Person-colour synesthesia

This type of synesthesia consists of the involuntary association of one or more colours to known persons (friends, family, etc.). The perception may be simply a colour with no other properties, or the colours might have texture, shape, a three-dimensional presence, a spatial location and even rhythm or movement, and very occasionally it might be an actual image (see further down). The associated photism normally appears after getting to know the person, i.e. some hours, days or weeks after the initial contact or after several encounters with the person, sufficient to form a good idea of who they are, what they are like as a person and what the synesthete’s relationship with them is, and once the colour has been triggered it remains constant and only changes in exceptional cases, which are explained below.

(There is another type of synesthesia where colours are associated with people, but in this case it refers to strangers rather than people the synesthete already has a relationship with: the photisms are perceived on the first sighting of the person in question and they correspond to the synesthete’s intuition of what kind of personality they have. To find out more on this type, go to the page on personality-colour synesthesia.)

In person-colour synesthesia, the aspects that determine the associated photisms are usually one or more of the following: personality; character; the relationship with the person; their physical appearance; their voice; the colour of their hair and eyes; the clothes they usually wear; their skills and abilities; and also some intuitive aspects such as feeling that they are hiding their true personality, for example. Basically, the colour corresponds to the general impression the person puts across after getting to know them sufficiently. For some synesthetes, the aspect of the person that creates the strongest impression determines the colour, while for others several of these aspects combine in a pattern or mix of different colours.

For some person-colour synesthetes, each individual person they know has a different colour or shade/mix/pattern of colours and the repertoire is therefore practically infinite, while others only have a limited number of concurrent colours. Although it is more common for a wide range of different colours to be perceived, I am aware of one synesthete who only has two: all the people she knows are either blue or yellow (here). At the other end of the scale are the synesthetes whose perceptions are much more than just chromatic, with very complex concurrents involving not only colour (and texture, shape, depth, spatial location, rhythm, movement…) but also a figurative image. The last of the descriptions below gives an account of this type, and there is another example on this page in the section on “Person-image”.

As to the meaning of each colour, it is different for each synesthete. As the colours are not consciously assigned or chosen but simply “appear” involuntarily, the synesthete is not aware of what each colour means unless they actually think about it and work out the code of correspondences. So for example, for one specific synesthete a “purple person” could be someone with depressive tendencies, while for others their purpleness could correspond to any other trait: intellectual, shy, bad-tempered, happy-go-lucky, straight-haired, spiritually inclined… Sometimes the same colour can have more than one meaning, so two people you know could be perceived as being the same colour, but for different reasons. The textures, exact hues, shape, spatial location and movement also have different meanings for each synesthete. Sometimes it is impossible to know or put into words the exact meaning of all these elements: it is just something very intuitive.

Person-colour is a relatively common type of synesthesia, and although as far I am aware no studies on its prevalence have ever been carried out, my personal impression is that around 10% of the synesthete population could have it. It could perhaps be considered one of the coloured sequence synesthesias, although it has some characteristics that make it particularly interesting.

As I’ve already mentioned, the colours evoked by this type of synesthesia are stable: once perceived it is rare for them to change and they are normally associated with the person in question for the rest of their lives. Very gradual shifts are occasionally mentioned - I have read an account by one person-colour synesthete who says that people's colours tend to start off being lighter and then become bolder and brighter the longer the relationship has lasted, for example, and it is also known for a person's colour or colours to "fade" if the synesthete has not seen them for a long time. But a sudden dramatic colour change seems only to occur in two cases: 1) if for any reason a significant change is perceived in the person’s character or personality, or 2) if there is a major change, especially a sudden one, in the type of relationship the synesthete has with them.

Like other types of synesthesia, person-colour has projective and associative versions: some synesthetes (associators) perceive their photisms in the mind’s eye or merely as a strong impression, while others (projectors) actually see them physically. In this latter case they see the colours around, beside, in front of or above the person observed; this can be called “aura synesthesia”. Go to the page on aura synesthesia

Person-colour synesthesia mainly occurs with people known in real life, although some synesthetes also have colour concurrents for people familiar to them through other channels: if they often chat to them over the internet, for example, or see them frequently on TV. Politicians and other public figures are a good instance of this, and colours for youtubers have also been reported).

Influences from other types of synesthesia

Person-colour synesthesia should not be confused with the type where people have one or more colours evoked by the letters making up their names (grapheme-colour). In this case the colour has nothing to do with the personality or any other impression the person puts across, and people with the same name would always have the same colour (all Edwards would be green, for example). When both types of synesthesia, person-colour and grapheme-colour, coexist in the same synesthete things can start to get interesting, as they receive two colour impressions at the same time. The stronger of the two associations might win, one colour might influence the other and create a mix or pattern, or the colour of their name might be just one of many colour concurrents experienced for that specific person, all perceived at the same time.

Another type of synesthesia that can determine or contribute to a person’s colours is voice-colour synesthesia: the person can take on the colour of their voice, or it might form part of their palette if they have several at once.

Fun fact: many person-colour synesthetes are incapable of seeing their own colour. This is probably due to the fact that we do not perceive ourselves in the same way as we do other people.

Here are some descriptions written by people with this type of synesthesia:

“I have several kinds of synesthesia but this is my favorite. It's definitely associative for me and I'm 36 now, so I've had a lot of time to think of it. I have absolutely picked common threads with the common colors. For instances, I am a blue. We tend to be introverts, philosophers, scholars, etc and prone to moodiness. I am intimidated by most reds and in general, I don't like them. They tend to be aggressive, loud, argumentative, etc although not all bad, they are also very charismatic, attractive usually, witty, and ambitious. Babies don't have auras for me (as I call it) but my children have all started to develop their auras around age 2-3.

Rarely do they change and so far, in both of those instances, I feel it coincided with drastic personality changes from mental disorder, or perhaps my own shift in understanding of them.


I usually need several times of meeting someone, some conversation and interaction, before I get their aura. Reds are the quickest to identify, I can tell within minutes sometimes.”

(Source: This comment on Reddit/Synesthesia. 2018.)

“The most dominant colours I feel for people are green/yellow and purple.

Green/yellow is for people who are just not the same as me, when I was younger it was a colour that I could best describe not the same is a similar feeling to someone being in your year at school but in the other class.

Purple is for “my people”, I don’t know how but it’s for people I just know are the same and I could be friends with.”

(Source: This post on Reddit/Synesthesia. 2021.)

"Many people have their own abstract portrait in my head. My one friend is a black picture with glass texture in the middle that curves around... and there are 4 white rectangles at the bottom left. Another friend is a pale green sort of smudgyness, and blue with the same sort of smudginess at the bottom. My childhood babysitter was all rectangles most white and black and a few grey.”

(Source: a comment in the blog Colourful Language. 2010.)

To me everyone has color, sometimes shape and sometimes texture or depth. It helps me remember people. Names have colors to me, but they usually don't match that person’s color. And when they happen to by coincidence ohhhh boy is it amazing.”

(Source: This comment on Reddit/Synesthesia. 2018.)

The colors seem to know people better than I do a lot of the time. For instance, I know three people with white. A few weeks after meeting the third, I realized that they were all distant to me, in that something made me feel like I couldn’t approach them or get to know them.”

(Source: Dogstomp, in his daily autobiography comic. 2017.)

“My favourite professor is electric sugar and feels windy, if that makes sense, like fresh air everywhere.
My neighbours are rubber pots and pans.
My best friend is a dark blue cement candle in the dark kind of person but has a pink bubblegum name.”

(Source: This comment on Reddit/Synesthesia. 2021.)

Go to the page on personality-colour synesthesia (when people you have never seen before or don’t know have colour associations)

Go to the page on “aura” synesthesia (projective personality-colour or person-colour synesthesia)

This page last updated: 9 September 2023

This page is about person-color synesthesia, This page is about person-colour synaesthesia


  1. This is very interesting!

  2. I am the one who have this kind of synesthesia. I'm suspicious of this kind of synesthesia is really relatively common. Because, I am korean, and I've never seen or heard of this kind of people in my country. Even I couldn't find the korean post or something on the internet. There's nothing about it. I barely found this post by google this in english. Is it common in other countries? I really want to know it because I desperately want to contact with people who got person-color synesthesia.

    1. Hi! It appears that synesthesia occurs equally with people everywhere in the world, so I'm sure there are many people with person-colour synesthesia in Korea. It’s often the case though that if you search in languages other than English on this subject you don’t find very much, as the vast majority is in English, so you had a good idea to google it in English as a starting point. In general, many synesthetes have never met any others in real life, or at least they have very probably met them but didn’t realise, as a lot of synesthetes don’t normally talk about it, and they often don’t know they have it.
      I’m not aware of any online groups of synesthetes from Korea and as far as I know there’s no Asian Synesthesia Association. To find someone with this type of synesthesia to chat I would suggest posting in an English language Facebook Synesthesia group in English, if you have a Facebook account. The one just called “Synesthesia” is the largest and would give you more chances. You could ask there, writing in part English and part Korean perhaps, so that a Korean interested party could send you a private message via Facebook chat or just contact in the comments. Or you could ask the same thing in Reddit Synesthesia too, and there’s also a private message or direct message (PM or DM) feature there too where people could contact you if you preferred. I don’t know whether you would get replies or not but I’ve seen people post similar questions before to find someone with their language or in their country.
      Here are the links:

  3. Hi, I first found out synesthesia existed 5-6 years ago. I thought for a while I probably didn't have it, but I found this today and felt hopeful. I'm still not too sure if I have it, and was hoping you could give some insight. Here's what I experience:

    When I first meet someone, I don't associate any color with them, even if they ask me for one. I have to have repeated interactions with them for at least 5 times total, or 10 if it's an online person, in order to start associating them with a color. Most people only have one color, some have two and very rarely does anyone have three. Once I know their color, it doesn't change much. It can get a little brighter or darker, and someone can get a second color if they only had one, but they can't lose colors, and their colors can't change too drastically either (yellow to orange, etc).

    I want to note that if someone is hiding a lot of themself or pretending to be someone they're not, the color takes much longer to show up, if at all. I get little "glimpses" of it if the mask slips, but otherwise not much. Also, I don't see the colors, but rather I "feel" them. In order to actually pin the color down I need to use a drawing program and pick from the color swatch until it feels right.

    I also can't associate any color with myself aside from what my favorite colors are.

    1. Yes, totally! Everything you describe there is totally consistent with person-colour synesthesia.