Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Paint And You

How to choose colors that create balance in your life.
Some tips from ancient India.

When it comes time to paint your walls, step number one is finding a product that won’t emit harmful chemicals in your home. That means paints with the lowest possible emissions of “volatile organic compounds,” or VOCs. Such paints are widely available, and you can learn all about them in our article, “Paints, adhesives, and other finishes.”

Then comes the hard part—or the fun part—depending on your approach: choosing the right color. Should it be light or dark? Hot or cool? Stimulating or calming? By working on your emotions, the color of a room can subtly affect your sense of well-being, and in the long run maybe even your health.

Here’s where a little knowledge of Ayurveda can help. This traditional system of Indian healing suggests that our world contains five elements that combine to create three types of human constitutions, known as “doshas.” The elements are ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Ether and air are grouped together as “vata” (wat-a). The vata constitution is like that of the ectomorph, with a lean build and thin frame. Fire stands separately as “pitta” (pit-ta), and pitta types are endomorphs, with a moderate frame and musculature. Water and earth are known as “kapha” (kaf-a). Kapha types are like mesomorphs: substantial in mass. Most of us are hybrids (such as vata/pitta or pitta/kapha), but if we go against our primary dosha type, Ayurvedic principles suggest, we can create imbalance and disharmony in our lives.

So what does all this have to do with paint? Well, it means that you may want to choose your colors based on who you are. It’s all a question of balance. For example, vatas may benefit from earthy colors; pittas can balance their natural tendencies with cooling, soothing colors; and kaphas may want to choose bold, mobilizing colors.

If you’re curious about where you fit into this system of thought, try the “What’s Your Dosha” quiz below. After you’ve finished, we’ll show you how to make paint color choices that match your dosha type. Finally, we’ll help you combine the colors to create a look you love.

What’s Your Dosha?

This questionnaire gathers information about your basic nature—the way you were as a child or the basic patterns that have been true most of your life. If you developed an illness in childhood or as an adult, think of how things were for you before that illness. If more than one quality is applicable, choose the one that applies the most.

For physical traits, your choice will usually be obvious. For mental traits and behavior, you should answer according to how you have felt and acted most of your life, or at least in the past few years.

Your best colors

Now that you know more about whether you’re a vata, pitta, or kapha, let’s talk paint. Click on the appropriate dosha. When the picture of a person in a room comes up, roll over the color names beside it to change the wall color. Out of a total of 108 colors in the system, these are the best choices for you. For vatas, there are subdued earthy tones. For pittas, complex colors that cool and calm. For kaphas, vibrant and stimulating colors with warm overtones.


Vata individuals are light and dry by nature with a general tendency to a thin frame and low body mass. Skin and body functions can benefit from vigilant hydration. Balancing techniques can reduce anxiety. Deeper, darker colors suggestive of moisture can create balance.

Find your VATA color
Roll over the name to display the color.


Pitta individuals may develop occasional inflammatory conditions. They have a general tendency to a moderate, athletic frame with a muscular body mass, and a sharp, energetic personality. Cooling therapy may lower a tendency toward irritability. Balance may be derived by colors that cool, moderate, and soothe.

Find your PITTA color
Roll over the name to display the color.


Kapha individuals have a general tendency to a large frame. Emotional nature tends toward calmness and steadfastness. Stimulating therapy can avert tendencies toward inertia and lethargy. Balance can be derived by using mobilizing colors such as bold, stimulating, and bright accents. Midtones and pastels may create the best color schemes.

Find your KAPHA color
Roll over the name to display the color.

Choose a few colors you like. Then, if you’d like to try combining some of these colors, move on to the next step.

Mixing and matching

By now, you probably have at least a couple of favorite colors in mind. If you’d like some help combining those colors, try the interactive tool below. Roll over the numbers to display different sets of harmonious color combinations.

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