How does colour affect our lives? Introduction.

Colour Theorists have been working for centuries to understand and harness the powers of colours. The painter will see two different types of colour – perceptual colour and primary colour. Although we experience colour all the time, do we really understand colour? Colour is just light of different wavelengths. Objects reflect what we perceive and absorb what we don’t see. However, light and pigment are not mixed using the same method.


Colour is a property of light – not an object itself. Objects have no colour of their own, but merely the ability to reflect a certain section of the visible spectrum. Objects reflect what we perceive and absorb what we don’t. However, light and pigment are not mixed using the same method. I begin with the question of “How does colour affect our lives?”

We know a vast amount about colour and where it comes from but do we really understand it? Is it as simple as black and white? I was always taught that Black and White are shades and not colours, is this true? Where do colours come from in that case, and surely wherever they come from, Black and White are not going to be far behind. These are questions that have kept my curiosity about colour going for many years. Why do people have a favourite colour? Is there a reason or is it just ‘one of those things’? What about more important questions about vibrancy and luminosity. Is there something in these colours that keeps them so sharp and vibrant?

Image courtesy Illustrating Science, Illustrating History

Isaac Newton began a degree at Cambridge in 1665 at around the same time as the Great Plague began to spread north from London. With the university closed, Newton returned to his home near Grantham where he entered what must be one of his most remarkable periods of creativity. He was 22 and began to look at colour in a different way than had been done before. He divided up the spectrum into bands just like the musical scale. With this he was able to work more closely at producing what we know now as the seven primary colours of the spectrum. Without this understanding where would we be? Would art and artists have taken different routes with their work?

George Hardie‘s cover for Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd

I finish again with my question – “How does colour affect our lives?” I will investigate to find the answers to these posed questions. I hope to learn the value of colour in our environment and its abilities to change our everyday lives.

01 Introduction
02 Chapter one: theories of colour
03 Chapter two: colour in art
04 Chapter three: subtractive & additive colour systems
05 Chapter four: science in colour
06 Chapter five: colour therapy & alternative therapies
07 Conclusion


Having worked in design for the past decade, Daniel started as a discussion of timeless, modernist product design. Trained as a graphic designer, he also has an avid interest in typography. You can follow him on Twitter @ateliertally.

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