Intuitive Colour Awareness

Human colour theory is a structured approach to the understanding of an individual’s colour expression.

The genetic pigmentation of human skin, hair and eyes–colour characteristics–interact dynamically to define a person’s colour expression, and indicate what colours, contrasts and combinations in clothing, accessories, tattoos, make-up and face paint, provide physical and psychological harmony.

When humans were migrating and evolving across the globe, they adapted to the local environment and climate, wore animal skins and furs from the local area, and used the flora and fauna to adorn and decorate themselves.

Nomadic Kalahari bushman - Central Kalahari desert, Botswana                                                                                                ©Christopher Courteau

The colours and tones from the environment naturally harmonise with human colour characteristics.The neutral tones produce a look of camouflage and natural colour harmony, an extension of themselves, providing an identity and feeling of being at one with the surroundings

Over time, people consciously decided to use natural resources to create clothing, adornments, face and body paint or tattoos which balanced and harmonised with their colour characteristics.

Papuan Korowai tribe - New Guinea, Indonesia

Clothing and adornments which add natural colour harmony helped to create an extension of the body and produced a feeling of comfort, pride and positive energy.

Wearing what felt like a second skin, with a similar look to others in the local area, also created a tribal mentality, a cultural connection to family, society and place.

Over generations of using natural resources which produces positive colour harmony and a positive state of mind, a subconscious sense of ‘intuitive colour awareness’ evolves.

Brazilian guarani tribe - Brazil

Human interaction impacts on what people wear and how they adorn themselves. People react confidently and progressively when they recognise and receive positive reactions from others about the colour of their clothing.

Intuitive colour awareness grows stronger as a person ages, and they experience different colours and receive positive and negative verbal and physical responses.

Maori - North Island, New Zealand                                                                                                                    ©Jimmy Nelson

As people learn to recognise positive reactions from others because their interactions were more enjoyable and memorable, they chose to wear colours which provide a feeling of personal comfort and positive energy.People also learn to recognise adverse reactions, and the associated feeling of mental and physical discord and negative energy, when wearing the wrong colour, tone, texture or contrast.

Therefore, as people age, if they have a choice of what colours to wear and how to wear them, they remember positive reactions and choose colours and contrast that harmonise with their natural colour characteristics, providing the appropriate advice and direction to the next generation. They avoid colours which create discord and ill feeling for themselves and their community.

Sufi man - Hamed al-Nil Tomb, Omdurman, Sudan                                                                                   ©redonion1515

As tribal and community culture and religion evolved, more colour was introduced for personal and tribal identity, cultural and religious ceremonies, and for hunting and warfare.

Tattoos were used for decoration and cultural symbolism, with dark lines, dots or blocks. Their design and placement, and the optical effect created by the contrast, determined if the tattoos created balance and harmony, or discord, with an individual’s colour characteristics, face, body shape and clothing.

Not all the colour and contrast worn in clothing, adornments, face paint and tattoos harmonise with the wearers’ colour characteristics.

Konyak Tribesman - Nagaland District, North East India                                                                     ©Mattia Passarini

There are cultures and traditional ceremonies which display a conscious effort to create an adverse contrast between personal colour characteristics, clothing, adornments and pigment.

The obvious contrast creates a discord with the wearer’s colour characteristics and environment, and intentionally looks unnatural and dramatic, can be unbalanced and, in some cases, is a forced display of aggression.

Karo Tribe - Omo Valley, Ethiopia                                                                                                                            ©Adam Koziol

The perception of colour discord during a cultural or religious act is most often seen as an exciting and positive necessity. The act creates its own energy and inspires pride and patriotism within a group of people. This positive cultural energy overpowers the awkward feeling of discord which naturally occurs when wearing colours and contrast which do not balance or harmonise with an individual’s colour characteristics.

In cases where people choose to wear tribal, cultural or religious outfits, paint or tattoos in colours or on areas of their face or body which create discord, they are unknowingly unbalancing the natural colour and contrast harmony of their skin, hair and eyes.

When people learn to live with negative energy created by colour and contrast discord, they are suppressing and/or destroying intuitive colour awareness. This explains why some cultures and races have a greater sense of intuitive colour awareness than others.

Huli tribesmen - Papua New Guinea

The first textiles were linen and cotton in natural tones of pale grey and beige. The neutrality of the materials found harmony with the wide variety of neutral tones which naturally occur in human colour characteristics. As these raw fibres soil and stain they add further natural colour harmony and develop the same second skin-type sensitivity and feeling of comfort as animal skins and furs.

Over time, vegetable, mineral and animal dyes were produced, adding colour to the cloth.These natural dyes were not overly bright, and their unsaturated, muted depth faded and soiled over time, adding further natural balance and harmony with human characteristics.

Sadhu Man - Jaipur, Rajasthan, India                                                                                                                                                                 ©Robert Harding

Most people’s skin pigmentation, hair and eye colouring in a local environment is consistent. Intuitive colour awareness provides the direction to develop dye colours which best harmonise with the colour characteristics of a local population.

Humans have a natural underlying warm colour quality in their skin pigmentation and hair colouring. There is, however, diversity across individuals’ warm hues and their level of saturation. This is the result of characteristic colour adaptations over generations of living in various climates and environments.

Therefore, it is understandable why most Indigenous cultures across the globe demonstrate intuitive colour awareness to wear warm-based clothing, which also has psychological advantages and produces positive interactive responses.

Masai Warrior - North Africa                                                                                                                             ©Avatar_023

Current tribal, religious and community ceremonies, cultural patriotism, and modern-day dress and uniform continue to display intuitive colour awareness, and both purposeful and ignorant colour discord, with face and body paint, tattooing, clothing, accessories and make-up.

Buddhist monks - Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

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