What is the significance of Color? What do they represent?

In the Western World:

Traffic lights: Red means stop, yellow means caution, and green means go. Yellow signs also warn drivers of upcoming curves, pedestrian crossings, and animal crossings.

Patriotism: Most, if not all countries have a flag. The colors of each flag are usually seen as patriotic. Red, white, and blue symbolizes patriotism in the U.S.A.

Holidays: Red and green are favorite Christmas colours. Colors of Autumn such as orange, brown, yellow and red are associated with Thanksgiving with black and orange associated with Halloween. Pastel colors are used for Easter. Because flowers are a common gift for Mother’s Day, colors such as yellow, pink, and red are used frequently.

Emotions: Blue is seen as conservative. Red is power and aggression. Brighter colors such as yellow and orange represent warmth not only with emotions but also with temperature. Cool colors are blue, green, black or any color with a dark shade. When someone is feeling down or depressed, it is said they are feeling “blue.” When someone is angry they “see red.” When someone is seen to be afraid or “chicken” they are called “yellow.”

Ecology: Obviously green is the major color symbolizing ecology. The new phrase for people or companies who find ways to cut back on electricity, fuel, or things that damage the environment is “going green.”

Phrases: When something is seen as opposite, extreme, or a firm position, it is said to be “black or white.” When something is not clear or not in a firm position, it is said to be a “gray area.” The blues describe a form of music.

Color Chart
Red is a very strong color. It is a noticeable color that is often used on caution and warning signs. It is often associated with stop or “beware”. It’s a hot color that evokes a powerful emotion of passion, lust, sex, energy, blood and war. Red is a good color to use for accents that need to take notice over other colors. Red is often used in flags for nations, as it is a symbol of pride and strength. It is also a sporty color that many car manufactures choose to showcase their signature vehicles.  Excitement, energy, passion, love, desire, speed, strength, power, heat, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence, all things intense and passionate.
Pink symbolizes love and romance, caring, tenderness, acceptance and calm.
Beige and ivory symbolize unification. Ivory symbolizes quiet and pleasantness. Beige symbolizes calm and simplicity.
Yellow is the brightest color to the human eye. It represents youth, fun, happiness, sunshine and other light playful feelings. It is a cheerful energetic color. Yellow is often used for children’s toys and clothes. Yellow is often hard to read when placed on a white background so designers must be careful when using yellow, that it isn’t’t too difficult to read or notice. Though yellow is a bright cheerful color, as it starts to darken it, however, quickly becomes a dirty and unpleasant color. Yellow can also be associated with being scared and, cowards. The term “yellow belly” is proof of that.  Joy, happiness, betrayal, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine, summer, gold, philosophy, dishonesty, cowardice, jealousy, covetousness, deceit, illness, hazard and friendship.
Blue is a cool calming color that shows creativity and intelligence. It is a popular color among large corporations, hospitals and airlines.  It is a color of loyalty, strength, wisdom and trust. Blue has a calming effect on the psyche. Blue is the color of the sky and the sea and is often used to represent those images. Blue is a color that generally looks good in almost any shade and is a popular color among males. Blue is not a good color when used for food as there are few blue foods found in nature and it suppresses the appetite.  Peace, tranquility, cold, calm, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, confidence, conservatism, security, cleanliness, order, loyalty, sky, water, technology, depression, appetite suppressant.
Turquoise symbolizes calm. Teal symbolizes sophistication. Aquamarine symbolizes water. Lighter turquoise has a feminine appeal.
Purple combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. Throughout history purple has been associated with royalty, nobility and prestige. It symbolizes mystery, magic, power and luxury. Purple is often used to portray rich powerful kings, leaders, wizards and magicians. Purple combined with gold can be flashy and portray wealth and extravagance. Light purple and pink is good for a feminine design and is a popular color among teenage girls. Bright purple along with yellow is commonly used in promoting children’s products. It gives the appearance of something that is fun and easy to do.  Royalty, nobility, spirituality, ceremony, mysterious, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, arrogance, mourning.
Lavender symbolizes femininity, grace and elegance.
Orange is a combination of Red and Yellow. It is also a bright and warm color. It represents fire, the sun, fun, warmth and tropical images. It is considered a fun light color that has appetizing qualities to it. Orange increases oxygen supply to the brain and stimulates mental activity. It is highly accepted among young people. As a citrus color, orange is associated with healthy food and stimulates appetite. Any design relating to the tropics, something fun, easy going and youthful should incorporate some type of orange into the design. A darker, richer shade of orange can be associated with autumn. Energy, balance, enthusiasm, warmth, vibrant, expansive, flamboyant, demanding of attention.
Green is the color of nature and health. It represents growth, nature, money, fertility and safety. Green is a relaxing color that is easy on the eye and has a healing power to it. It is often used to represent anything having to do with health. Many pharmaceutical and nutritional companies use green in their logos and material to advertise safe natural products. Dark green is commonly associated with the military, money, finance, and banking. However it can also be associated with being new or inexperienced as being green or a “green horn”. Green is becoming a very popular color in design for web sites.  Nature, environment, healthy, good luck, renewal, youth, spring, generosity, fertility, jealousy, inexperience, envy, misfortune, vigor.
Earth, stability, hearth, home, outdoors, reliability, comfort, endurance, simplicity, and comfort.
Security, reliability, intelligence, staid, modesty, dignity, maturity, solid, conservative, practical, old age, sadness, boring. Silver symbolizes calm.
Reverence, purity, birth, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, humility, precision, innocence, youth, winter, snow, good, sterility, marriage (Western cultures), death (Eastern cultures), cold, clinical.
Power, sexuality, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, fear, evil, unhappiness, depth, style, evil, sadness, remorse, anger, anonymity, underground, good technical color, mourning, death (Western cultures).


How Do We See Color?

The color we see comes from our sun and from light bulbs. Our sun gives off light that lights up our world during the day and indirectly lights us at night as a reflection off the moon. The moon may seem to be shining on us like a flashlight but really we are only seeing sunlight bouncing off the moon. Light from the sun includes all colors of the spectrum (See picture below) and when every color is present, the light appears white. The absence of all color appears as the color black to the eye. As we all know, when there is no light it is dark.

We see color several ways. We see color from lights and colors that are reflected back to our eye from two-dimensional and three-dimensional surfaces. The interesting thing about surfaces is that they soak up colors differently. The surfaces of apples suck in all light except for the color red. This color is reflected out and is seen by our eyes. Have you noticed that colors are duller at sunset? This is because much less light from the sun is there and being reflected by surfaces.

Once the colored light reaches the eye, the eye sends a signal to our brains through our nerves and our wonderful brains make sense out of the color. Our eyes are also wonderful machines. There is a hole in the front of them called a pupil. The pupil closes or opens depending on how much light there is. In bright light, the pupil closes to keep it from getting too bright and hurting our eyes. When the light goes inside our eyes it goes through a lense just like the lenses on glasses you or your friends wear. The light goes through this lense and hits the back of the eye called the retina. The retina has lots of sensors called rods and cones. The cones then send a signal to the brain about what it sees.

Eye cones are special machines too. They are made to see three different colors: red, green, and blue. When the color blue goes into the eye, the blue cone tells the brain, “Hey, that color is blue.” Because we have only three different colors of cones, we aren’t able to see all colors. Ultraviolet light is a color that isn’t able to be seen, for example. Some animals and insects have more cones and can see colors that we can’t see. People who are color blind have damaged or missing cones.

Colour From Lights

As I said earlier, we see colors two ways- from lights or from reflections off objects. When you have a light bulb that is red, it makes everything look red. Photographers who make prints have to make them in “dark-rooms.” Dark-rooms had red lights in them called infra-red lights. Red will not ruin photo paper or film because it is made not to be sensitive to the color red. Another way we see colors from lights is from televisions, and overhead projectors. Televisions actually only shine three different colors- red, green, and blue- just like the cones of our eyes. When more red lights are lit, the colors on the TV or overhead appear reddish. When more green lights are lit, colors appear greenish. Depending on how many other colors are lit, the green light can be seen as yellow.

Color From Surfaces

Color is very important to artists who create things in color. As I said earlier, the colors we see from surfaces are actually colors that are reflected off an object. Each surface and object soaks up different colors. This includes paint and ink. Paint and ink soak up different colors too. Red paint soaks up all colors except for red. The color red then bounces off the paint and goes to our eyes. Ink that is printed on paper also soaks up different colors. People who think they know how things soak up colors will use big words like atomic vibrations and rotations, molecular orbitals, ligand-field effects, and charge transfer.

Color Theory

Most of us study color by looking at color wheels. Color wheels have all the colors go around in a circle. The simplest color wheel shows three colors: red, yellow and blue. We call these primary colors because depending on how much of each color is mixed, we can mix all colors with them. Most elementary students who play with mixing colors usually end up with the color brown. This is because when you mix these three colors together, you get the color brown. They end up with brown because they don’t clean their paint brush well or they mix the colors too much.

When you mix two primary colors, you get secondary colors. When you mix red and blue, you get the color purple (violet). When you mix red and yellow you get orange. When you mix blue and yellow you get green. Purple, orange, and green are secondary colors. When you add one color to secondary colors you get tertiary colors. Yellow-orange and blue-green are tertiary colors. Colors on the opposite side of the color wheel are called complimentary color. The complimentary of green is red. The complimentary color of blue is orange. You can see them in the color wheel below. They call them complimentary colours because they compliment each other. Complimentary colors look good together.

Tint, Shades, Value, Saturation, Tone, And Intensity

Tint is the lightness of a color. You can make color a lighter tint by adding the color white or if you are painting in watercolor, use more water. If you add the color black to a color, you make it a darker shade. So when you lighten a color change its tint. When you darken a color you change its shade. The lightness or darkness of a color is called a value. Intensity is the brightness or saturation of a color. A color is more intense when it is a pure color and not mixed with white or black. When you mix a color on the opposite side of the color wheel to your color you change its tone. Jay Johansen is an artist who uses colors with more intensity.

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