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Colour Preferences – where do they come from?

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Colour influences many aspects of our lives; the clothes we wear, the foods we eat (would you eat green eggs and ham?) and the paints we choose to create with.

Overall our colour preferences are deeply engrained, emotional responses that appear to lack a rational basis, but where do our preferences come from? Evolution or learned behaviour?

Whether you are a spiritualist or follower of psychology, it can’t be denied that we are drawn to certain colours for all manners of reasons. Colour preferences are part culture, part experience and part mystery!

UC Berkeley Psychologists, Palmer and Schloss published research results in 2010 that found that Japanese respondents had different colour preferences from American respondents, suggesting a cultural influence in our colour preferences. For example, in western cultures brides are typically associated with white, where as brides in many eastern cultures wear red.

Positive feedback to and associations (experiences) with a particular colour will create and reinforce our preferences. Ever received a compliment about a particular colour you were wearing? Are you more likely to choose/prefer that colour now, particularly when you need a pick-me-up?

Everyone has different life experiences and as we experience pleasure attached to a certain colour we will tend to use/choose objects of that colour more often; our colour preferences become a self-fulfilling prophecy of our own mind’s creation.

And the reverse is also true; a negative comment, a negative experience will ensure our lack of preference for a colour or hue. Would you use a colour over and over if it made you feel overly sad, agitated or even angry?

While art in many instances reflects real life, the usage of certain colours and shades allows you as an artist to inject your preferences and to an extent your life experiences, into your artwork. Harness the mysterious power of colour from your culture, your experiences and choose colours that represent you and to showcase you through your artwork.

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