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What is it about art that helps you relax?

[Image sourced from House to Home]

Art is a form of expression. Just as it has been created in a specific frame of mind, so can it influence mood when viewed.

Everybody has been moved by art. Whether it is by looking at a bright photo of colourful flowers bathing in the sunlight or at an image of a grieving mother, art can influence moods.

Art is, in particular, used as a tool to help people relax. Specific colours, subjects, designs and arrangements have all been found to influence relaxation. So much is this the case that art is now used even by health care professionals to promote tranquillity.

But only specific aspects of art are conducive to relaxation. To choose artwork that will aid relaxation in your workplace or home, you need to consider the colours, depth, and subject of an artwork. You also need to ensure that the art is in harmony with its surroundings. Below is some advice designed to help you choose artwork that can help you relax.


Specific colours in art can entirely change mood. Brighter colours inspire energy and activity, whereas dark colours tend to encourage moodiness, reflection, and sometimes even melancholy. Colour affects how people, including you yourself, respond to your home or workplace. Decorating a shared environment should therefore be carefully thought out. The psychological impact of the colour you choose to display is very important, especially if you want to create a relaxing environment.

Displaying paintings and pictures with bright, warm colours, including red and orange, can be a poor choice to aid relaxation. Red, for example, is best suited to energetic, passion-filled environments. It is classified as strong, aggressive and masculine. Red is used in cultural events throughout the world because of its ability to stand out. Likewise, orange is another colour associated with a high level of activity.

More subtle shades of warm colours, on the other hand, can aid relaxation. Pink is almost as stimulating as red but is also known to inspire motivation and enhance confidence. Some cell rooms are painted pink to reduce erratic behaviour. Yellow is also a friendly colour. It can be used to elicit memories and depict fragility to stimulate the mind and increase communication.

Pictures with cooler colours on the other hand, especially those which mimic natural elements, are best associated with relaxing environments.

Blue is a reassuring, calm colour. Have you noticed that people actually prefer cloudless days, when the sun is shining and the sky is blue? The calm, sedative nature of blue stimulates cool temperatures, to which people respond with serenity. Pictures and paintings with blue can also trigger this calmness.

Green also inspires peace and creates balance. Green can lessen depression, nervousness and anxiety. It relaxes the body with its refreshing and soothing qualities; why else do you think performers waiting to go on television or on stage sit in a Green Room? Pictures or paintings depicting a leafy tree dripping rain can cause a great feeling of tranquillity. Green has therefore been widely used on wall art and accessories.

Purple is a mix of blue and red and therefore combines the qualities of both. It soothes like blue but is as bold as red. Deep purple is more stimulating than it is soothing so lavender is a better choice to aid relaxion.

When looking for art prints or photographs to display on your walls, the best colours for relaxation are therefore green, blue and purple. Whether they are used as wall art or simply as a part of imagery and paintings they will always create a soothing feeling.

Subjects and design

Particular subjects and designs in wall art can either aid or hinder relaxation. Landscapes are particularly effective in encouraging relaxation, especially where water is featured. Landscapes encourage viewers of the art to think of natural environments, invoking inner tranquillity.

Lines play an important role in artwork. They influence the direction of a viewer’s gaze and give an illusion of depth. As such, many lines without a clear subject can create chaos in any artwork and be adverse to relaxation.

Heavy angular lines convey a message of tension and dynamism while oblique lines depict a sense of movement. Together with tone, shape and colour, angles can be used to determine the influence the line has on an image. Lines can also be used to direct a viewer’s attention towards a work of art, so keep this in mind when arranging other features of a room.

Horizontal, straight lines commonly found in landscape photography give an impression of space, calm and tranquillity. Curved lines also depict flow and therefore bring out a sense of harmony.

Finally, artwork with a simple, single focus is generally more conducive to relaxation. Artwork with a lot of clutter can distract the main elements of a picture and making it difficult to recognize the subject.


Too much clutter in a painting, print or photograph can cause feelings of anxiety. But did you know that the improper arrangement of furniture and accessories can inflict the same feeling? A wall with too many colours, for example, can irritate an already busy mind that is simply seeking a place to sit down and rest.

Paintings, prints and photographs should be in harmony with their surroundings. The most dominant colours in a painting should blend with the furniture and other accessories in a room.

A simpler wall arrangement is often more conducive to relaxation than imagery overload. One large painting, or else multiple paintings of identical size hung symmetrically, are best suited to aid relaxation. Too many paintings hung in a scattered fashion may cause greater confusion and impede relaxation.

[Image sourced from Earth911]

For the best outcome

If you want to create a relaxing space, choosing the right artwork can help you reach this goal.

Paintings, prints and photographs with cooler colours, such as soft pinks, blues, purples and greens, are more likely to encourage relaxation than warmer, brighter colours, which tend to motivate the viewer to greater activity.

Artworks with simpler designs are better choices for relaxation than images with too much detail. Landscapes with paths wanding through them, or at least lines drawing the viewer’s attention to a specific detail, are great tools to aid relaxation. They give the viewer focus.

Finally, the arrangement of artwork on a wall is an important part of ensuring a relaxing environment. Displaying soothing art in a chaotic room is worthless, since a visitor will be overwhelmed with detail. You can reduce clutter by reducing extraneous content in your room. Also make sure the colours are in harmony – beige, neutral colours are great choices to harmonise a room with artwork.

Richard Tarrant - Bio

Richard Tarrant - Founder and CEO of PictureStore Pty Ltd
Richard is founder and CEO of PictureStore and has worked since October 2000 to make wall art accessible to all Australians. Google+

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