Although the psychology of color is not yet an exact science, enough about it is known to serve a number of practical purposes. It has been well established, for instance, that the response to color is emotional. Although the response to color may differ somewhat from person to person, most of us find that certain hues seem quite and subdued and give rise to corresponding emotions. Other hues that are more intense produce a cheerful or excited response. Accordingly, color can animate or tranquilize, excite or depress, sooth or irritate, delight or annoy, depending upon the colors used.
Yellow is the most cheerful of all colors; it is the color that comes the nearest to sunshine. Like yellow, red is a “warm” color, and it inspires warmth and happiness. Orange, which is produced by combining red and yellow, is also a cheerful color. Buffs, tans, and creams, which are tints of orange or yellow-orange, are safe background colors. The present trend, however, is to move lively colors.
Blue is a “cold” color, and it is true that certain blues may be depressing. Other blues, however, suggest a dignity and serenity that make them admirable for creating a formal and sometimes even a spiritual atmosphere.
Green shares the qualities of both yellow and blue, that is, the qualities of sunshine yellow and cold, sedate blue. It is one of the most restful and pleasing of colors. Green, as you know, occurs abundantly in nature, and yellow-green, which is the color of young grass and leaves, suggests springtime. Grayed tints of green are extremely restful and are therefore especially suitable for backgrounds. As a result grayed greens are widely used for workrooms, schools, and offices. A grayed green, for instance, is used in hospital rooms.
Purples and violets are depressing to some people. But if they are shaded with black or gray to produce a raisin or plum color, they can provide a pleasing background for an attractive color scheme. They may also be used as accent colors for draperies, furniture, and accessories. It is a good rule, however, to avoid large areas of light tints of lavender or orchid, since such colors violate the normal spectrum order and thus create a discordant relationship with other colors.
We are now ready to summarize what has just been said about the general psychological relations to color. We can start with red as the most exciting of colors. Then, in passing from red-orange to yellow-orange, we pass from exciting colors to stimulating colors. Although yellow is less stimulating than yellow-orange, it is the most cheerful of colors. After leaving yellow we come to greens (yellow-green, green, and blue-green), which are more tranquilizing than yellow, and after the greens we come to the serenity of blue. From blue we go on to colors that are often depressing, the purples and violets.