How humans perceive colour




We use colour in everything, from art, design, photography and film, to the clothes we wear and the interiors we inhabit.

In colour and human interaction I look at how colour light is made up of colourless energy waves that enter through the eye where the brain then translates it into a colour.

Through understanding how colour works we can begin to make more informed colour choices.

The colour spectrum

For example the visible colour spectrum is made up of reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, indigo and violet. Each colour has a different light frequency.

Blues, indigo and violet are perceived by the human brain from high energy wavelengths of light; Greens from medium energy lightwaves; Reds, oranges and yellows from low energy.

Colour and nature

In the natural environment there is more blue, a high energy wavelength that travels farther (e.g. the sky) than there is red (e.g. petals of a flower), a low energy wavelength that does not travel very far.

Colour light is subject to change and the human eye has evolved to translate the wavelengths across billions of different colours to support our survival.

This may mean that a carefully selected range of colours of the right proportions may be beneficial to humans, that is – a more natural response to colour.

How colour affects humans

My research builds on the work of Faber Birren, noted author, professional colourist and researcher. Birren documented the psychological and physiological affects of colour on humans, i.e. how colour affects mind, body and spirit.

Can colour increase the productivity of staff, or lower blood pressure or have beneficial and non-beneficial affects on humans? The answer, according to Birren, is yes.

Try it. Which of the colour compositions in this presentation are you most drawn to?


The human eye perceives colours as a ‘result of electrical signals being sent from cones in our eyes to our brains’.

The Secret language of Colour (Eckstut)

Birren, F. (1963), Colour, From Ancient Mysticism to Modern Science. Citadel Press, New Jersey

Birren, F. (1963), Colour for Interiors, Historical and Modern, Whitney Publications, NY

Eckstut J. and Eckstut A. (2013), The Secret Language of Colour, Blackdog and Leventhal Publishers, NY

Published by Wendy Corbett Digital

Wendy Corbett, BA (Hons), MA, Dip. Content Designer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: