Thursday, January 20, 2011

Color in Preschools + Elementary Schools: Part One

Photo by Jerry Levy

What are the best colors for Preschool and Elementary Grades? According to Frank Manhke, President of the International Association of Color Consultants, color in your environment has a psychophysiological influence on you. Manhke combines hard scientific evidence with empirical studies in his book, Color, Environment + Human Response.

Children are particularly susceptible to environmental stimulus. Different ages accept and reject colors according to their development. For young children, leaving the security of the home environment is challenging. Thus, creating a sense of security in their educational environment is very important.

Dr. Heinrich Frieling of the Institute of Color Psychology tested 10,000 children around the world on color preference. Here are some of his research findings:
  • Most children, ages five to fourteen rejected black, white, grey and brown.
  • Children five to eight preferred red, orange, yellow and violet.
  • Children nine to ten preferred red, red-orange and green-blue.
  • Children up to fourteen preferred blue, ultramarine and orange.
Dr. Frieling acknowledged that the pure hues noted above were not appropriate for large fields of color in the school environment. Manhke converted the color preference test results into suitable colors to be used as a palette guideline. As Manhke always stresses, color guidelines are simply guidelines, and not to be used as formulas. It's important to recognize that each school and classroom has different architectural conditions, light characteristics, geographic and cultural situations to evaluate.

Manhke recommends a warm bright color scheme of light salmon, warm yellow, pale yellow-orange, coral, and peach  These colors compliment the nature of young children and help reduce tension and anxiety. Colors from the cool spectrum, blues and blue-greens can balance the palette and work as accents. A balanced palette of warm and cool colors reduces tension, nervousness and anxiety. Colour Studio has always had a strong interest in coloring educational environments. For school projects we have incorporated warm yellows, blues, and greens. These colors were successful in lifting the general mood and atmosphere of the schools to positively impact the students and faculty. 

Colour Studio selected the following palette specifically for an elementary school located in Northern California. This palette was developed with the specific site in mind and is not intended to be used as a formula for all elementary schools. Here is a sampling of the colors we used:

Dunn Edwards 341

Benjamin Moore 148

Dunn Edwards 5332

Benjamin Moore HC-150

Benjamin Moore HC-143

Dunn Edwards 5879

The idea that young children need primary colors dominating their environment and visual stimuli covering every surface of a classroom is not supported by science. Incorporating too much color can be as detrimental as having too little color.

When considering color for schools, lets be sure to analyze each environment to insure our color and design decisions support the welfare of our end users no matter what their age.


  1. What a well timed article! I've been working with the architect team on suggesting colors for a new building at my son's school. The architect wants to go with white for all the interior classrooms! Arg! I chose similar colors to the ones you have above and based them on site info., lighting and Frank's insights/research. No matter what data I present, it seems to fall on deaf ears with this team and the district. My last hope is that I presented the principal with some of these studies and she seemed very interested. Stay tuned!

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  3. This was a great post. Schools would really benefit from having these facts and figures about children's colour preferences.

    I'm going to Tweet this link.

    Fiona Stolze

  4. Replies
    1. thank you very much....i am a new principal and needed this information.

    2. thank you very much....i am a new principal and needed this information.

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