What Do Colours in Dreams Mean?

7 min read

Last Modified 30 January 2023 First Added 25 January 2023

By Lottie Salako

In the 20th century, it was widely believed that we could only dream in black and white. A study in 1950 concluded only 29% of participants reported having dreams with colour, but in 2008, another study found everyone’s dreams had some colour, so what changed?

Well, television. Yes, really! The current theory around why our dreams changed is that technicoloured TV became the norm. As people became exposed to colourful media, the images in our brains began to change too.

Are your dreams brightly painted with attention-grabbing tones that follow you into tomorrow? Let’s dig deeper into the psychology behind how and why we dream of colour…

The dream:

The house you find yourself in is familiar but not quite right – you don’t remember the walls being that shade of duck-egg blue when you were little – but it doesn’t matter much. You look around the room; it’s your bedroom but not the one you went to sleep in, one from many years ago.

You walk through the house you know is supposed to be your childhood home, but instead of a living room, there is a beach. The sand is warm and soft under your feet, and the ocean and sky are brilliant cerulean, a colour you rarely see in your waking life.

When you continue down the beach, the sand turns to grey concrete and you’re in town, around the corner from work. The change in scenery doesn’t faze you, in fact, you’re happy to see your best friend coming towards you. They wear a navy coat, not one you recognise from real life. You wave and call their name but they don’t notice you, disappearing into the crowd.

Upon waking, nothing of the dream remains. Except when you go to get dressed, you feel a strong urge to wear blue today…

Dreaming the rainbow: colour meanings

The dominance of one colour in our dreams is thought to be an indication of a strong emotional state, so if your dreams are bright and vibrant, there could be an underlying message from your brain. Colours are highly personal, so when it comes to deciphering what they mean, you need to take a look at significant moments in your own life. Let’s dig into what each colour means…

1. What do dreams of red mean?

Seeing red in your dreams is likely to be a sign that you have strong emotions about something in your waking life. Highly symbolic, red has a vast array of meanings assigned to it across different cultures:

  • Anger
  • Warning
  • Sex
  • Passion
  • Luck

Against natural and urban landscapes, shades of red catch our attention so are more likely to be remembered. Pay close attention to where red appears in your dreams: is someone wearing a scarlet hat? Do you pass a vermillion door and have the urge to open it? This will help you figure out what your brain is working through at night.

2. What do dreams of pink mean?

Softer than red, shades of pink in your dreams can signify more playful emotions such as flirtation, so look out for someone new in your life that has caught your eye. Pink also symbolises unconditional love, empathy, and generosity, so people who appear in your dreams wearing pink are likely to be people you feel very positively about.

On the other hand, it can indicate a desire for these things if you feel unfulfilled in your relationships. So, if your dreams are pretty in pink, you may want to take that as a sign to make a move.

3. What do dreams of orange mean?

In popular culture, orange’s rich, warm tone is strongly connected with energy, ambition, and abundance. It is often seen during autumn when the leaves change colour, so it can symbolise an emotional transition for you. If you often see orange in your dreams, perhaps this means your brain is telling you to go after the thing you want, even if it means big changes.

4. What do dreams of yellow mean?

Yellow is typically thought of as a happy colour, representing warmth, light, and positivity. If your dreams are full of sunny days, buttery flowers, and lemon shades, it can mean that you’re looking forward to the future and feeling optimistic about a change in circumstances.

5. What do dreams of green mean?

A complicated colour, green in dreams can symbolise many feelings:

  • The green-eyed monster: This popular saying has tied green imagery to feelings of jealousy or feeling dissatisfied with your life
  • Cold hard cash: An Americanism that many recognise – green became a colour associated with money, wealth, and success
  • Nature: The colour of lush outdoor spaces, seeing green in your dream can mean you’re feeling disconnected from nature and need to take time to reconnect
  • Inner healing: If you’ve felt run down, physically or mentally, then green popping up in your dreams can be a sign your brain needs rest and recuperation

6. What do dreams of blue mean?

With so many shades that have contrasting connotations, blue dreams can have a variety of meanings. For many of us, blue is associated with sadness and depression, especially in dark, cold tones. If your dreams have a blue tint or take place under a twilight sky, it can be a manifestation of unhappiness in your waking hours.

Conversely, light, pastel blues have strong ties to summer skies, fresh water, and peacefulness. It can signify positive emotions like creativity and honesty, so it’s important to remember where you see the colour blue – are you wearing it? Or is it someone else? This can tell you a lot about how you feel about yourself or the people in your life.

7. What do dreams of purple mean?

For many centuries, purple has been thought of as a royal colour that symbolises wealth and power. This is because purple dyes used to be very expensive but even now, dark shades of purple are seen as commanding. A purple sky can mean a storm is coming and violet is often associated with psychic abilities – so watch out for this spiritual warning in your dreams.

Dreams where colours are wrong

One factor that can make colour memorable in dreams is if it is irrational. Dreams can be utterly absurd, so it’s not uncommon to see things that don’t reflect reality, maybe the sky is emerald green, or your best friend is suddenly blonde.

These incongruous colours are more likely to stick in our brains as wrong, so we have a better chance of remembering and laughing at them in the morning. But does this symbolise anything? Most likely nothing in particular, it’s probably a signal your brain is processing. Many studies show the parts of the brain responsible for processing visual and emotional information are active during sleep, while the parts that help you think about things logically are not. This is why we’re able to create such strange stories in our sleep that you wouldn’t imagine when you’re awake!

What if I dream in grayscale?

Plenty of people do still dream in black and white, even if they’ve never been exposed to black and white TV regularly. We still have access to this media and grayscale is used in modern films, so we know what it looks like. Researchers also found that it can be difficult to recall whether or not there was colour in your dream. If nothing stood out, then you’re likely to forget if there was colour or not, which can make us recall dreams in black and white.

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