A long time ago, but it is not a fairy tale, in a certain factory the workers complained to the owner about the cold that they felt in the canteen, a room that had whitewashed walls with a blue tone, and asked to increase the heating. The master, not being of this idea, instead had the walls painted in an orange tone: the result was that not only did the workers no longer feel the cold, but the heating was even lowered.
If we search on the vocabulary for the word “color” we discover two definitions:
- the first, given by scientists who are scholars of physics, tells us that color is a perception of light reflected by an object on our eyes;
- the second, given by painters and artists, tells us that color is a substance used to paint.
Both scientists and painters have shown, after years of study and experience, that there are only three basic colors from which all the others are obtained by mixing them; these three colors, considered “absolute”, that is, fundamental and pure, because they cannot be obtained with any mix, are called primary colors.
For the scientist the primary colors are red , blue and green ; for the painter they are red (red-magenta), blue (blue-cyan) and yellow .
By mixing the three primary colors of the scientists, white is obtained . By mixing the three primary colors of the painters you get a dark color, practically black .
In the first case we speak of additive synthesis , because it adds light to light; in the second case we speak of subtractive synthesis , because light is removed from light.
By mixing the primary colors two by two and in equal parts, we obtain three new colors, known as secondary colors: orange (red + yellow) – green (yellow + blue) – purple (blue + red)
When we mix primary colors in unequal parts we obtain different colors in which the one we use in a greater part prevails, thus obtaining what are called “shades” of the two mixed colors.
Each primary color has its complementary color, which is precisely that secondary color obtained by mixing the other two primaries: red is complementary to green (yellow + blue) – yellow is complementary to purple (blue + red) – blue is complementary to orange (red + yellow).
These pairs of colors, a primary and its complement, are considered to be in balance with each other, that is, they are well placed together.
Their mixing in equal parts creates the same tint, a grayish color, just to demonstrate the balance that exists between them. It is no coincidence that when we observe the gray color our eyes are in a balanced condition. Gray is also the result of the mixture of black and white.
But are black and white considered colors or not? For the scientist who studies physics, no, because he considers white only as the sum of all colors, while black is its total absence.
On the contrary, for an artist there are two colors, however anomalous, defined as achromatic, i.e. without color: to be precise, white is considered primary, because it is not obtained by mixing other colors, and secondary black , because it is obtained by mixing others colors.
Color is, for the mind, like waves for the sea: it acts on us like music. Each person has his or her favorite color.
There are about ten million different shades, not to mention those that only some animals can see. In fact, the cat and the owl know nuances that do not exist for us such as those of the infrared light band, while the bees also see the shades of ultraviolet.
All colors can be formed by mixing three basic shades called primary, typical of color printers: magenta (very heavy pink), yellow and cyan (a blue that tends to turquoise).
Meaning commonly associated with colors
|red||fire, passion, strength|
|Orange||sun, joy, magnificence|
|yellow||sun, light, flame, link|
|green||vegetation, nature, silence, hope|
|blue||water, sky, immensity, nostalgia|
|violet||solemnity, mysticism, twilight|
|purple||magnificence, dignity, power|
Each people at all times has attributed different symbolic meanings to colors and the names given to the hues vary from one culture to another. There is no translation of our yellow, red, blue and green in every language. If in the West, for example, the color of mourning is black, in China it is white.
The tribes of the African savannah do not distinguish between green and blue.
Some populations of New Guinea have no names for colors and only use the light and dark expressions.
The Eskimos coined seven different terms to indicate white, the dominant hue in their “ice” world.
In Japan, an automobile factory painted the walls of the bathrooms red, which creates discomfort, to limit the breaks of its employees. In imperial Japan, yellow could only be worn by those who belonged to the royal family.
In China, even the windows of the patient’s room were covered with sheets of a suitable color and the patient had to wear clothes of the same color. The Chinese choose red furnishings for their restaurants: they seem to add appetite. Some shades of yellow make you sick and are prohibited on planes.
In ancient Greece yellow was the color of the madmen who, to be recognized, were forced to wear yellow.
In the East, yellow is the color of the sun, fertility and royalty.
Many American Indian tribes circled their eyes in intense yellow, thus thinking of hypnotizing the enemy and wore yellow and black jackets because such a combination of color, using the symbolism of the animal world (see wasps) serves as a warning: those who wear these shades hide a dangerous poison.
The Masai were preparing for battle by painting their bodies and ocher shields.
It also seems that color transforms our perceptions. Kurt Goldstein, an American researcher, has shown that objects look bigger and heavier under a red light, smaller and lighter with a blue light.
In the West, all personnel who work for the safety of people, such as firefighters, first aid workers, etc., wear bright uniforms, with the so-called phosphorescent colors; even their vehicles (cars, trucks, ambulances) seem to be colored with markers, yellow, orange or even green: this is because in case of need they must be clearly visible and traceable.
The green of the traffic light, a color that is halfway between the cold and the heat, and therefore of balance, is used as a signal for the green light, while the red, decidedly warm color, stimulates our attention more, and warns us of a danger; mistakes in tasks are also marked in red; the blue instead tends to “cool” and calm the mind, so the flashing lights of the police forces illuminate the scenes of this color.
The armies, if before they wore bright colors to intimidate the enemy, then they went to completely camouflage uniforms, in order to literally disappear in the eyes of the opponents. In fact, in ancient times wars were fought hand to hand, and one needed to prove himself as fierce as possible to the enemy he had before his eyes; with firearms, which put armies at considerable distances, wearing bright uniforms meant being a clearly visible target: much better to blend in.
Speaking of football, it is curious to think that the goalkeepers, after years of wearing dark and anonymous uniforms so as not to be seen by the attackers, as if to blend in, in recent years have willingly worn a bright and brightly colored shirt, to hit the eye of attackers causing them to be distracted.
A metallic gray Ferrari would always be a Ferrari, but it would no longer have that fundamental excitative value of the “red” … why?
Before the 1960s, surgeons operated in a white lab coat, and the sheet where the patient was to operate was also white. The result was that the surgeons themselves complained of a certain glare, but not only: after fixing the red of the blood that came out of the patient, having to look away to take a surgical instrument, they happened to see, on the white of the gowns and the sheets, a very annoying bright green-blue spot. Thus the use of blue-green gowns was introduced : the green spot on a green background no longer bothered and the glare diminished, obtaining less optical stress for the surgeon, to the benefit of the patient.
This device was probably made “by eye”, ignoring the fact that the blue-green of the luminous spot was nothing but the complement of blood red.
Chromotherapy scholars have established that red (warm color) warms the body and stimulates blood production and is indicated for fighting depression, but also useful for treating colds and sore throats; the green (neutral color) is relaxing, encourages reflection and calm and is useful in case of headaches.
Fashion, of course, does not randomly deal with colors, much less their arrangement: black streamlines, but also indicates a little desire for solitude; the red is worn to attract attention; The white stands for purity.
Architecture and urban planning paint the walls of hospitals blue to relax patients, while brown is the most common color for floors, because it reminds us of the earth, and gives a feeling of stability.
For us, flowers also have colors with a certain meaning.
White is the symbol of purity, innocence and modesty. Expresses a pure and sincere feeling. It is also used when awaiting new news.
Yellow is commonly associated with infidelity and betrayal, but it is also a symbol of luxury, glory and success.
Orange is a color that symbolizes joy, joy and full satisfaction for a success already achieved. Even sentimentally it expresses an already consolidated and fulfilling love.
Rosa is a symbol of youth and expresses a new born love. Pink is also associated with great admiration.
Rosso is notoriously the expression of ardent and passionate love, courage and a strong desire for victory. However, it is also a symbol of anger and volitional temperament.
Dark red symbolizes constancy, continuity and immortality.
Viola expresses feelings of modesty, generosity and humility. It is a symbol of an insurmountable shyness.
Lilac represents a sincere and interest-free love, even if directed simply to friends.
Light blue is a symbol of difficulty and restlessness due to problems of different origins (money, health).
The turquoise is instead a reward for those who work with great talent in art or science.
Green symbolizes hope or an already averted danger. It also represents joy and optimism.
So it is clear that when you give red corollas, especially if they are pink, you want to express ardent love. Even at Christmas, the custom wants the choice to fall on the red color: all that is found in that color brings joy.
A yellow flower is often a symbol of treason.
The white , usually is reserved for spouses, or occasions such as baptisms, communions or confirmations, but it is always a fine color associated with purity.
It is important, however, to remember that nature remains the greatest teacher in the use of colors: we think of the charm of autumn, a season of remembrance and regret, of reflection, which with its relaxing colors, the effect of the contemporary presence of the various shades of red and brown of the leaves and the blue of the sky has inspired many poets.
Summer is instead as full of life as full of sun, with its yellow (color associated with vitality, vivacity, lightness) that shines in a very blue sky.
We are constantly influenced by the colors of nature. Not only the scientists, painters, psychologists and communicators of the various multimedia languages have understood this, but also the poets.