Graphic and visual arts

The effect of colors on perception. Part two: color blue

The effect of colors on perception. Part two: color blue

The language of color is used in Western culture in art as well as architecture, advertising and building industry. The universality of the message and the multitude of meanings that colors bring are skillfully used in many areas in which the perception of the recipient is important. 


The color of composure, peace and quiet. In blue rooms you work better, we focus more easily, it’s a good color wherever new ideas arise. Legend has it that Knute Rockne, the football coach, ordered guests locker-room to be repainted in blue and his team locker-room was warmed with red. 

Blue is a color of peace, a synonym of loyalty and reliability. Depending on the shade, it is often used by large corporations, insurance companies or companies associated with modern technology. As a color associated with security and professionalism, it is often used in political campaigns, suggesting to voters a guarantee of peace after the election. 

Blue is a color of peace

Blue is the color of your dream vacation – azure water and blue sky. Associated with rest and relaxation, it is often used in advertisements of travel agencies and tourist portals. In turn, through associations with an active and healthy lifestyle, purity and refreshment, we find it in advertisements for mineral water. Its sterile side is used by manufacturers of cleaning products and sanitary articles.

Blue is the color of your dream vacation

Western culture has a special fondness for blue. The very name “blue” in Polish originally meant “belonging to sky”. As one of the most expensive dye, blue was often used in religious painting, especially when portraying the image of Mary – blue emphasized her purity, innocence and spirituality. 

Blue is a universal color – the most liked and least disliked.

More than half of adults in Europe like this color. Research shows that the colors positively perceived by men are blue, red and green, for women positive emotions are aroused by white, blue and red.

Blue color palette

Blue is a color conducive to creative and artistic impulses. An example can be Pablo Picasso himself – the so-called blue period lasted in the artist’s work for three years. 

“Blue paintings are like the moist bottom of the abyss” – this is Guillaume Apollinaire described the works from this three-year period. Picasso was deeply affected by the death of his friend Carlos Casagemes – a depression that lasted several years caused him to paint blue. As he said, “I started painting blue because I was constantly thinking about him.” 

Pablo Picasso, Self Portrait, 1901 Woman with folded arms, 1901
Pablo Picasso, Self Portrait, 1901 
Woman with folded arms, 1901 
Source: https://www.laminerva.pl

Meanings assigned to blue and the use of blue in movies

Blue, although considered neutral, is a color with many meanings. Blue helps to gain social recognition, as well as relax tension and rest, giving a sense of security. Thanks to the multitude of shades, it can be used to emphasize horror and loneliness, as well as innocence and fantasy. We associate blue with winter and cold, as well as summer, endless blue sky and clear water. 

The use of blue in movies

Schmidt – director Alexander Payne, 2002

The blue used in this movie is a distant color, a color of reflection and powerlessness. It reflects the meaning of the English saying – “feeling blue”. 

Warren Schmidt sits alone in his blue-gray office and waits while looking at the clock. Soon his round blue clock will strike five for the last time. Warren will stand up, turn off the light, close the door, thus completing the last chapter in his career as an insurance agent. 

This sequence visually shows us who this man is and quite literally what he intends to do. The entire period of forty years of career is enclosed in several carefully and pedantically arranged cardboard. 

Blue is a soft blanket of sadness. It is quiet and restrained like Warren himself. In a blue environment, people become inert and introspective (introspection – Latin introspectio – literally means “insight”, “exploring the interior”). 

This color is also associated with conservatism and obligation, which reflects well the character of the hero. People who wear this color show a great sense of justice, also in relation to their own person. They are loyal in friendship and careful to strangers.

Schmidt - director Alexander Payne, 2002

Alice in Wonderland – Tim Burton’s 2010 film

The latest film adaptation of the novel by Lewis Carroll from Disney has a somewhat dark character. The title heroine – 19-year-old Alicja is a brave person, curious about the world and alienated. The blue color of her dress is not only a symbol of youth and innocence. Alice is no longer a child – she is a young woman who does not agree to social conventions. Her surroundings consider her a frivolous person with head in the clouds. But as Alice emphasizes – only crazy people in this world are worth something. 

Blue is the color that accompanies Alice throughout her journey through the world on the border between waking and sleeping. However, this is not a beautiful and colorful world of children’s fantasies. Something bad has happened in Wonderland – we already notice it when the girl passes the gates of the forgotten garden, and heavy, grey-blue clouds hang over her head. 

Alice in Wonderland - Tim Burton's 2010 film
Blue color palette

American Beauty – Sam Mendes movie from 1999 

Lester is a typical middle-class representative – he has everything a typical American of his age could want – a stable job, a large house with a garden, a car, a beautiful wife and daughter. However, this American dream is just an appearance. Lester hates his work and the boss who abuses him, his daughter despises him, and his wife hates him. 

Throughout the film, three colors scroll in almost every scene – they are white, blue and red. Blue emphasizes the stereotypical, soulless world of the main character – the gray-blue scenery at his workplace is the color of powerlessness and frustration. Sitting in his new boss’s office, Lester seems lonely and overwhelmed. The blue color of the walls emphasizes the emptiness and cool nature of this space in which the main character feels completely helpless.  

American Beauty - Sam Mendes movie from 1999
Blue color palette

The way we perceive a given color depends on the context, both personal and cultural. Depending on the era and region, the same color can evoke different associations, sometimes very extreme. Our perception of specific colors also changes with age, with time we gain new experience and we notice that the color we liked at the age of 10 is different than the one we choose at the age of 50. Color is also often not so much a matter of taste as mood, our emotional state. 

Despite so many dependencies, the meanings of colors remain universal (in a world where cultural and territorial differences are blurred). 

The tool used to generate palettes was:  www.canva.com/color-palette/