Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Significance of Color

Recently a friend asked me about the color of her new website. She called me her color expert. I was thrilled. I didn't pick the one she expected (or maybe hoped). Most of us have a favorite color. Red is probably mine. My whole house is done in red. Before you say, "Oh, that explains it." Let me tell you about red.

The word red has been part of the English language since about A.D. 900. Red is viewed as the color of health. In olden days red wool was applied to relieve sprains in Scotland, sore throats in Ireland, and to prevent fevers in Macedonia. In China, it was worn to promote long life and even today is the preferred color of a wedding dress. The Aztecs regarded red as the symbol of wisdom. In early Britain, commoners weren't allowed to eat red food like lobster, red berries, or fruit except at feasts to honor the dead. Red is an energy color and symbolies the color of passion, anger. Red is NOT the color of love--that's green! However, red does excite (think high blood pressure). People who love red act--sometimes without thinking--on immediate desires.

There are seven basic colors of the spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. But people can see about 1000 levels of light-dark, 100 levels of red-green, and 100 levels of yellow-blue. That means there are thousands of colors in the sprectrum.

The color black, literally absorbs all light and does not reflect any of its rays. In China and Japan black represents luck and power while in other cultures (such as ours), it is associated with evil. Both in art and religion black signifies despair and sin. The practice of wearing black dates back to an ancient semitic custom of blackening the face with dirt or ashes to make it unrecognizable to the dead, as well as a mark of grief. To wear black on a job interview means you don't want to reveal too much about yourself. It's considered a mask to hide behind, yet black is a popular color on a date (think little black dress). On the other hand, it tags the wearer as a 'play it safe person'. and despite the many negative associations, in heraldry black, called sable, stands for constancy, prudence and wisdome.

The complete opposite of black is white. It means the absence of all color. Or rather, it is the 'color' produced by reflecting almost all kinds of light found in the visible spectrum. This is why white colothing is considered cooler than all other colors on a hot summer day (since it reflects back sunlight and heat), rather than absorbing it. White represents goodness, light, and innocence (think traditional bridal dress). If worn on a date, it is considered a 'touch me not' color. The color white projects feelings of calmness, relaxation and an inner peace (think doctors, nurses). People who like white are probably clean and orderly.

Look at color. What do you feel? In writing, as you create those moving pictures for your readers, allow color to move them from one place to an entirely new one. Imagine. Experience. Transcend. Change the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Oh, and my friend . . . after we finished discussing her choices, she figured out why she was hesitant about using her favorite color. I can hardly wait to see what she ended up with.

What's your favorite color? What color do you want to know about?


  1. My favorite color has changed so much over the years. From orange when a little girl, to purple as a teenager, to blue when I married. Now? There's a wonderful shade of blue/green, very light, that I've seen when the sun is behind a breaking wave...makes my heart grow still...

  2. Blue/green is a good combination. Blue is one of the most popular colors in the world. Traditionaly blue is the color of constancy and faith, It helps overcome hurt, resolves confict, and help with self-acceptance. Greeb eases stressm helps with self-respect and soothes anger. Both are good colors.

  3. My favorite colors are black and purple. =)

  4. Interesting choices, Sarah. Black is associated with power, elegance, formality, death, evil and mystery. The practice of wearing black dates back to an ancient Semitic custom of blackening the face with dirt or ashes to make it unrecognizable to the dead, as well as a mark of grief. Priests, police and businessmen wear black because it reflects power and authority. For healing, black is said to bring one a state of grace.

    Purple is a combination of energetic red and stable blue. It symbolizes power, nobility, luxury and ambition. Wearing purple generate feelings of self-respect, dignitiy and self-worth. This color promotes meditation and introspection for rooms. Pale purple is often used for hospital rooms and recovery wards to aid patients in replenishing their sense of worth. Too much purple is suppose to lead to forgetfulness and a lack of endurance. Combined with more intense, bright hues, the effect borders on oppression. Purple works well with yello.

  5. Wow! Thanks for sharing that, Darcy. Very intriguing!

  6. Interesting! I'd never really thought about color in that way. My favorite is a very deep teal, although I like all the jewel tones.

  7. Hi Suzanne, Sorry I missed this one. Didn't see it until this morning. Teal falls into the turquoise category--a bluish-green color with blue primary and green secondary. I call it the communication color as people tend to listen to you more when you wear the color. I always wear it a touch of it at conferences. Seems to work for me. It provides freshness and vitality. The color works well in small spaces as it opens up small spaces.