NCEF Resource List: Color Theory for Classrooms and Schools
NCEF - National Clearinghouse for Education 

MY PAGE   |  
Filter Results
Show from to present
Show from to present
Show all citations
Show Abstracts
Hide Abstracts

Information on the effects of color on perception, physiology, and learning, compiled by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.

References to Books and Other Media

A Room to Learn. Rethinking Classroom Environments.
Faulk, Janet; Evanshen, Pam
(Gryphon House, Inc. , Jun 2011)
Based on the latest research about how children learn, this book helps teachers make their classrooms into creative spaces that facilitate teaching and learning. Geared toward showing teachers how to use the learning environment as a teaching tool, the book begins with research and exploration about designing classrooms for child-centered learning. It then delves into specific areas of classroom design such as use of color and plants, room arrangement, learning centers, and impact of clutter. With “before” and “after” photos of real classrooms, teachers can examine each area and determine their own classroom’s need for improvement. 192p.

Colour Design for Better Classrooms. Adobe PDF
Cottreau, April
(Canadian Adventist Teachers Network, 2011)
Discusses ideal colors for classroom walls, examining warm versus cool colors, color's affect on mood, how light affects color, creating a home like atmosphere, colors and eyestrain, and colors and temperature. 3p.

The Best Paint Color for Classroom Walls.
Dinsmore, Kevin
(eHow, Apr 01, 2010)
The right color shade can transform a distracted, frazzled environment into a calm and focused space. This discusses beneficial colors and what to avoid. 2p.

The Top Color Schemes for a School Classroom.
Stephenson, D. R.
(eHow, Jan 03, 2010)
Discusses considerations in choosing the best colors for a classroom, including color for quiet study, for physical exercise, for regular classrooms, for children of different ages, and for school hallways.

Realistic Contributions for Improving the Physical School Environment.
Albert, Lauren
(California State University, Chico , 2010)
Identifies improvements to schools' culture, through various projects enhancing the physical aesthetics of the school. The premise of the project is based on findings from a survey, which was directed at the aspects of the schools' physical environment that caused increases in students' learning. This project provides a handbook of realistic resources for improving a school's physical environment. The handbook outlines four project ideas to be completed by the school community for minimal costs. The four project ideas are 1) School Murals, 2) School Garden, 3) Paint with School Colors Benches, Doors, etc., and 4) Plant Trees with Identification Tags. The projects are organized with step-by-step instructions for ease of completion. Additionally, the handbook provides resource ideas for funding. Creating an enriching physical school environment has been shown to improve students' attitudes toward learning, thus positively influencing test scores. This handbook is intended to improve the grounds and facilities of a school with the end result being a more motivated school community. [author's abstract] 144p.

Classroom Colors Make a Difference.
Smith, Linda
(Hertz Furniture Systems, Mahwah, NJ , 2009)
Discusses the psychology of color, color recommendations for classrooms, the effect of various colors on mood and concentration, and opportunities for adjusting classroom color through furniture and furnishings selection. 2p.

Color in an Optimum Learning Environment. Adobe PDF
Daggett, Willard R., Cobble, Jeffrey E., Gertel, Steven J.
(International Center fo Leadership in Education, Rexford, NY , Mar 2008)
Discusses color as an important factor in the physical learning environment, and as a major element in interior design that impacts student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and staff efficiency. Specific colors and patterns directly influence the health, morale, emotions, behavior, and performance of learners, depending on the individual's culture, age, gender, and developmental level, the subject being studied, and the activity being conducted 9p.

Giving School a Radical Makeover.
(TeacherNet, Department for Children, Schools and Families, London, England. , 2007)
Case study of a secondary school in England that used bold colors to improve the learning environment. This simple step has created more effective learners and a community feel.

The Color of Debate: Chapter 1
(Designshare, Minneapolis, MN , 2007)
Presents a debate between school designers over the impact of color in the learning environment. The debate contrasts the designers' instincts against the existence and quality of actual research-based evidence on the emotive effect of various colors in learning environments. 7p.

Why We Think Blue is Calming: Color-Mood Associations as Learned or Innate.
Vining, Diana
(University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. , Apr 26, 2006)
This paper explores the question of how we develop specific aesthetic reactions to particular colors. The existing literature on color-mood associations is described. The author concludes that there is a large, albeit indirect, body of research supporting the theory of color-mood associations as learned. Differences in color preferences across cultures and across ages seem to negate any idea of color universals. The few arguments for color-mood associations as innate are weak and tied to misunderstandings about the nature of hue versus brightness in color. Includes 19 references. 11p.

The Effect of School Interior Environment on Students' Attitudes toward School: Suggestions for Philadelphia Public Schools. Adobe PDF
Vining, Diana
(Diana Vining, University of Pennsylvania , Apr 2006)
Presents options for improving school appearance, including paint finishes, colors, and application; lighting types, controls, and colors; and materials for flooring, art display, and plantings. Also included are suggestions for how to involve students and the community, as well as making school improvement and maintenance a part of the educational program. Includes 13 references. 21p.

Primary Ideas: Projects to Enhance Primary School Environments.
(Dept. for Education and Skills, London, United Kingdom , 2006)
Presents a toolkit of design principles, creative ideas, and projects for primary school environments, aimed at inspiring staff, pupils and parents. Its aim is to help schools take an inclusive approach towards rebuilding, refurbishing and upgrading premises. The publication contains examples from the United Kingdom and overseas and includes case studies by the authors from work carried out in building two new classrooms at Ballifield Primary School in Sheffield. 86p.

Learning, Lighting, and Color. Adobe PDF
Fielding, Randall
( , 2006)
Reviews learning patterns and its connection to visual stimuli. Proper lighting for school entryways and science laboratories is covered, and seven myths about lighting and color in educational architecture are challenged. 7p.

Joined Up Design for Schools
Sorrell, John; Sorrell, Frances
(Merrell Publishers, New York, NY , Jan 2005)
Profiles over sixty projects in which school children thoughout Britain have commissioned pioneering concepts from an array of notable international designers and architects. The client teams of children engaged designers to respond to their everyday needs and concerns, and this volume describes and illustrates an range of projects that deal with the built environment, communications, storage, color, clothing and identity in schools. 192p.
TO ORDER: 49 West 24th St., 8th floor, New York, NY 10010

The Impact of Color on Learning. Adobe PDF
Engelbrecht, Kathie
(Perkins & Will, Chicago, IL , Jun 18, 2003)
Presents a compliation of studies conducted by color psychologists, medical, and design professionals. Biological reaction to colors affects vision, mood, and productivity. Thoughtful use of color also aids in wayfinding. Color suggestions for different age groups and room type are offered. (Includes 14 references.) 5p.

The Importance of Interior Design Elements as They Relate to Student Outcomes. Adobe PDF
Tanner, C. Kenneth; Langford, Ann
(Carpet and Rug Institute, Dalton, GA. , 2003)
This study investigated the following questions: (1) "What are the perceptions that elementary school principals have concerning the influence of interior design elements such as floor and wall coverings, lighting, flexibility, acoustics, color, texture, patterns, cleanliness, and maintenance on student achievement, teacher retention, and student attendance?" (2) "Do the acoustics of the environment relate significantly to student achievement?" (3) What floor coverings in the classroom relate significantly to the acoustics of the classroom?" and (4) "Are there any possible links between floor coverings in the classroom and student achievement?" The study found that in all subject areas studied, students attending schools having carpeted classrooms had higher achievement scores than those attending schools having hard surfaced classrooms. The study also found that the importance of a school's interior design is slightly higher for school principals than for teachers. 49p.

Color Psychology. Do Different Colors Affect Your Mood?
Johnson, David
This page from the InfoPlease website explores whether or not color affects moods, and the conventional meanings of various colors from the perspective of Western society. Includes related links to other sources of information on the psychology of color.

Aesthetic Code in Early Childhood Classrooms: What Art Educators Can Learn from Reggio Emilia.
Tarr, Patricia
(Design Share, Inc., Minneapolis, MN , Oct 2001)
This article compares the messages contained in the physical environments of early childhood classrooms in Reggio Emilia, Italy, with typical early childhood settings in Canada and the United States. The article examines the classroom’s "aesthetic code,", i.e., the social construction created, consciously or unconsciously, by the classroom’s environment and its impact on student feelings and social perception. The author discusses how these "codes" reflect each culture’s image of the child, cultural values in general, and broad educational goals. Concluding comments explore the implications that these classroom codes have for art educators. 10p.

Influence of the School Facility on Student Achievement: Lighting; Color.
Jago, Elizabeth, Comp.; Tanner, Ken, Comp.
(University of Georgia; Dept. of Educational Leadership, Athens, GA , Apr 1999)
Examines the impact that lighting and color in classrooms have on learning and teaching. Provides excerpts from research on the roles of lighting and color in the educational environment, such as their effect on student concentration, performance, health, behavior, and attitudes. Suggests recommendations for improving lighting and color to enhance student productivity and help reduce absenteeism. 4p.

Color in Interior Design.
Pile, John
(McGraw Hill Professional Publishing, New York, NY, 1997)
This book is a comprehensive, illustrated guide to specifying color schemes for interiors. Coverage ranges from the basic principles of color to the effect of color on the human psyche. Pages 174-175 explores interior colors for schools and college buildings. The author suggests mild colors for walls and floors to minimize glare and brightness contrast between work stations and the surroundings. However, classrooms for young children may use stronger colors in warm tones. He also recommends that stairways and corridors can use areas of bright color to provide variety and stimulation while passing between other spaces. 320p.

Colour and Light in Schools. Theoretical and Empirical Background. Adobe PDF
Samuels, Robert; Stephens, Harry
It is widely recognised that colour impacts on people, but there is little objective and empirical research confirming such influences on educational performance. Without a “principles guideline”, colourists and educational managers have no means to cross-check and evaluate colour decisions, and choices become personal, fashionable, political and so on, which is not an acceptable way in which to ensure that the quality of the learning environment conforms to the best practice in terms of the available knowledge. Given that colour is inseparable from light, and that light has been shown to have a profound affect on well-being and performance - despite its apparently ethereal nature - no colour principles guideline would be acceptable without a corresponding integration of best practice knowledge currently available concerning the psycho-biological effects of light. The research reported on herein constitutes a review of contemporary knowledge relating to both colour and light. [Authors' abstract] 161p.

Color, Environment, and Human Response.
Mahnke, Frank; Mahnke, Rudolf
(John Wiley & Sons, 1996)
This book, written for architects, interior designers, and color consultants, explores the psychological and physiological effects of color in the built environment. Scientific findings and industry-by-industry examples are furnished to help professionals specify colors that will create healthful environments in hospitals, schools, restaurants, and other public facilities. 234p.

Color and Light Effects on Learning. Adobe PDF
Grangaard, Ellen Mannel
(Paper presented at the Association for Childhood Education International Study Conference and Exhibition, Washington, DC , Apr 12, 1995)
This study examined the effects of color and light on the learning of eleven six-year-old elementary school students. The students were videotaped to identify off-task behaviors and had their blood pressure measured while in a standard classroom with white walls and cool-white fluorescent lights, as well as in a classroom with light blue walls and full-spectrum lights. The study found that the students accumulated a total of 390 off-task behaviors in the standard classroom compared to 310 in the modified classroom, a decrease of 22 percent. It also found that students' mean blood pressure readings were nine percent lower in the modified classroom when compared to their readings in the standard classroom. 10p.

Gender and the Meaning of Color in Interior Environments.
Khouw, Natalia
(Color Matters - Research. , 1995)
Although findings are ambiguous, many investigations have indicated that there are differences between gender in preferences for colors. Several research studies are described and their implications are analysed. 4p.

The Power of Color. Creating Healthy Interior Spaces.
Marberry, Sara; Zagon, Laurie
(Wiley, 1995)
Working from a scientifically based premise that the use of full-spectrum color on finishes and surfaces is essential to creating a healthy man-made environment, the authors provide guidelines to designing with full-spectrum color, a course in color theory, detailed analyses of more than 20 projects for public and private spaces, including schools and day-care centers, and color charts that break down proportions of hue, value, and chroma for each project discussed. 100p.

Effects of Color and Light on Selected Elementary Students. Adobe PDF
Grangaard, Ellen Mannel
(Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Nevada , 1993)
This study compared children's off-task behavior and physiological response in a normal elementary classroom setting with those in a prescribed classroom environment. In the prescribed environment, the colors of the classroom walls were changed from brown and off-white to blue, while Duro-test Vita-lite fluorescent tubes without diffusers replaced the standard cool-white fluorescent tubes with diffusers in the lighting fixtures. Eleven first-graders took part in the study, which measured their off-task behaviors, blood pressure, and pulse twice each day at the same time each day for 10-day periods in the original classroom environment, then in the prescribed environment, and back in the original environment. Results indicated that off-task behaviors, as recorded by three observers, dropped 24 percent after the change from the normal to the prescribed environment, and that systolic blood pressure readings dropped 9 percent after the change. Blood pressure readings demonstrated a gradual increase after the return to the normal environment. (Observer credentials and blood pressure and pulse readings are appended. Contains 126 references.) 183p.

Color and Light Effects on Students' Achievement, Behavior and Physiology. Adobe PDF
Wohlfarth, M.
(University of Alberta, Canada , May 1986)
This intensive research study utilized a quasi-experimental non-equivalent control group design to investigate the effects of full-spectrum light, prescribed color and light/color combinations, ultra-violet light, and electromagnetic radiation in an elementary school environment. Four schools in the Wetaskiwin School District, Alberta, were involved in the study; three served as experimental groups and one as a control group. Independent variables were exposure to full-spectrum light or prescribed cool colors for teachers and prescribed warm colors for students or a combination of light and color treatments, ultraviolet light for a sample of grade five students, and elimination of electromagnetic radiation for a sample of grade three students. Dependent variables were primarily student academic, physiological, and affective outcomes and also included blood pressure as a teacher physiological measure. A pre-experimental static-group comparison design was used in the investigation of mood and noise. Overall results support a call for additional field-based and laboratory research into the effects of color, light, and color/light combinations. Findings regarding the beneficial effects of ultraviolet light and reduction of electromagnetic radiation in the school environment support strong recommendations for further study of these effects. An extensive literature review of research findings on light and color is included in the report, which also contains 58 tables, 12 figures, and a bibliography. 219p.

The Effects of Interior Pigment Color on School Task Performance Mediated by Arousal
Fehrman, Kenneth R.
(Dissertation, University of San Francisco, 1986)
This study investigated the effect of interior pigment color on task performance and arousal (a combination of GSR and pulse scores) to determine optimum color use for the interiors of educational facilities, residential, and commercial environments. It was anticipated that a better understanding of the effects of color on human beings could prove an effective means toward improving the ability to perform tasks with greater accuracy and lessened stress in human-engineered interior environments. Based on previous studies, it was predicted that red would cause more arousal or "excitement" than blue, and that there would be a difference in performance across the three colors. Unlike previous studies, this study precisely controlled the color and lighting conditions. It was found that pigment colors of equal saturation and brightness resulted in comparable arousal and task performance scores, therefore dispelling the belief than red is more arousing than blue. Lack of control in color value and lighting conditions has been criticized as invalidating previous color studies (Mehrabian, 1974). In this study where controlled color and light were used, the results indicate that red does not cause greater arousal than blue as previously thought. This study indicates that colors of equal value produce comparable arousal and performance results, therefore indicating that the color balance of an environment is of greater significance than a specific hue. [Author's abstract] 110p.

Color and Human Response: Aspects of Light and Color Bearing on the Reactions of Living Things and the Welfare of Human Beings.
Birren, Faber
(John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, 1984)
Offers factual and hypothetical observations on the influence of color in life. Explores the biological, visual, emotional, aesthetic, and psychic responses to color. The discussions are supported by historical references and scientific data. Specifications provided are geared toward the use of color in homes, offices, hospitals, and schools to relieve modern tensions and anxieties. 168p.

Lights, Windows, Color: Elements of the School Environment. Adobe PDF
Hathaway, Warren E.
(Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Council of Educational Facility Planners, International, Columbus, OH , Sep 26, 1982)
Discusses recent research indicating the many nonvisual effects of light on people and how physiological and psychological effects vary with the type of artificial light, whether it is from incandescent, cool-white, or full-spectrum fluorescent lamps. Notes that student behavior appears to be favorably affected by full-spectrum lamps, that color also has an effect on people and their behavior, and that research findings suggest that blues and greens tend to foster relaxation while shades of red or orange tend to induce activity. Reports that building occupants seem to favor the ability to view the outside world rather than work in windowless spaces. 28p.

Physical Environment and Middle Grade Achievement. Adobe PDF
Chan, Tak Cheung
(School District of Greenville County, Greenville, SC , 1980)
This study measured the influence of air conditioning, carpeting, fluorescent lighting, and interior pastel coloring on the academic achievement of eighth grade Georgia pupils in 1975-76 when the variance due to socioeconomic status was statistically controlled. Analysis of covariance was used to compare the achievement scores of students on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Pupil achievement in air-conditioned school buildings was consistently higher than pupil achievement in non-air-conditioned school buildings. This consistent pattern did not exist between carpeted school buildings and noncarpeted school buildings, between school buildings with fluorescent lighting and school buildings without fluorescent lighting, and between school buildings with interior pastel coloring and school buildings without interior pastel coloring. 16p.

Colour in School Buildings. (Fourth Edition).
(H.M.S.O., London, England , 1969)
This bulletin discusses the use of color in school buildings and describes those colors specifically designed for use in schools. Part I discusses the difficulty of using color in physical environments where many different and often conflicting needs must be met, encourages the systematic consideration of these needs, and suggests principles or criteria that could help color-scheme designers. Part II describes a specific range of colors -- the Archrome 2 -- a 54-color range considered to be most suited for use in schools. Eight extensive appendixes elaborate on the principles discussed and supply a variety of detailed illustrations. 67p.

References to Journal Articles

Broad Brush. Colorful Strokes.
Nemerson, Laura
College Planning and Management; , p46-53 ; May 2012
Bold color and big statements can enliven a workspace on a budget. Describes the interior design for NYU-Poly.

Showcase: Paints
Lewellen, David
Building Operating Management; Apr 2012
4-part series on the latest developments in greening paints. Manufacturers have developed the whole package: low-VOC paints that are readily tintable at the point of sale with low-VOC colorant and low-odor properties. Part 1: Paint Innovations Offer Facility Managers Green Benefits, Performance; Part 2: Check Paint's Certifications To Avoid Greenwash; Part 3: New Standards, Research, Promise Continuing Improvement In Paints; and Part 4: Showcase Products: Paints.

Infographic: What Colors Should You Use?
Design Taxi; Feb 2012
Infographic shows how color evokes emotion and triggers senses. The Psychology of Color explores what colors should and should not be used in interior decorating.

15 Low-Cost Tips for School Interiors
Fickes, Michael
School Planning and Management; , p18-22 ; Feb 2012
Interior designer Carla Remenschneider and architects Jeanne Jackson and Steven Shiver share their favorite low-cost techniques for brightening schools, including ideas for casework, colors, furnishings graphics, lighting, windows, flooring materials, and sustainable materials.

Charles W. Morey Elementary School.
Architectural Record; v199 n1 ; Jan 2011
Profiles this Massachusetts elementary school that fits a large facility onto a tight site, and mimics the colors and textures of the surrounding residential neighborhood.

Special Needs Interiors.
American School and University; v82 n13 , p121,122 ; Aug 2010
Profiles special needs interiors in Richmond, Virginia, and Millersville, Maryland. Gentle design and soft colors are featured in these winning projects in the 2010 American School and University Magazine Education Interiors Showcase. Photographs and project statistics accompany a brief description of each project.

Color, Perception, and Architectural Interiors
Arsenault, Peter
Architectural Record; Jun 2010
Explores the role of color in the human experience of perceiving our environment. Emerging information from a variety of sources suggest that appropriate attention to the details of color in specific settings can be directly used to not only shape us but to influence desired positive outcomes, particularly in educational, healthcare, and work settings.

Color Sense.
Johnson, Heidi; Maki, Jennifer
American School and University; v81 n13 , p143-145 ; Aug 2009
Discusses study results indicating the beneficial effect of classroom color and full-spectrum lighting on off-task behavior, anxiety, and improved academic performance. Study methodology, surveys of student attitudes, and grade studies are described.

Color in School Libraries.
Elementary Librarian; Jul 17, 2009
The article mentions some important things to keep in mind when decorating a school library. It gives information on color, floor, and furniture. At the end of the article there is a compiled list from librarians on things that may be overlooked.

Color Your World.
Meghani, Amee
School Planning and Management; v48 n7 , p29,30,32,33 ; Jul 2009
Discusses the impact of color on a room and its occupants. The varying utilities of calming colors (greens and blues) and stimulating colors (reds and yellows) for walls, furnishings, various age groups, and in various educational spaces is addressed.

Young Children's Color Preferences in the Interior Environment.
Read, Marilyn A.; Upington, Deborah
Early Childhood Education Journal; v36 n6 , p491-496 ; Jun 2009
This study focuses on children's color preferences in the interior environment. Previous studies highlight young children's preferences for the colors red and blue. The methods of this study used a rank ordering technique and a semi-structured interview process with 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children. Findings reveal that children prefer the color red in the interior environment. The color purple was preferred by girls. Cool colors were favored over warm colors. Recommendations are made for application of color in the child development environment.

Impact Library Access with Bold Use of Color and Space.
Library Media Connection; v27 n2 , p16-18 ; Oct 2008
Most school libraries have little funding for books, much less for redecorating. So what can a librarian do to give his or her library a makeover? This article presents a few cost-effective ways to renovate in just a few weeks. These tips include the use of colors, rearrangement of furnitures, signages, and more.

The Shape of Learning.
Horstman, Eric
School Planning and Management; v47 n3 , p26,28-30,32 ; Mar 2008
Reviews physical and sensory needs for school interiors, including carbon dioxide reduction, access to water fountains, thermal comfort, and the color selection and placement.

Computer Classroom Wall Colour Preference and the Relationship with Personality Type of College Students
Wang, Hong and Russ, Randall
Colour, Design, and Creativity; , 13p ; Feb 2008
The computer classroom is widely used in colleges and high schools in the United States. In order to create a more comfortable and effective teaching environment, the most preferred wall colours for a computer classroom were examined in the study. Also, personality types of students were tested to determine if type had an impact on wall colour preference. The sample consisted of 145 undergraduate interior design students at a university located in the south-western United States. Students ranked 15 slides that depicted the same computer classroom with 15 different wall colour applications. Results indicated that personality type did not impact colour preference for a computer classroom. The results suggested cool colours in the Master Palette Color System are preferred more for wall colour in a computer classroom.

Visual Methods and the Visual Culture of Schools
Prosser, Jon
Visual Studies; v22 n1 , p13-30 ; Apr 2007
This article examines visual methods for understanding the visual culture of schools. It adopts an institutional culture perspective to equate the visual culture of schools with the 'hidden curriculum' of schooling. A range of visual sub-cultures is touched upon including architecture, non-teaching space and postures of teaching and learning. The possibility of conceiving the visual culture of schools as a holistic entity raises the problematic of devising broader more encompassing visual-centric methodologies combining mixed methods and cross-disciplinary approaches. [Author's abstract]

LA Color School.
Milionis, Allison
Architecture Week ; , p. D1.1 ; Oct 18, 2006
Case study of the Dena Primary Center, a pre-Kindergarten through 2 school in a densely populated neighborhood of East Los Angeles. Within 25,000 square feet, the architects have arranged two kindergartens, eight primary classrooms, the administrative complex, a library, a multipurpose building that features a soaring 25-foot ceiling with floor-to-ceiling glazing, a kitchen, and the courtyard. The three buildings are distinct in shape, color, and design, and the teachers use the geometric forms of the buildings as educational tools. Brightly colored stucco walls in shades of purple, red, and canary yellow reflect the cultural heritage of the community while large glass walls, custom-designed galvanized steel panels, and mesh give the complex a contemporary aesthetic.

Paint by Numbers.
Kimm, Alice
Architecture; v95 n9 , p52-55 ; Sep 2006
Profiles Los Angeles' Aragon Avenue Elementary School expansion, which borrowed its exterior palette from the surrounding neighborhood of colorful bungalows, mountains, palm trees, and sky.

Facility Planning: Pricing Aesthetics
Rydeen, James E.
American School and University; , p52 ; Sep 2006
Aesthetics will enhance the teaching and learning environment. Aesthetics involves balance, order, integrity and meaning, which include scale, proportion, symmetry, asymmetry, light and shadow, pattern, texture and color. A school can be aesthetically pleasing without adding significant costs.

What They See Is What They Get: Ten Myths about Lighting and Color in Schools.
Fielding, Randall
Edutopia; v2 n2 , p28-30 ; Mar 2006
Disputes ten persistent myths concerning lighting and the use of color in learning environments. Daylighting, thoughtful lamping, and use of a wide palette of color is encouraged.

Color Associations with Different Building Types: An Experimental Study on American College Students.
Kaya, Naz; Crosby, Melanie
Color Research & Application; v31 n1 , p67-71 ; Feb 2006
This study examines individuals' color associations with different building types (i.e., residences, schools, official buildings, hospitals, shopping malls, entertainment buildings, restaurants, hotels, factories, and religious buildings) and the reasons given behind their color choices. Ninety-eight college students at a public institution in the southeast region of the United States participated in the study. Results indicate that color associations seem to be based on individual and emotional aspects where previous knowledge and experience with a particular building type play an important role. The reasons for color-building associations are discussed and future research areas are suggested. [Authors' abstract] [An adapted version of this research is available here: ]

School Walls as Battle Grounds: Technologies of Power, Space and Identity
Staiger, Annegret
Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education; v41 n4-5 , p555-569 ; Aug 2005
A daily war is waged in schools all over the United States over wall space. Adolescents are using school walls to convey messages, create name recognition, slander each other, or for claiming territorial space. On the other side is the school administration, which paints over and erases these unsanctioned claims to space, power and identity, as it regards these expressions as challenging the authority of the school. In this paper, which is based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in an urban school in California, it is argued that both practices constitute technologies to generate and sustain group loyalties and both channel aggression against other groups: taggers in the form of threats to or attacks on other groups, the school through athletic competitions. Tracing the history of school colors and their link to competitive athletics underscores the symbolic link between school and nation. However, while official symbols of school colors represent the legitimate and sanctioned identity of the school that is regarded as instrumental to developing esprit de corps, graffiti and tagging represent the illegitimate and criminal/ized identity of gangs and tagging crews. Examining the ongoing battle over wall space and claims to power/identity between school authority and taggers, it is argued that both constitute technologies of power that, while competing with each other, also mutually reinforce each other's claims to power over allegiances through the very process of contestation. [Author's abstract]

Classroom Colors.
Kennedy, Mike
American School and University; v77 n10 , p48,50,52 ; May 2005
Advises functional over aesthetic color choices in school furnishings. The effect of various colors on different age groups are described, along with issues such as eye strain, wayfinding, over- and under-stimulation, and avoidance of trendy colors that will not be available in the future.

Let the Walls Teach.
Chan, Tak Cheung; Arasi, Anthony
School Business Affairs; v71 n1 , p35,36 ; Jan 2005
Suggests many uses for classroom walls that enhance teaching. Displays can be used for educational, aesthetic, promotional, competitive, celebratory, and teaching of values functions. Suggestions on wall finishes, colors, and display aesthetics are offered.

Color Concerns: It is Not Just Personal Preference.
Brady, Jim
School Construction News; v7 n8 , p23 ; Nov-Dec 2004
Describes the effect of light, dark, warm, and cool colors in interiors.

The Color Connection.
Kate, Sandra
School Planning and Management; v43 n11 , p28,29 ; Nov 2004
Describes the creative use of color and light within a school to economically enhance wayfinding, design, and creativity.

Relationship Between Color and Emotion: a Study of College Students.
Naz, Kaya; Epps, Helen H.
College Student Journal; v38 n3 , p396 ; Sep 2004
Ninety-eight college students were asked to indicate their emotional responses to five principle hues (i.e., red, yellow, green, blue, purple), five intermediate hues (i.e., yellow-red, green-yellow, blue-green, purple-blue, and red-purple), and three achromatic colors (white, gray, and black) and the reasons for their choices. The color stimuli were referenced from the Munsell Color System. The results revealed that the principle hues comprised the highest number of positive emotional responses, followed by the intermediate hues and the achromatic colors. The color green evoked mainly positive emotions such as relaxation and comfort because it reminded most of the respondents of nature. The color green-yellow had the lowest number of positive responses because it was associated with vomit and elicited the feelings of sickness and disgust. For the achromatic colors, white attained a large number of positive responses, followed by the colors black and gray. The reasons for the color-emotion associations are discussed and future research areas are suggested. [Authors' abstract]

Light and Color Goes to School.
Kollie, Ellen
College Planning and Management; v7 n6 , p34,36,38,40 ; Jun 2004
Discusses the results of recent research indicating that natural light and views through windows have a positive effect on learning and describing the manner in which glare and direct sunlight should be controlled. Also discussed is the appropriate and balanced use of color in the classroom to enhance learning.

Color in Education.
Thompson, Sheri
School Planning and Management; v42 n12 , p30,32 ; Dec 2003
Discusses the psychophysiological effects of colors and their appropriateness in educational settings. Color selection varies according to age group, room use and the geographical location of the facility. Changing the palette is a relatively economical way to improve an educational facility's environment.

Creative Kindergarten. [Israel]
Eylon, Lili
Architecture Week ; Aug 2003
Case study of a kindergarten in Caesarea, Israel, a city full of Roman structures. The architects took the linear motif of the famous Roman aqueduct and translated it into a contemporary building. The architectural language and color scheme are drawn from the sand dunes on which it is located. The outer walls are rendered in bright colors and carved into shapes that spark the children's imagination for storytelling.

Use of Color in Child Care Environments: Application of Color for Wayfinding and Space Definition in Alabama Child Care Environments.
Read, Marilyn A.
Early Childhood Education Journal; v30 n4 , p233-39 ; Summer 2003
Compared the use of color in physical design features associated with the exterior and interior designs of 101 child care centers in Alabama. Found that color was evidenced on the exterior of the centers at just over half of the sample. The interior environments had warm colors and bright accents in the setting; however, the majority of centers used only white, off- white, or gray on the walls.

Color and Light in Learning.
Rittner-Heir, Robbin M.
School Planning and Management; v41 n2 , p57-58,60-61 ; Feb 2002
Discusses studies showing that color and light have a significant influence on how students learn and retain information (for example, daylight is much more beneficial than fluorescent light). Describes how many architects and designers are now incorporating these findings into their work in schools.

A Well Designed School Environment Facilitates Brain Learning
Chan, Tak Cheung; Petrie, Garth
Educational Facility Planner; v35 n3 , p12-15 ; 2000
Examines how school designs can facilitate learning by offering environments that complement the way students actually learn. Discusses mechanisms for learning and ways that learning can be supported through an artistic environment, spacious learning areas, color and lighting, and optimal thermal and acoustical environments. School design suggestions conclude the article.

Color: An Unsuspected Influence
Scargall, Hollie
Library Talk; v12 n5 , p11-12 ; Nov-Dec 1999
Discusses appropriate use of colors in school libraries and the ways that color affects learning, behavior, and mood. Also examines the use of colors to bring out the best physical attributes of a space and the use of color for floor coverings, window treatments, furnishings, and accessories.

The Brain and Well-Designed School Environments.
Chan, Tak Cheung; Petrie, Garth F.
Classroom Leadership Online; v2 n3 ; Nov 1998
Explores how the environment affects learning, noting that these effects cannot be underestimated and that people learn faster in challenging, creative, accommodating, and healthy environments. Related topics discussed include energy for learning, artistic environment, activity areas, color and light, and thermal and acoustical environments.

The Power of Paint: Refurbishing School Libraries on a Budget
Usalis, Marian D.
School Library Journal; v44 n2 , p28-33 ; Feb 1998
Presents lessons learned in four years of renovating school libraries in Cleveland, Ohio: build a team, fund raising, design tips (layout, furniture, color, windows, floors, theme), bargain hunting, staff recruiting, and timelines. With a small amount of money, volunteers, imagination, and hard work any library media center can be transformed into a bright, exciting hub of learning.

Making the Best Decisions: Designing for Excellence!
Bullock, Ann Adams; Foster-Harrison, Elizabeth S.
Schools in the Middle; v7 n2 , p.37-39,60-61 ; Nov 1997
The authors suggest that classrooms must provide an appropriately stimulating environment that supports learning and provides teachers and students with a comfortable place to learn. Lists requisite factors of the school environment including furniture, aesthetics, color, carpet, building maintenance, decorating detail, comfort, space/design, lighting, classroom elements, instructional items, and professional items. According to the authors, color is the least expensive investment and the fastest change agent available.

Who's Afraid of a Little Color.
Johnson, Kathleen M.
School Planning and Management; v36 n7 , p37-39 ; Jul 1997
Recommends approaches for selecting overall color scheme for a facility: Start with the largest area first. Chose carpet color, then the colors for walls, furniture, and accessories. Suggests that, because color can affect people emotionally and behaviorally, consideration should be given to the types of people who will be using the space.

Children's Emotional Associations with Colors.
Boyatzis CJ; Varghese, R.
Journal of Genetic Psychology; v155 n1 , p77-85 ; Mar 1994
In this study children's emotional associations with colors were investigated. Sixty children (30 girls, 30 boys), equally divided into groups of 5-year-olds and 6 1/2-year-olds, were asked their favorite color and were then shown nine different colors, one at a time and in a random order. For each color, children were asked, "How does (the color) make you feel?" All children were able to verbally express an emotional response to each color, and 69% of children's emotional responses were positive (e.g., happiness, excitement). Responses also demonstrated distinct color-emotion associations. Children had positive reactions to bright colors (e.g., pink, blue, red) and negative emotions for dark colors (e.g., brown, black, gray). Children's emotional reactions to bright colors became increasingly positive with age, and girls in particular showed a preference for brighter colors and a dislike for darker colors. Boys were more likely than girls were to have positive emotional associations with dark colors. Potential sources for children's color-emotion concepts, such as gender-related and idiosyncratic experiences, are discussed. [Author's abstract]

Ergonomic Considerations for the Human Environment: Color Treatment, Lighting, and Furniture Selection
Robertson, Michelle M.
School Library Media Quarterly; v20 n4 , p211-215 ; 07/01/1992
Discusses ergonomic design considerations for library media centers. Specific variables examined include temperature, humidity, noise, illumination, color, and windows. Also presents computer workstation design requirements and related issues such as furniture and keyboard design, monitor and display features, software issues, and environmental and stress issues.

Young Children's Preferences for School-Related Physical-Environmental Setting Characteristics.
Cohen, Stewart; Trostle, Susan
Environment and Behavior; v22 n6 , p753-766 ; Nov 1990
The hypothesis of this research study is that children are influenced by such environmental characteristics as color, shapes, light, and the complexity of their surroundings. The study reports that the test results as related to color, multidimensional shapes, brighter lighting combinations, and more detailed use of scenic arrangements were very significant for the study participants.

Psychological Aspects of Classroom Planning
White, Ernest K.
CEFP Journal; v28 n5 ; Sep-Oct 1990
The physical environment has a psychological impact on teachers and students; and consequently, on teaching and learning. Shape, size, arrangement and decor of the room can be inviting or repulsive and can affect communication, sight, and hearing. A carefully designed classroom includes specific elements to maximize learning and minimize those factors that are detrimental to health and comfort. Elements to be considered include spatial relationships, climate control, visual and acoustical environments including colors of walls, floors, etc. Surface finish and colors not only affect psychological attitude, but significantly alleviate or worsen glare as a cause of fatigue and poor learning environment.

Light, Colour & Air Quality: Important Elements of the Learning Environment?
Hathaway, Warren E.
Education Canada; v27 n3 , p35-44 ; Fall-Winter 1987
Reviews and evaluates studies of the effects of light, color, and air quality on the learning environment. Concludes that studies suggest a role for light in establishing and maintaining physiological functions. Author recommends that cool colors such as blue and green calm students and provide a subdued learning environment. However, colors such as red and orange over-stimulate learners.

Light and Color Research Finalized
Sydoriak, Diane E.
CEFP Journal; v25 n3 ; May-Jun 1987
This article describes research conducted in the North Little Rock School District on the effect of color and lighting conditions on student health and achievement. The researchers found that students in classrooms with blue walls had lower blood pressure than students in classrooms with white walls. Furthermore, teachers reported less behavior problems in the blue classrooms. No effect was found on student achievement

Effects of Color Stimulation on Performance and Activity of Hyperactive and Nonhyperactive Children.
Zentall, Sydney S.
Journal of Educational Psychology; v78 n2 , p159-65 ; Apr 1986
A theoretically based investigation of color stimulation effects on hyperactivity was conducted. Findings were that stimulation added early or late to a sustained attention task can normalize the performance of hyperactive children and reduce their activity.

Learning Environments: A Review of Physical and Temporal Factors.
Zentall, Sydney S.
Exceptional Education Quarterly; (Effects of the Physical Environment on Learning) ; v4 n2 , p90-115 ; Summer 1983
The impact of classroom stimuli, such as novelty, color, noise, and proximity to teacher or peers on both normal and exceptional children is reviewed. The relation between these sources of classroom stimulation and information sources (i.e., type of task and access to material, person, and role resources) is also discussed.

Psychology and the Use of Color in Educational Spaces.
Salaga, Vivian
CEFP Journal; v20 n1 ; Jan-Feb 1982
The author raises questions regarding the effect of color on human responses. The visual environment carries a sensory message. Just as overstimulation may provoke a stressful reaction, so may visual monotony cause strees from sensory deprivation. Environmental alienation may effect behavior and learning potential.

Effects of Room Color on Mirror-Tracing by Junior High School Girls.
Bross, Cindy; Jackson, Karen
Perceptual and Motor Skills; v52 n3 , p767-70 ; Jun 1981
Girls in Grades 7, 8, and 9 practiced mirror-tracing in a neutral colored room to a criterion before being tested in their preferred or nonpreferred colored rooms. The errors decreased significantly in the preferred room, while the time to complete changed minimally.

Color Selection--A Key Element in Learning.
Smith, Nancy R.
CEFP Journal; v18 n2 , p6-7 ; Mar-Apr 1980
Experiments by psychologists have proven that modern principles of color applied to schools will greatly improve the scholastic performance of students. Colors effects on emotions are explored in this article, pointing out the differences that warm colors vs. cool colors have on learning. Color effects, and the appropriate choice of colors for the different levels of schooling, as well as auditorium and specialty classrooms are covered.

The Impact of Color and Lighting in Schools.
Faily, Anwar; And Others
CEFP Journal; v17 n5 , p16, 18 ; Sep-Oct 1979
Presentation of concepts of the effects of color and lighting on humans in school facilities. Outlined are the physiological impacts of lighting types and colors, the psychological effects on humans of colors, and the energy impact of lighting levels. The author found that optical stimulation by the use of warm colors and brilliance of lighting will cause increases in muscular tensions, respiration rate, heart action, blood pressure and brain activity. Cool colors and dim lighting bring about reverse effects such as muscles relaxing more and sleep being facilitated.

Color Them Motivated--Color's Psychological Effect on Students.
Papadotas, S. P.
National Association of Secondary School Principals Bulletin; v57 n370 , p92-94 ; 1973
An architect interested in schools offers suggestions on how color affects student happiness and productivity. He suggests that the proper use of color in schools can convert a depressing and monotonous atmosphere into one that is pleasing, exciting and stimulating. He concludes that a change in a school's color scheme would reduce absenteeism and promote positive feelings about schools.



Due to lack of funding, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities is currently available only as an archived site. As of September 1, 2012 no new content will be added or updates made. We regret the need to take such steps, but should funding become available, we look forward to reinvigorating NCEF and providing this valuable resource to the educational facilities community.

If you have questions or are an organization or company wishing to support the continued operation of this industry recognized resource please contact Institute President Henry Green (, 202-289-7800).