Related Note:

If you are new to quilting, or need a little help with your color choices, SewMamaSew has an excellent article on the subject HERE.

What’s in a Shade?
The Psychology of Color

If you’re a quilter, chances are, you’ve given a lot of thought to color—fabric choice, color placement and value, contrast, etc. You may have even taken a class on the matter. At the very least, you’ve spent time auditioning fabrics for a quilt, playing with the fabrics until the placement and color arrangement is just right.

As any quilter—any artist, really—can tell you, color can be a powerful thing. In terms of design, for instance, finding the right contrast in colors (typically using complementary colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel) can make the different between a quilt that pops and one in which the design fades into the background.

You may have spent hours of your life thinking about how the colors of a finished quilt will look, but how much thought have you given to what the colors you choose say? (Not literally, of course—if your fabric begins to speak to you in any literal sense, you’ve definitely been spending too much time in the sewing room.) What do the colors you choose communicate? What do they say about your preferences, your personality, or even your mood?

The concept of color psychology maintains that each color in the spectrum not only possesses certain associations in our culture and minds, but that each color actually has the power to elicit a very particular reaction in our brains. The science of color psychology studies the mental and emotional effects of color, and how it can be used to influence a person’s state of mind—even how it can be utilized in marketing and advertising to create positive (or negative) associations.

It’s not an exact science, of course. As with most things, it’s going to depend upon the individual person’s perceptions, frame of reference, and in some cases, even their culture. But generally speaking, each color has a fairly universal set of associations, as outlined below.

So, think for a minute, if you will, about recent quilts you’ve made and the fabric colors your chose for each projects. What do the colors say about you? What do they say about the particular mood you were in when choosing them? What mood or message does the quilt communicate as a result of your color choices? And what does your favorite color say about your personality?

POSITIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Power, passion, energy, fearlessness, strength, excitement.

NEGATIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Anger, danger, defiance, aggression, violence.

Red is an emotionally intense color. It can increase respiration, blood pressure, and even appetite and metabolism. Red has the longest wavelength of all colors, so it appears to be nearer than it really is (hence its use in warning signs or to draw attention). Red is also, of course, the color of romance and passion.

POSITIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Energy, confidence, courage, optimism, creativity, fascination.

NEGATIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Pessimism, superficiality, frustration, frivolity, caution.

Orange is not as aggressive as red, but is still a “hot” color. It can have an invigorating effect and stimulate mental activity and appetite. Orange is used to draw attention, but also evokes a feeling of comfort like food, warmth, and shelter.

POSITIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Happiness, extroversion, intellect, energy, positivity, enthusiasm.

NEGATIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Irrationality, cowardice, instability, impatience, anxiety.

Yellow produces a warming effect that arouses cheerfulness, stimulates mental activity, and generates muscle activity. Too much yellow, however, can trigger feelings of frustration and anxiety. It has a relatively long wavelength, making it the most visible color on the spectrum.

POSITIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Balance, growth, freshness, nature, prosperity, healthy, hope.

NEGATIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Envy, possessiveness, inexperience, boredom, stagnation.

Green is the most restful color for the human eye because it requires no adjustment when it hits the retina. It can even improve vision. It is, therefore, calming and restful. Green also sits in the middle of the spectrum, making it a color of balance.

POSITIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Trust, loyalty, integrity, reliability, depth, peace, logic.

NEGATIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Sadness, coldness, aloofness, fear, unfriendliness, unappetizing.

If red is the color of the body, blue is the color of the mind. It is serene and calming, can slow metabolism, but increase clarity. Blue is the most popular favorite color in the world, and particularly preferred by men. It’s omnipresent (sky and water), making it a sign of stability.

POSITIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Imagination, creativity, nobility, luxury, ambition, spirituality, wisdom.

NEGATIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Immaturity, impracticality, decadence, introversion, moodiness.

Purple combines the calmness of blue and the stimulation of red. It is the color associated with royalty and wealth, possibly because it is among the rarest colors in nature, making it appear special or even artificial. Purple sits in the shortest wavelength of the spectrum and is the last to be visible.

POSITIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Mysterious, authoritative, sophisticated, powerful, substantive, secure.

NEGATIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Coldness, heaviness, fear, negativity, mourning, intimidation, unfriendliness.

Black is the absorption of all other colors, which makes it a color with heavy emotional associations. It also absorbs energy and is essentially the absence of light, which for some, can lend ominous undertones. On the other hand, black can be a symbol of power, sophistication, and is timeless, effortless, and iconic in fashion and design. Black is the diametrically opposite of white, and can be used to make other colors stand out.

POSITIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Purity, light, goodness, cleanliness, simplicity, freshness, clarity.

NEGATIVE ASSOCIATIONS: Sterility, coldness, isolation, emptiness, detachment, disinterest.

White is the reflection and absence of color, making it a common symbol of purity and innocence. It is the minimal of all of the colors, heightening the perception of space. It can also represent a blank slate and new beginnings.

Wondering where your favorite color turquoise or pink or gray is on the list? Consider the overall color family to which those colors belong, and refer to that color. But if you’d like to explore this further, check out the more nuanced color guide from HGTV HERE. Or, for a little more fun, take a look at the “What’s Your Colour Personality?" test HERE.

© 2018. A publication of Quintessential Quilt Media.
No portion may be reproduced without the expressed written consent of Quilts, Inc.