It’s all in the colours

Published September 6, 2014

I am sure hardly any of you has ever watched a black-and-white TV, the kind that was there when your parents were kids. Maybe the older readers among you would remember the black screen with white dots illuminating the PC monitor before Windows took over DOS. Some of you still have the bleak blackboard in your classrooms where only white chalk is used and somewhere gathering dust in your house is a now antique mobile phone with no colour on the screen except black, white and grey. How unattractive and insipid all these things seem now!

Luckily, the world has become a more colourful and vibrant place where the spectrum of colours is as large as man’s imagination. And the best part is that our academic life too has embraced colours with open arms and our experience at school today is far more vibrant and interesting. Well, you would not really know because you have not been to the past (how can anyone!) when a classroom was very plain with just a timetable and a chart or two on the wall and a giant blackboard broodingly looking down at the uninterested faces in front of it. The artist of the class sometimes created a piece on paper that got a nod of approval from the teacher and it was taped on the wall. No teacher was required to make the kind of colourful and instructive boards like you now have in your class.

Do you know why this change happened? Mostly because a lot of research has gone into human behaviour and education, leading to the realisation that colours can play a very important role in teaching and learning. Colours affect us physically, mentally and emotionally, so the colour of the environment we study in and the colours of the learning materials we use influence how well we learn and remember new things.

So let us discover how different colours influence us in different ways and how we can use these influences to our advantage.

Colours and their effects


Red has a stimulating effect that increases brain activity as well as the heart-rate. It gives self-confidence, strength, shake off laziness and attracts attention, but too much of red can be distracting. Studies show that the colour red can make people’s work more accurate and is suitable when recall and attention are required in a task.

Red also has cultural implications — it signifies danger, caution and also joy.


Blue and its different shades have a calming effect on the body because they produce chemicals that slow down a person’s heart rate. Research has also shown that the colour blue aids creativity and imagination.


Associated with nature, creativity and fertile thinking, green is a very relaxing colour. It brings clarity of thought and calms when one is stressed or has a headache. This is why a walk in the park is very relaxing, helping us to rebalance ourselves.


A positive colour that resembles light, yellow makes people cheerful and communicative because it has a purifying and positive effect on both the mind and body. It is the right colour to wear when feeling down and depressed.


It has the same effect as that of the colour yellow — brings positivity, releases tensions, and stimulates creative thinking and enthusiasm, but it is more overpowering.


Interestingly, purple is not readily found in nature but it is a colour that has a very relaxing effect on the mind and is considered a meditation colour. Purple is considered to help one to sleep, and soothe mental and emotional stress.


Brown is an earthy colour that can have both a warming effect as well as a depressing one. It is best used with other colours.


White is a neutral colour that contains an equal balance of all the colours of the spectrum, representing both the positive and negative aspects of all colours.

It offers a sense of peace, comfort and hope, and helps alleviate emotional upsets. It creates a sense of order and efficiency. White brings out the best in other colours when they are used with it.


Depending on its shade — whether it is more towards white or black colours — gray can have varying effects. Light grey helps a person to be rational and proactive, and find ideas and solutions, while dark grey dark grey makes one more analytical.


It is another neutral colour like white, but while black hides, white brings things to light. The colour black signifies confidence, mystery and can create a depressing and negative atmosphere; it is best used with other colours, especially for children.

Gold and silver

The colour gold signifies success, achievement, perfection and luxury, while silver has a feminine energy that brings out the sensitive and emotional side in people. Wearing or using these colours may help to achieve these ideals.

Learn with colours

The colours in the place you study in, both in school and at home, will influence you and how you learn. And the colours of the things you use — your bag, ink, paper, etc — will also affect you, so having learnt the basic properties of the basic colours, you can use these to your advantage in learning. Let us discover some ways of doing this.

• If you need to memorise dates, names and such stuff, why don’t you underline/write such details in your book with a red pen. Red will draw your attention towards it and help you remember and recall it later on.

• Studies have shown that when learning involves memory and detail — such as learning of formulas, spellings, properties and so on — these tasks are best done in a red corner. Or use a red background on your PC monitor if using the computer.

• Use a red notebook or book cover for the subject that you feel you need to give more attention to, maybe because you find it the hardest or it requires more studying. You will then subconsciously be more aware of it, and thus will pick up that book more often than others.

• When your work requires creativity and imagination, the colour blue will help you. Use a blue desktop image, blue pen, a blue-coloured room and even blue clothes!

• If you want to relax after a gruelling studying session, wear something purple and be in surroundings with more purple in it.

• When using the computer for making notes, presentations, slides, use soft, dull or neutral colours in the background so that the text and images can stand out vividly. Don’t use more than two colours in the background (if at all you have to) as it will distract the viewer.

• Yellow and its lighter shades are excellent for the surroundings of younger children so using charts and flashcards in yellow background and with other colours on it will be attractive for them.

• As colours attract attention, use pens, pencils and papers of different colours when making notes, especially for exams preparations. The brain receives more information visually than through any other sense, so if you use different colours to highlight or write points, dates, names, etc, that you need to remember, the brain will find it easy to recall later on. Of course if your teacher doesn’t allow it for your school work, please don’t do it.

• Black and white make a very dull combination so using just black ink on a white paper will not really help in making you remember and recall things. Don’t studying in such a surrounding too if you want to keep your interest in your task.

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Did you know

• Blue is the most common favourite colour in the world, followed by red, green, violet, orange and yellow.

• Research shows young children are attracted to warm, bright colours, while elementary-aged children prefer tints and pastels. Middle school children enjoy colours like greens and blues, while high school students prefer darker colours like burgundy, grey, navy, dark green and violet.

• The colour yellow can cause nausea, so it is avoided in airplanes.

• Black boxes seemed heavier to workmen than green boxes filled with the same material.

• Silver can save your life. Silver-coloured cars are least likely to be involved in an auto accident since they are most visible on the road and in low light.

• Yellow makes you hungry. Yellow and orange are not recommended for use in kitchens, as they are known appetite stimulators.

• Hromofobii is a disease that causes panic at the sight of brightly-coloured or a certain shade of items. Fortunately, this disease is easily treated by various methods of psychotherapy.

• Women are much better than men in distinguishing shades of red.



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