The Inspiration of Color

The Inspiration of Color

Don Draper once remarked in the fictional hit tv show, Mad Men, “I feel like Dorothy. Everything just turned to color.” The advertising executive referenced the movie industry’s transition from black and white film to color as showcased in the movie, The Wizard of Oz. But Draper’s poetic words on his emotional state carried a deeper meaning to the importance of color in our world and the impact it has on us.

There’s a reason color is used so strategically in marketing and advertising efforts; colors impact us on a psychological level. 

Colors are part of the electromagnetic waves we know as visible light. The concept of color therapy has been used to heal diseases and stress for thousands of years and across many cultures. Even the ancient Egyptians had temples of light that broke sun rays into varying colors for the treatment of physical ailments (Garala, et. al, 2009).  

If we’re so influenced by color, why not direct some of that influence and put it to good use? Research has demonstrated colors affect a variety of mental and physical aspects, from emotions and mood to hormone production and even physical balance (Withrow, 2004). We can use our psychological associations to inspire us and contribute to self-care goals like feeling happier and less stressed.  

How to Connect with Color

  1. Identify Intent
  2. Pick Your Color(s)
  3. Light a Candle
  4. Find an Object
  5. Write and Observe
  6. Create
  7. Eat and Drink
  8. Meditate

Identify Intent - When it comes to self-care in general, it’s important to identify the intent of your practice. What is the goal? Identifying your intent increases mindfulness and self-awareness; it helps you to focus and take action to achieve the desired result.

Taking time to understand our associations with different colors is another tool for increasing self-awareness. What theme or goal are you trying to connect with the most in your life? Confidence? Serenity? Positivity? Wealth? Love?  

Pick Your Color(s) - The next step is to determine what color—or, set of colors— resonates with you based on your selected theme. 

Birren (1950) describes four ways we identify with color: appearance (a bright or dull orange); associations in the physical world (orange = fire); cultural associations (orange = Halloween); and objective impressions (orange = uplifting). 

Research indicates that color does affect people, but those effects can vary from person to person. Positive and negative connotations are often based on cultural and personal experiences. 

Introverts and extroverts typically exhibit different color preferences, picking shades or hues complementary to their personality (Withrow, 2004). While one person may be drawn to the passion and vibrancy of red, another person may interpret red as angry and overstimulating. Blue is considered the most popular color in the world, largely due to its large presence in nature through water and the sky. Many people feel calm and have creative associations with the color blue, but this color can also invoke depression for some people.

Color symbolism can be detailed enough to vary amongst different shades or hues of each color. For a quick reference, below is a simple chart with some common color associations:

Color              Common Positive Attributes           Common Negative Attributes

Red                  Passion, strength, sexuality               Anger

Orange            Confidence, positivity                        Stressful

Yellow             Optimism, happiness                         Exhausting

Green              Abundance, healing                           Laziness

Blue                 Creativity, tranquility                         Depression

Purple              Intuition, Courage                             Sleepiness

Pink                 Kindness, soothing                            Insecurity

Silver               Wisdom, peace                                  Negativity

Gold                Strength                                            Overwhelming

Brown              Security, Contentment                       Dull

Black               Intelligence, certainty, strength          Grief

White              Purity, healing                                    Uninspiring

When working with color, try a balance of practices that utilize either the left brain (thinking) or the right brain (feeling). Here are some ways to connect with color:

Light a Candle – During meditation, relaxing baths, or other downtimes at home, candlelight provides a soothing focus. Pick a candle with the color you want to focus on.

Candle gazing is a form of meditation that involves staring at the flame and candle instead of closing your eyes. Sit in a comfortable position in front of a candle on a safe, stable surface. Light the candle, and keep a gentle gaze fixated on it. The goal is to maintain a relaxed state that involves less blinking and fidgeting. The mind can either focus on the candle or allow thoughts to drift to what the symbolism of the candle color means to you.

Find an Object – Locate one or more objects in your home with the same color. These objects can be placed with the candle in a decorative or altar-like setting. Examples include a vase, bowl, necklace, or sentimental figurine. Objects from nature can also be used, such as flowers, crystals, and minerals.   

A colorful setup with macrame

Hang Décor – Another visual reminder for color, art inspires. Hang a variety of décor, including paintings, photographs, sun catchers, or macrame. Consider other decorative objects like blankets, throw pillows, plant holders, and light fixtures. 

Wall colors can also be used. Ideally, the symbolism of the paint color will also complement the use of the room. For example, I have blue walls in my music room to help with creativity.

Write and Observe – Journaling is a common method of writing out thoughts and feelings to help identify, understand, and release emotions. To work through these emotions, consider staring at a beneficial color afterward. Use the décor in your home or look up color images online--adjusting technology light can be helpful for people with color vision deficiencies.  

A helpful color gives you the opposite effect of the negative emotion you’re grappling with. Another option is to write with a colored pen, pencil, or marker while journaling.

Create – Creativity is healing because self-expression is necessary. Whether working on a new or old hobby, pick something that allows you to integrate color, and don’t focus on perfection. Art therapy uses a right-brain approach of creating or painting something to release emotions while minimizing left brain critiquing.

Eat and Drink – A variety of colors are available in natural foods and beverages. Healthy diets often focus on balanced nutrition through the concepts of ‘eat your colors’ and recipes with ‘rainbow foods’.

When selecting a fruit or vegetable dish with your color(s) of choice, keep your intention in mind while enjoying your meal. Mindfulness eating contributes to our overall health and helps us be present in the moment.

Meditate – For this type of meditation, calm your breathing, close your eyes, and imagine a color of light washing over you. Also try to visualize breathing in the color, a technique that combines color therapy with breathwork.

If you are new to meditation, guidance is available on online platforms like YouTube. Many meditation apps offer free trial periods.

How I used color symbolism for Rose Rock Vibes

One day, when I became unemployed during the pandemic and felt uncertain of the future, I noticed how I suddenly felt attracted to orange. After some reflection, I identified my symbolism with orange as inspirational, positive, and confidence-boosting. For several days, I made a macrame wall hanging with orange yarn and orange beads, lit an orange candle next to some orange gemstones, ate some fresh orange slices, and took an Epsom salt bath with bergamot essential oil. These practices kept me aligned with my vision and provided the courage I needed to launch this website. 

For the Rose Rock Vibes logo, rusty pink was the most logical color choice due to barite rose rock formations, but I found it beneficial that pink represents positive feelings and affection.


Hopefully, these suggestions give you some ideas for finding inspiration in color. As common as some of these tasks seem, it’s the intent that contributes to effectiveness.

Lighting a red candle with the hopes of finding love isn’t going to instantly manifest your soul mate, but it could be the reminder you need to put yourself back out there, the confidence to smile back when you catch someone’s eye.

Likewise, staring at green artwork won’t make money fall from the sky (unfortunately), but it could be enough of a visual reminder for you to act in ways that serve financial stability, prompting you to make sound spending habits and grow your savings.

Discover the practices and colors that resonate with you the most and utilize them. Let your world turn to color.

Read about other wellness tips.



Birren, Faber (1950). Color Psychology and Color Theory: A Factual Study of the Influence of Color on Human Life. McGraw-Hill: U.S.

Cherry, Kendra (2020). Color Psychology: How Does It Affect How You Feel?  Retrieved from

Garala, Kevin C, et al. (2009). Alternative to Drug Delivery System: Chromotherapy. Drug Invention Today1(2),130-134.

Withrow, R. L. (2004). The Use of Color in Art Therapy. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education & Development43(1), 33–40.