Everyday we make decisions based on color, mostly without knowing it. We choose clothing, reach for breakfast cereal, and honor someone’s message partially because of color. Most of this reaction is subconscious, part of the natural programming of the human body. It’s what makes us instinctively know that fire is dangerous and that green grass is comforting. By using the powerful psychological tool of color, you can send a positive or negative message, stimulate sales, calm a crowd, or encourage people to take notice.
Color has been used as a tool as long as there has been human interaction. Initially, it was used to symbolize social class or identify important members of society. Ancient Egyptians and Chinese used color to heal. It has long been used ceremonially to celebrate birth, marriage and death. We use color today for many of these same reasons. Corporations spend millions of dollars studying the effect color has on consumers so they can better sell their products.
One of the eight limbs of yoga is to live life with intention. By intentionally using color, we can have a greater impact on those around us. It is hard enough to get people to take notice, listen to our message, or buy our product. These days we need to employ every technique at our disposal to make this happen. So let’s use color.
There are three components that can be used when playing with color — hue, intensity and value. Hue is the actual base color of red, yellow, blue, green, etc.; all of which have their own psychological effects that we will touch on individually in the subsequent blog posts. These base colors and consequently, their intended impact, can be strengthened by varying the hue’s value (lighter or darker) and intensity (brighter or duller.) You have a wonderful opportunity, first thing in the morning, to set the stage for an effective day by choosing clothes and/or crafting an environment that will enhance your anticipated activities by varying these three aspects.
“I don’t look good in red,” you might say. The spectrum of each color is so vast; there is a version of red — cool, warm, light or dark that will work for you. You may remember the Color Me a Season work of Bernice Kentner from the eighties. She introduced the spectrum of colors based on four seasons, one season’s palette best complementing a person’s natural coloring. Basically, Summers and Winters have cool skin tones; being flattered by cooler colors, Autumns and Springs have warm skin tones; looking best in warmer colors. I am a “spring”, which means I look best in bright, warm colors. A person should select the version of color that works best with their natural skin tone and eye coloring. Ms. Kentner is still selling color palates of the four seasons on her website at www.colormeaseason.com
A person does not have to wear a monochromatic outfit to make a statement and have an impact on others. My husband, in the Don Johnson-style, all white tux he wore to our wedding in 1987, did present a wonderful picture of purity. At 6’4”, He also looked like a tampon. He may have looked better in a black tux with all white accents, tie, cummerbund, flowers — same message, much less offensive. The overall color of an outfit sets the stage, but an accent piece can effectively send an important message and do the trick. As women, we are fortunate to have a number of ways to use color to send our message. A great pair of red pumps with a black suit will get you noticed and naturally establish a look of authority. A pink cashmere sweater set will help clients trust you, especially important for healers. Gray lends confidence and value and is highly effective when used on a handout or brochure to send a message of high-value.
Color can create the illusion of motion. Warm hues and bright, intense colors seem to advance; cool hues, dark shades, and dull intensities seem to recede. If you intend to stand out it is good to wear warm hues and bright colors. If you will better achieve your goals by appearing to step back, facilitating the situation rather than leading, you may want to wear something cool, dark or low intensity.
Color also creates the illusion of size. We all know that the “little black dress” is slimming. Warm hues, light values and bright intensities enlarge the wearer, while darkness reduces the wearer. Yellow is the most enlarging, black being the least.
If you are speaking in front of a group of people, you ought to choose something red, true and bright. The boldness of the color red will make you seem larger in importance and advance your message. If you are meeting with a counseling client, where your job is to encourage sharing and trust building, choose something light blue or soft pink. The entire outfit does not have to be these colors; the effect can be achieved using a well-chosen accent like a scarf, camisole under your suit jacket, or standout shoes.
Our US President has a team of professional stylists that dress him every day, depending on what activities he has on the schedule. His suits tend to be black and only the tie color varies. It is the tie that stands out and sends the intended message, red tones for power and authority, blue tones for trustworthiness or honor.
When using color to impact our lives, we can make this happen by choosing garments or accessories of a specific color. We can also employ feng shui techniques of placement to certain bagua areas or compass directions of our homes to stimulate energy movement and generate change. Additionally, a person can carefully select gemstones to ignite energy flow in our space or on our body. Tibetan Buddhists utilize gemstones with the belief that they represent the following: crystal for light, coral for life, turquoise for infinity of sea and sky, silver for the light of the moon, and gold for divinity, wealth and success.
While perceptions of color vary among cultures, there are some color effects that have universal meaning. Through my 12-blog series, I will present the more universal meaning of color and share some helpful techniques for using color in your life to make changes to your environment, appearance, self-confidence and effectiveness. The forthcoming information is a compilation from feng shui, chakra, color psychology sources, as well as from my personal experience. Let’s begin with red.
Blue is the male principle, stern and spiritual. Yellow the female principle, gentle, cheerful and sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the colour which must be fought and vanquished by the other two. – Franz Marc
Read our individual color Blogs:
The Color Red
The Color Orange
The Color Yellow
The Color Green
The Color Pink
The Color Turquoise
The Color Blue
The Color Indigo
The Color Purple
The Color White
The Color Gray
The Color Black
For further reading, check out these sources:
Marian Davis, Visual Design in Dress, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Inc., 1980.