Colour Composition 101


The world is grey

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



Credits: Digital Assets by Wendy Corbett.


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

Faber Birren, was a 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.


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

Wendy Corbett worked in the local, national and international print media and publishing industry for over 10 years, including working for The International Herald Tribune, before re-training to embrace the online audience. Now, with over 10 years additional digital experience she has designed digital content for clients including The University of Worcester, Worcester City Council, Worcester Students’ Union and for Maros Holmes Creative. Wendy is an expert practitioner and lecturer in Visual Language, Communication Design, Digital Arts and Creative Digital Content at The University of Worcester. She is also the content design lead for The University of Worcester’s online Sustainability Magazine.

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