Subtle but Mighty: The Power of Pastel

As we all emerge from another dreary, wet and cold winter (well, if you are from the UK by any means), it feels good to know that warmer and brighter weather is just around the corner, a comforting knowledge that spring is on its way. As we all know, spring is a time of rebirth, renewal and rejuvenation and pastel colours are often affiliated with this time of year. These soft and calming hues represent a ‘coming back to life’ after a winter dormancy, leading into the fully saturated intensity of summer. But what is it about pastel colours that has us so intrigued?

The Origins of Pastel

Before the word ‘pastel’ became a reference to a lighter colour palette, pastels were a popular form of art medium (one that many of us are likely familiar with). The name derived from the Latin word ‘pastellus’ which means ‘paste’. This medium bases its origins in the 15th century and was notably used by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Jean Perréal, leading to the 18th century in which they became particularly fashionable for portrait painting. With pastel manufacturing at an all time high, many brands started to produce more gradations of colours. This was achieved by adding different quantities of white chalk to an original darker colour. It was through this mixing of pigments with chalks that the origin of the word ‘pastel’ in reference to ‘pale colour’ was fashioned and this is still a popular colour palette amongst artist, designers and marketers today.

Pastel Characteristics

A pastel colour is technically defined as any hue with a high value (lightness) and low to medium saturation (purity or intensity of the colour), essentially a white-diluted version of primary and secondary colours. Thus, this beautiful colour palette brings the purifying and cleansing ambiance of white to the original vibrancy of colour. And just as bold and vibrant colours can make us feel energised, excited and sometimes even angry, pastels tend to have a positive effect on our psyche, instigating calming and optimistic feelings. Think mint, baby pink, peach, periwinkle and light sea-foam green; these colours are often preferred over primary hues when trying to portray a more soothing, delicate, dream-like and even ethereal feel to any art or design project.  

The Meaning and Psychology of Pastel Colours

Pastel colours have a very unique dual personality, containing all the liveliness of colour but also embodying a muted and subtle quality, which is what makes them so alluring. Colour has the ability to stimulate us and invoke certain emotions, so it is no surprise that marketers and designers have utilised the calming and soothing qualities that a pastel palette can bring. For instance, many skin-care brands will opt for a pastel colour palette to represent simplicity, cleanliness and purity. The soothing and calming nature of these colours has even led to a favoured use of pastels painted in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries, wherein a soothing atmosphere is particularly important. Furthermore, many new parents often embrace the pastels to decorate the bedrooms of their new born child, a perfect colour match for new life.

Pastels are beautiful, they can boost your mood and they are extremely versatile in any design or art project. What do you think of pastels? Are they something you gravitate towards? Or do you prefer a more bold and vibrant palette? Either way, we hope you are open to experimenting with these uplifting and relaxing tones.

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