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.

Color Forecasting – Anticipating Public Taste

Color forecasting is based upon the idea that public taste can be anticipated. Whether it’s due to current events or a natural oscillation, we see changes in the color forecast each year.


Pantone Mugs

Color Marketing Group produces forecasts for clients who pay large sums of money to be in the know. Pantone has determined it can raise its brand recognition by sharing its forecasts with the general public.

2011: Honeysuckle

Pantone 18-2120 – Cross Over: Benjamin Moore 2078-30

Pantone revealed Honeysuckle as the color of the year for 2011. Honeysuckle is a positive color that is found to be uplifting in a time of stress. As Leatrice Eisemen noted, “Honeysuckle is a captivating, stimulating color that gets the adrenaline going – perfect to ward off the blues.” (http://www.pantone.com/pages/pantone/pantone.aspx?pg=20821&ca=4)

We’ve taken a look back at the last 11 years and have found possible cross currents of events and color associations that inform each year’s color trends.

Here is a brief synopsis:

2000: Cerulean

Pantone 15-4020 – Cross Over: Benjamin Moore 822

Cerulean is a dreamy and peaceful color. This blue was chosen to be the color of 2000, the start of the millennium for it’s calming and peaceful attributes.

January 14: The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes at 11,722.98 (at the peak of the Dot-com bubble). The Dot-com era begins its decline and collapses.

November 7: Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected to the United States Senate, becoming the first First Lady of the United States to win public office.

2001: Fuchsia Rose

Pantone 17-2031 – Cross Over: Benjamin Moore 1349

2001, was the year that many of us remember as the Dot-com collapse and the tragedy of 9/11. The color Fuchsia Rose is optimistic and enlivening. This color was chosen wisely for 2001, as sadness was felt throughout the country.

2001: Multiple dot.com firms and online companies collapse.

January 20: George W. Bush in sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States.

September 11: 9/11 Attacks: The World Trade Center is hit.

2002: True Red

Pantone 19-1664 – Cross Over: Benjamin Moore 2087-10

The year following the attacks of 9/11 encouraged patriotism and building community. True Red inherently speaks to the country’s population as a color that is both energizing and patriotic.

April 19: The Senate defeats President Bush’s plan to authorize oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

October 9 – October 10: Congress passes the Iraq Resolution authorizing the Iraq War.

2003: Aqua Sky

Pantone 14-4811 – Cross Over: Sherwin Williams 1750

Aqua Sky, the color of 2003 is comforting and soothing. The color Aqua reminds us of the sky and sea and is often associated with being an ‘escape color.’

March 20: The Iraq War begins.

June 4: Martha Stewart and her broker are indicted for using privileged investment information and obstructing a federal investigation.

September 17: President Bush admits that there is no evidence linking the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

2004: Tiger Lily

Pantone 17-1456 – Cross Over: Benjamin Moore 021

Tiger Lily is a bold orange color that is energizing and stimulating. This orange is exotic and expresses a clear connection to the sun, signifying warmth.

February 3: The CIA admits that there was no imminent threat from weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

February 12: San Francisco begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

July 25: Lance Armstrong wins the 6th consecutive Tour de France cycling title.

December 26: The Sumatra-Andaman earthquake occurs, resulting in the Indian Ocean tsunami. The devastating tsunami killed over 200,000 people and is one of the deadliest natural disasters recorded.

2005: Blue Turquoise

Pantone 15-5217 – Cross Over: Pittsburgh Paints 256-5

It’s only been a year, and we witness a return to another ‘escape color’ with Blue Turquoise as the color of the year for 2005. The serene qualities of Blue Turquoise seem fit for a year hit with a major and unsettling natural disaster.

January 20: George W. Bush is sworn in for his second term as president.

August 2005: Hurricane Katrina takes form on August 23rd and strikes the Gulf Coast on the 29th, causing severe damage and many deaths. On August 30th, Katrina disperses leaving many homeless and mourning the dead.

2006: Sand Dollar

Pantone 13-1106 – Cross Over: Benjamin Moore 1080
Sand Dollar is a neutral color, both calm and relaxing.

January 26: General Motors reports an $8.6 billion loss for 2005. This is their biggest loss since 1992.

November 6: Democrats gain control of both houses of the Congress. Nancy Pelosi becomes the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives.

2007: Chili Pepper

Pantone 19-1557 – Cross Over: Benjamin Moore 1322

Chili Pepper, the color of 2007 is outgoing and confident. This intense red color screams passion and is a color that cannot be ignored.

May 3: The U.S. House of Representatives passes the Matthew Shepard Act. This is the first time that a gay rights bill is brought to the floor for a vote.

August 7: Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s home run record and hits his 756th home run.

October 9: The Dow Jones Industrial Average hits its all time high of 14,164 before beginning to decline into the recession.

December: The recession officially begins.

2008: Blue Iris

Pantone 18-3943 – Cross Over: Benjamin Moore 1407

Blue Iris is a rich color that has calming and spiritual effects. This stable color offers reassurance in a time of complexity and uncertainty.

January 21: Stock markets plunge amid growing fears of a U.S. recession.

November 4: Barack Obama is elected the 44th President of the United States and Joe Biden is elected the 47th Vice President. Barack Obama becomes the first African-American President-elect.

December 1: The Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 680 points. This is its fourth worst drop in its history.

2009: Mimosa

Pantone 14-0848 – Cross Over: Benjamin Moore 313

Mimosa, a golden yellow signifies warmth and nurturing. This color embodies hopefulness in a climate of change.

January 20: Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. More than one million people attend the inauguration service.

March 13: The Federal Reserve reports that U.S. families lost a record 18% of their wealth in 2008.

June 25: The great entertainer and musician Michael Jackson passes away and triggers an outpouring of worldwide grief.

2010: Turquoise

Pantone 15-5519 – Cross Over: Benjamin Moore 663

In 2010, we revisit another ‘escape color,’ Turquoise. The color turquoise offers a sense of protection and healing during stressful times.

April 20: An explosion occurs on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The explosion causes the rig to sink and initiates a massive offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This is the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

November 4: The US Federal Reserve announces that they will buy $600 billion in bonds to encourage economic growth.

November 9: San Francisco bans Happy Meal, served by McDonald’s with regard to growing obesity concern.

November 28: WikiLeaks publicly releases thousands of confidential documents from the U.S. government.

Whirlpool Duet, 2009


We can be certain the 2012 forecast will introduce us to a new hue. People are fickle about color and color does not age well in our society. Both Color Marketing Group and Pantone will continue to influence the industries of apparel, automotive and product. Without new trends, people might not invest in that new outfit, the turquoise espresso machine, or the cranberry matching washer and dryer combo. Color Sells.