How colour works: Colour therapy

23 August 2018

Many a blog has been written about colour therapy in the home. A quick search will uncover a plethora of articles discussing what colours represent and telling us which colours we should paint in which rooms. One thing is certain, colour has an actual physiological effect on our bodies. Colours can stimulate or calm, create warm or cool feelings and can even increase our appetites.

Here at Painthouse, we love our science, but we also know that everybody's different and a colour can be seen as positive or negative depending on personal experience and cultural associations. So, for now, we're stripping the colour wheel back to basics, so that you can see how colour works. What you do with it then is up to you!

Here's a break-down of the rainbow:

Light waves are made up of different wavelengths – each of which translate to different colours when they meet the eye.


Red is the longest wavelength. It appears closer to the eye than it actually is and therefore is a dominating colour. Red is a stimulant and has been found to raise our pulse rate. Combining a red with a pale pink (a calming colour) can balance red's intensity because our brains read colour in context with surrounding colours.


Yellow is also a long wavelength (although not as long as red) and will have the effect of jumping into the foreground – making it perfect as a colour pop. It is also found to have a stimulating and energising effect – giving both you and your room a lift.


Pink is a magical mixture of red and purple wavelengths – each from opposite ends of the spectrum. It may come as a surprise to some but exposure to a lot of pink calms our nerves and helps relieve feelings of anger and aggression. In fact, the longer we are exposed to pink, the calmer we will feel.



Green is in the centre of the spectrum and is the most restful colour for our eyes to look at, causing the least amount of eyestrain. It's a balancing colour, thought to reduce anxiety and clear our busy minds. It's good then that we have a total of 15 different shades of green in the Painthouse collection to choose from! (We know a good thing when we see it.)


Orange has been found to increase oxygen to the brain - making it a stimulating, energising colour. A combination of red and yellow, orange will both lift the spirit and warm up a cool interior. Top tip: Warm colours appear closer than cool colours, so using warmer colours in the foreground will also create a feeling of depth.


Violet, also known as purple, is the shortest wavelength of them all and is the last visible wavelength before invisible ultra violet - which is maybe why purple always seems magical and playful. Darker purples make a room look dramatic and luxurious, lighter, brighter orchid hues give a confident, modern look and pastel lilacs and lavenders seem to hypnotise and calm.



As a short wavelength, blue appears further away from the eyes than it actually is (making a room feel bigger) and has been found to lower both our blood pressure and heart rate. From rich, deep blues that reassure and comfort, to crisp, refreshing blues that clear the mind, to sleepy baby blues that sing lullabies to your eyes, blue is popular in interiors for good reason.


Greys have also been known to help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Made up of a combination of different wavelengths, greys are seen as neutral, but they can also take on different tones and create either warm or cool surroundings. Like all colours, you can try them out in context using our Peel & Stick colour book to make sure you get the look you're after.


Black is complete absence of light - when all the colours of the spectrum are completely absorbed and not a single wavelength is reflected. It may come as a surprise, but black is actually a recessive colour, and when painted on a wall or a piece of furniture, will seem further away - making a room look bigger if used cleverly.


The opposite to black, white is a total reflection of the full spectrum and will give you an increased sense of space. The whites in our Neutral capsule differ slightly in tones, so you can choose whether you want a neutral, cool or a warmer white.


Colour combinations

Finally, don't forget to think about your colour combos. Our brains see colour in context with the surroundings. If you place two similar colours next to each other, both colours will wash the other out as our brain blurs the two together. Play with contrasts and combinations to see how each colour changes depending on its neighbour. Our colour card featuring the Modern Living Range is the perfect tool to find out how a colour works, so find your own colour path – and then share the journey with us!


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