Hidden Meanings of Colors Used in Art: Learn How They Work

Abstract raccoon portrait painting in multicolored tones

Colors are the quintessential part of life. It is no wonder that Art plays a significant role in the life of man. Even a grey scale piece of art symbolizes a mood, or an emotion. Art as an abstraction is used in all aspects of life whether in dressing up for a meeting or a party, or plating up one’s favorite meal. We do not often think about it but colors have a way of setting or creating a mood like happiness or melancholy; and even in invoking emotions like love, sympathy, anger, and even regret.

Visual art is classified as Conceptual art or Abstract art in one method of classification. Both these forms lean heavily on causing an impact on the observer through the shades and tints of different colors. Art that invokes feelings of warmth, love, happiness, peace and pleasure is praised and accepted whereas art that invokes dark moods or feelings, often criticized.

How to decipher the hidden meanings of colors

Generally, dark colors convey dark or dangerous moods whereas light colors or tinges of dark colors convey more joyous or pleasurable moods. Black for instance can be used to convey death or fear but it can also be used to convey strength and resolution. Pink on the other hand conveys romance, gullibility, or feminine delicateness but dirty crimson conveys deceit and duplicity. Blue can convey coolness, and peace; and used right, can convey sadness. Colors have several hidden meanings emerging from cultural and religious aspects, societal acceptance and individual preferences. A study of colors on the VIBGYOR spectrum will give a general idea of how different colors impact the mood of the viewer. Violet has the highest deviation on a prism surface and creates an atmosphere of grandeur and opulence. Red on the other hand has the lowest deviation in the spectrum and signifies danger, lust, excitement and other feelings that are intense or high strung. Darker shades of green convey jealousy where as the lighter tinges convey freshness and novelty.

How to use hidden meanings of colors in art

Use colors to imply mood and emotion

In a conceptual art work, placement of colors at appropriate locations or using them to define the softness or hardness of features of characters can make a stunning visual impact and create a lasting impression. In an abstract art setting, using tints of colors creates a bright atmosphere and invokes cool and mild sensations of joy or peace.

Use color combinations to create a setting

Yellow is a cool color that signifies happiness, or cowardice but a slightly darker shade of yellow used with a blazing red could create a mood for adventure. Slightly lighter shades of yellow with mellower tints of red set a festive background. Bright yellow used with black conveys determination, confidence and power.

Use the right colors to attract business

Use colors to draw customers and maintain your base. A couple of examples below

  • If you are a food chain, use reds and yellows to accentuate the sensations of hunger and increase the appetite of the customer base; and vibrant greens to create a feeling of freshness and cleanliness.
  • If you are selling floor tiles, use blues and greens in your advertisements to impress upon prospective buyers the calm, leisurely atmosphere your product will create in their homes.

(Please visit our post on business logo colors to see how colors used in logos impact your customers.)

Use these tricks to make a point

  • If you are an artist trying to get across an idea into the world, use colors and combinations in such a way that they create a visual impact that is different from the actual mood you are trying to set. For example, an activist working on water conservation projects could use brown, yellow, blue, and orange to create a beautiful summer setting that also, from a certain angle, conveys the importance of conserving water for the future generations.
  • You could convey richness of experiences and refinement of education in a fashion model that is dressed conservatively using colors from the wider end of the spectrum. You could add a bold bright shade to the same outfit to convey a humble disposition.

There really is no limit as to what colors to use in which setting. As long as you create a harmony of colors and a deeper expression in the essence of your Art work without jarring the visual impact, then the sky is the limit.