Colour Theory

May 1, 2019
Colours are not simply important, they are vital, and play a tremendous partin capturing attention, influencing imagination and even evoking certain feelings.It can soothe our eyes or make us anxious, raise our blood pressure or suppress our appetite. When used in the right ways, color can even save on energy consumption.Psychological influence, communication, information, and effects on the psyche are aspects of our perceptual judgment processes. Hence, the goal of colour design in an architectural space are not relegated to decoration alone.
  • Colour theory is both the science and art of colour.
  • It explains how humans perceive colour; how colours mix, match or clash, the subliminal messages colours communicate; and the methods used to replicate colour.
  • It is important to know how colours interact with each other.
  • If combined in certain ways they have different effects on each other and the environment around them.
: A basic colour wheel, derived from the Newton’s colour wheel, showing primary, secondary and tertiary colours is further used in the document.


Red, Yellow and Blue
  • These are three pigment colours that cannot be mixed or formed by any combination of other colours.
  • All other colors are derived from these hues.


Green, orange and purple
  • These are the colours formed by mixing the two primary colours.


Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green
  • These are the colours formed by mixing primary and secondary colour.


A true colour or a shade of a colour.


A hue darkened with black.


A hue dulled with grey.


A hue lightened with white.

Colour temperature

There are two types of colours on basis of the temperature they depict:
  • Warm colours
  • Cool colours

1. Warm colours

  • These colours tend to advance in space and can be overpowering.
  • These are generally associated with energy, brightness, and action.

2. Cool colours

  • These colours are not overpowering and tend to recede in space, hence making the space look larger.
  • These are generally identified with calm, peace, and serenity.

Neutral colours

  • Neutral means without colour.
  • It includes black, white, grey, beige, taupe, ivory and such colours.
Colour is a sensory perception, having effects that are symbolic, associative, synesthetic, and emotional.It is one of the design goal consideration that demands adherence to ensure human psychological and physiological well-being within a space.The impression of a colour and the message it conveys is important in creating the psychological mood or ambiance that supports the function of a space.
Every colour has some significant psychological effect, both positive and negative. Colour associations are not necessarily universal. It depends on a range of factors like gender, age, ethnicity, culture, etc. some influences are same irrespective of all the factors. Some such effects of colours are discussed below:


  • Red is the most dominant and dynamic colour.
  • The eye actually has to adjust focus, since the natural focal point of red lies behind the retina. Consequently it appears closer than it is.


  • Positive: passionate, fervid, active, strong, warm
  • Negative: intense, aggressive, raging, fierce, bloody


  • Energetic and exciting
  • Bold and passionate
  • Fun
  • Powerful


  • It is essentially a light red and is usually associated with love and romance.
  • It is generally considered feminine, but that depends much on the nuance used (varying from old rose pink to hot pink).


  • Positive: jovial, lively, energetic, extroverted
  • Negative: intrusive, blustering


  • Calming
  • Feminine and vibrant
  • Joyful, lively and creative
  • Refreshing


  • It is usually used as an accent colour to draw attention.
  • It is a bright and uplifting colour, hence it is mostly avoided in space that are subjected to relaxing.


  • Positive: cheerful, vigorous, energetic, extroverted
  • Negative: agitative, blustering


  • Excitement and enthusiasm
  • Warmth
  • Increased energy levels


  • It is the happiest colour. It can also be used to draw attention like other warm colours.
  • Bright yellows tend to inspire optimism and foster an upbeat attitude, hence it can be used where mood needs to be uplifted.
  • Still, too much yellow can lead to anger, frustration or agitation.


  • Positive: sunny, cheerful, radiant, vital, artistic
  • Negative: egocentric, glaring


  • Cheering
  • Energetic
  • Creative
  • Warmth
  • Aggressive


  • When looking at green the eye focuses exactly on the retina, which makes green the most restful colour to the eye.
  • Green is thought to relieve stress and it helps in healing.


  • Positive: tranquil, refreshing, quiet, natural, peace
  • Negative: common, tiresome, guilty, sickly


  • Calming
  • Compassionate
  • Optimistic
  • Productivity
  • Organic or natural
  • Refreshing


  • It is a calming colour which is said to lower blood pressure and appetite.
  • It can be used to create an atmosphere of work and meditation.
  • The light shades of blue can be used to visually enlarge a room.


  • Positive : calm, sober, secure, comfortable, noble
  • Negative : frightening, depressing, melancholy, cold


  • Retiring
  • Relaxing
  • Stability
  • Increased productivity
  • Sincere
  • Intense (dark shades)


  • Red shade (Purple) attract more attention and is more dominating.
  • Blue shade (Voilet) can be serene and calm and gives an air of mystery.
  • Purple is an opulent colour which creates an atmosphere of luxury and class. It has a reputation of being a royal colour associated with power.
  • The dark shades can be used to create a dramatic focal element, whereas the lighter shades are ideal for providing restfulness.


  • Positive: dignified, exclusive, royal
  • Negative: lonely, mournful, pompous, conceited


  • Exotic
  • Regal
  • Sensual
  • Soothing
  • Mysterious


  • It usually induces a feeling of naturalness and comfort, as it symbolises earth.
  • It can add depth and warmth in a space. Unpolished wood or wool textiles in natural shades of brown create a pleasant rustic effect.
  • In feng shui, brown represents either wood if it’is dark and rick or earth if it is light.


  • Positive: warm, secure, stable
  • Negative: lonely, sad, oppressive, heavy


  • Subduing
  • Secure and stable
  • Reliability
  • Resilience
  • Natural
  • Sophisticated
  • Warmth


  • It gives the feeling of subtle elegance because it is not too conservative, but still quite formal.
  • It combines very well with other colors, but if used alone it might create a boring atmosphere.


  • Positive : neutral
  • Negative : boring


  • Elegance
  • Clean
  • Fresh
  • Sophisticated


  • It is associated with oppressive power and darkness.
  • Black is good for bold, dramatic effects since the color stands out and attracts the eye.
  • It has certain negative connotations and has a weighty, serious aspect, but can also create a mood of refinement and elegance.


  • Positive: deep, abstract
  • Negative: dungeon-like, night, grief, death


  • Elegance
  • Clean
  • Bold
  • Formal


  • White is used to create an airy appearance, quiet and pure.
  • It is often used to make rooms seem larger and more spacious and give an invigorating freshness.
  • It represents purity or innocence.


  • Positive: clean, crisp, bright, fresh
  • Negative: empty, sterile, stark, cold, isolated


  • Clean
  • Refreshing
  • Sterile
  • Empty
  • Bright
Harmony engages the viewer and it creates an inner sense of order, a balancein the visual experience. To achieve this, the following colour schemes work asbasic formulas.