually affect us?  Let’s start by considering each of the seven main colours of the spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.  These are of course the colours of the rainbow – at my school in England we were taught to remember these by using the following mnemonic ‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain’. Each of these colours relate to a particular chakra or energy centre in the body.  Chakras are like spirals of energy.   Red relates to the base chakra, orange the sacral chakra, yellow the solar plexus chakra, green the heart chakra, blue (turquoise) the throat chakra, indigo the brow chakra (sometimes referred to as the third eye) and violet relates to the crown chakra.  At a simple level, colour therapy is about balancing the seven chakras and the whole aura using colour, and the healing art I work with contributes to that process – there will be more about that in a later article.

But what effect does colour have on us?

Never Alone
Never Alone

Starting with red, this is a powerful energiser and stimulant, the symbol of life, strength and vitality.  It is a hot colour and very strong, it catches our attention and therefore is often used in warning signs.  Red is the most commonly used colour to make corrections so that they stand out – my English teacher at school probably wore out several red pens correcting my grammar!   I might also add I was taught at school not to write in a red pen as it was considered rude and the equivalent of shouting.  That is because red can be seen as aggressive – think of bullfighting and the saying ‘like a red rag to a bull’ meaning that you are doing or saying something provocative. Funnily enough bulls can’t distinguish the colour red, but that is another story.

Orange is feminine energy and creation, a combination of red and yellow it promotes joy and happiness and helps us to create balance.  It is also a stimulating, fun, warm colour, focussing the mind on physical comfort, warmth, security, food.  Orange also has some negative attributes, however, too much orange can suggest frivolity and a lack of intellectual values.

Om 22
OM 22

Yellow is the last of the three warm colours and stimulates mental activity with a focus on the mind and intellect.  Yellow makes us think of sunshine, gold, happiness and pleasure. The main stimulus of yellow is emotional so it is the colour that has the most psychological effect on us.  Yellow can lift the spirits and self-esteem and is often used in counselling sessions.  Too much yellow can have the opposite effect causing fear and anxiety – bringing out our ‘yellow streak’.

Green represents balance, harmony, sympathy, healing, the environment and peace. When we actually look at the colour green it requires little adjustment in our brain and therefore is quite restful.  Green also appeals to our primal instincts as where there is green there is water and therefore we avoid famine.  Green can also, however, be quite bland so blocks of green can create feelings of boredom.

Turquoise creates a bridge linking the heart and the spoken word, allowing your truth to be spoken.  It works with the emotions creating balance and stability so it is good for alleviating stress.  It boosts creativity, communication, individual responsibility and respect for life.  Too much turquoise can make you over emotional or unemotional as two extremes.

Indigo blue creates a calm, inner peace.  It is a cooling colour and slows things down. It boosts wisdom, trust, serenity, logic, coolness, reflection and calm being essentially soothing.  Blue gives the impression of space and blue objects do not seem as close to us as red ones.  Whilst it is many people’s favourite colour, too much blue can be cold, unemotional and unfriendly.


Violet (or purple) develops higher levels of spirituality, a higher level of thought, self-respect and dignity, deep contemplation or meditation, peace and wisdom.  Excessive use of purple can bring about too much introspection.

Immediately we can begin to see how the application of colour in art can potentially have a profound effect on the viewer. This is explored further in the next article.

New Artwork by Dorothy Berry-Lound

New Artwork by Dorothy Berry-Lound

A black and white focusing on the connection, the love between a man and his black dog. 
The young cat is transfixed by a lizard on the wall which is just outside the shot. The focus is on the cat, sitting with perked up ears, staring intently at her prey but probably with little chance of getting it! This photograph has been given a sep... 
The young cat stares seriously at the camera as she lays down in front of a pot of succulents in the garden. With the black and white effect, her eyes look like they have been edged with black eye liner. She is cute even in black and white. 
The cat and dog, now firm best friends, are so comfortable with each other that the cat allows the dog to use her for a pillow. As the dog is fast asleep, the cat lays watching the world passing by, ready to wake him up for action if needed. 
The two black rescue dogs can't believe their luck having a comfortable sofa to themselves - well okay, shared with their feline sister who is washing in the background. But definitely furry guys only need apply to sit here. 
The little grey cat turns her head towards the light so that the camera catches her best profile. The soft lighting highlights her beautiful amber eyes and orange nose. 
A colourful floral display of double headed Kalanchoe flowers. Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is also known as 'Flaming Katy' and this image brings out the oranges and reds of the plants to enhance the pink the more fiery colours which go well with the name... 
The little grey cat lays comfortably on a chair gazing in front of her, queen of all she surveys. It makes a change for her to be able to sit on the chair as it is normally occupied by her doggy brothers as you can see from the dog hairs. Stevie Mous... 
A distant view of San Fatucchio half way up the image rising up to Castiglione del Lago with the distinctive fortress (rocca) standing proud over the lake. Lago Trasimeno is south of the river Po and north of the nearby river Tiber and is the fourth ... 
A view down the valley to Castiglione del Lago, with its fortress looking out over Lago Trasimeno and on the other side of the lake Passignano sul Trasimeno. As well as a road route around the outside of the lake there is a ferry service between the ... 
Isola Polvese is the largest of three islands on Lago Trasimeno in Central Italy. It is a nature reserve and is reached by ferry. At one stage it was occupied by the Romans. A monastery was built there in 1482 but was later abandoned. In 1643 the tro... 
A back street in Tavernelle, Umbria, Italy and your eye is drawn to two old buildings that seem unoccupied but have matching archways at the front of each building, three on each. They look like they were once used as warehouse storage. 
This walkway leads off the Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini in Tavernelle, Umbria, Italy. The initial entrance walkway goes up hill, passing a row of shop windows, towards a large double flight of steps with central hand rail, that leads up to a residential a... 
The Via del Commercio runs through the centre of the old part of the market town of Tavernelle in Umbria, Italy and operates one way in and one way out. This is the part of the road that is the way out of Tavernelle Centre and at the end it rejoins t... 
The commercial end of Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini in Tavernelle, Umbria, Italy. The piazza contains several banks and shops and is a real thoroughfare with traffic coping with the one way system that operates in the centre of this bustling market town.