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Natural Awakenings

Playing with Color: Discover Meaning with Paint

Sep 01, 2009 03:00AM ● By Kate Smith

Color affects us on every level—physical, mental and emotional. Our reaction to color is almost instantaneous and has a profound impact on the choices we make every day. We can have fun with and better understand the use of color in our home, based on this psychological snapshot of their meaning.


• Overwhelmingly the favorite color
• The least gender-specific color, appeals equally to men and women
• Symbolizes trustworthiness, dependability and commitment
• Calms and cools
• Aids intuition

• Humanity’s second-favorite color
• The color of peace and ecology
• Soothes and relaxes
• Helps alleviate depression, nervousness and anxiety
• Symbolizes renewal, self-control and harmony

• Advances toward the eye from surrounding colors
• Stimulates the nervous system
• Sparks creative thoughts
• Activates memory and encourages communication
• Symbolizes optimism, enlightenment and happiness
• Can be irritating; babies cry more in yellow rooms

• Elicits strong positive or negative associations
• Stimulates activity and appetite
• Encourages socialization
• Some tones (terra cotta, peach and rust) have broad appeal
• Associated with fun, flamboyance, warmth and energy

• Has more personal associations than any other color
• Encourages action and confidence
• Stimulates energy and can raise the heart rate
• Increases enthusiasm
• Immediately draws and focuses visual attention

• Embodies the balance of stimulating red and calming blue
• Calms the mind and nerves
• Symbolizes mystic, spiritual or royal qualities
• Encourages creativity and is often a favorite color of creative people

• Represents stability, reliability and approachability
• Engenders feelings of wholesomeness
• Offers a sense of orderliness
• Associated with all things natural or organic
• Symbolizes our connection with the Earth

• Aids mental clarity
• Symbolizes purity, cleanliness and neutrality (in the West)
• Encourages individuals to clear clutter or obstacles
• Enables fresh beginnings

• Mixes well with any color
• Often associated with loss or depression
• Can be unsettling

• Evokes strong emotions, so too much can be overwhelming
• Seen as authoritative and powerful
• Symbolizes mystery—both a sense of potential and a restful emptiness

For personal insights based on color preferences, try these online color quizzes:; Lüscher Color Diagnostics®, based on the work of Dr. Max Luscher:; and Pratt & Lambert Paints:

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