The importance of background colour and atmosphere in dreams

Light and dark dreams, coloured dreams, night-time dreams, muted dreams, monochrome dreams, and what they mean.

Have you ever had a dark dream, or a dream set at night, and wondered what it means?

Maybe you have had a bright, vivid dream and know it feels important!

This article explores the significance of background colour and atmosphere in dreams – and how those details can help us in the dream interpretation process.

I approach dream interpretation from a biblical perspective. My belief is that our dreams can come from God, and understanding them is best understood within the context of an ongoing relationship with Him.

If you have just come across this post and are new to dream interpretation, it is worth mentioning that dreams are symbolic in nature. You might find it helpful to read Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language and my 3 step dream interpretation method to give you a foundation.

Colour and atmosphere in dreams

I have previously written about common meanings of individual colours in dreams. This article is not looking at specific colours, rather it is examining the background colour and feeling of the dream. For example:

  • What is the background atmosphere?
  • Is it dark, or is it bright?
  • Is it coloured or monochrome?
  • Is it daytime or night-time?
  • Is it clear, or is it muted?

All of these are vital clues in the dream interpretation process because they can help determine where the dream is coming from, or what the dream is showing you.

The scope of this article

I have been a follower of Jesus for over 40 years and can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a relationship with God. Therefore, I have never experienced dreams that seem to be from negative sources to a great degree – although I have known elements of it at times.

I know some of you reading this article will have had many of those negative dream experiences. However, that is not the main scope of this article. I will share some clues that can help identify where a dream is coming from, which I hope will be helpful. But I’m not an expert on dark dreams or nightmares.

This article assumes some degree of relationship with God and relates to the regular daily dreams that we have in that context – and how the background colour can help our dream interpretation.

Potential sources of dreams

Any thoughts, ideas or revelation that we have could be coming from one of three potential spiritual sources:

  • From a positive spiritual source (God)
  • From our own soul (subconscious mind, will and emotions)
  • From a negative spiritual source (the enemy)

The general view of dreams in Christian circles is that they can be broadly organised into coming from one of those same three sources.

This may be true to an extent, but there is a danger that we subsequently write off any dreams that we think are not coming from God. That is a very sad thing to do, because I have found that all dreams are helpful if we understand what they are.

Moreover, any given dream can contain a mixture of elements, from all the above areas. It is rarely straightforward – and God can break into any dream at any time!

Dreams as a window

My experience has been that all my dreams come from God – or at least are allowed by God. This might be because I have always followed Jesus; I have witnessed through hindsight that even the darker/scary dreams have been allowed by God to alert me to something I cannot see in the natural.

The view that I have arrived at through interpreting dreams for 15 years, is that dreams are like a window.

The main question to ask is, “What are we looking at?” For example, in our dreams:

  • We can see heavenly places
  • We can meet God and other heavenly beings
  • We can see God’s heart in a situation
  • We can see our own thoughts and emotions
  • We can see our own will and desires
  • We can see our hopes and fears
  • We can see negative spiritual places
  • We can encounter negative spiritual entities
  • We can see the enemies’ scheme in a situation

I am convinced that God gives us dreams that allow us to see things we wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. The main question is, what ‘room’ of our life is the dream showing us? In other words, what area are we looking at? Colour and atmosphere can help us discern what the dream is showing us.

I sit down with God and say, “What are You showing me?”

This way of looking at dreams has helped me in my approach to interpretation. Whatever the colour, atmosphere or feeling of the dream, whether good or bad, I take the same approach: I sit down with God and say, “What are You showing me?” We look at the dream together.

The source of the interpretation

More important than the source of the dream, is the source of the interpretation. For example:

  • We could have an urgent dream from God alerting us to something important; but if we mistakenly believe it is ‘only a fear dream’ we will dismiss the message.
  • We might have a dream revealing our own soul, showing us our own attitude or desires. But if we believe that dream is showing us what God is saying, we can just reinforce our own desires.

Dream interpretations can also come from three sources:

  • Interpretations from the Holy Spirit, revealing the true message
  • Interpretations from our own soul, reinforcing what we want to hear
  • Interpretations from the enemy, deceiving us about what our dreams mean

Therefore, the most vital tool in dream interpretation is discernment. Whatever the dream is showing us, we need discernment from the Holy Spirit to correctly understand what we are seeing. Background colour and atmosphere can help with that.

Background colour in dreams

Dreams (and scenes within dreams) can be broadly organised into various colour categories:

  • Bright dreams with colours (including normal daylight)
  • Muted or confusing dreams
  • Black and white dreams (or monochrome)
  • Dreams set at night-time

In addition, although a dream will have an overall feeling /atmosphere, there can be scenes and dream elements within that which have a different colour/atmosphere.

Picture of green apple in, with text : a dream symbol can still be positive even if the main dream has a negative feel - and vice versa

I have written more about this in the following article:

Let’s now consider these different background colour/atmospheres.

Bright coloured dreams

In the bible, light is associated with God, because of the light that is seen around His throne and presence: God is the source of all light and brightness.  Also, God is described as the source of every colour under the rainbow, just like white light contains every colour.

  • Ezekiel 1:28, NIV As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.
  • 1 John 1:5, NASB God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

This is reflected in our dream language.

  • Bright, vivid dreams, or ones full of colour and sparkle, are often showing us heavenly things.
  • Dreams set in bright or normal daylight are usually from God.

The presence of colour is also a good indicator that a dream is from God (unless it looks unpleasant or muted). And generally, the brighter and lighter the dream, the more of God is in it. If the colour is vivid or sparkles with light, then it is even more heavenly!

The presence of bright light and colour is a strong indicator that a dream is from God.

Look out for the light, bright, colourful dreams (and scenes in your dreams), as these are the ones that contain heaven’s perspective on areas of your life. They contain life-giving messages from God, and reveal the truth; so make sure to write them down and pray through them.

If a dream is just normal daylight, or you don’t particularly remember the colour (it just seems normal), then it is probably still in this category.

Less light means less heavenly

Conversely, the darker the dream setting becomes, the less of God is reflected in the area of life it represents – and the more of the natural world/self is being shown to us.

Maybe we walk from outside (daylight and heavenly connection) into a darker room with not much light. Or maybe, we go and shut the curtains – shutting out God’s light and vision. Maybe the dream is underground, or in a room with no windows, or just artificial light.

It doesn’t mean the dream is not from God; on the contrary, it can still be a true picture and contain His wisdom. But it can help us identify the area of life we are looking at (i.e. the setting/context).

So, the degree of light/brightness (or lack of) is worth looking out for as we recall the dream, as it indicates how much of God’s light is in that setting.

Picture of bright yellow sunflower against the sky, with text: In dreams, more light means more of God's presence

Muted dreams

Sometimes it feels like a dream (or particular scene) is unclear, confusing, dull, or muted. Sometimes it appears as though there is a filter over the dream, or the picture has been blurred. There can still be colour, but it might be less bright or not such a nice shade.

Dreams like this are more likely to be showing us a window into our own soul. The muted colour alerts us that that these scenes are reflecting elements of our humanity: i.e. our own feelings, desires, and solutions.

It is also possible to make ourselves dream what we want to hear, by focusing on it – and that might also appear as a dream with this type of atmosphere/colour.

Muted dreams are more likely to be a window into our own soul.

Muted scenes can be very useful in the dream interpretation process. Often, they are the part which identifies what the dream is about: We can relate them to the natural feelings, actions, and desires we are experiencing in real-life situations. Then, once we have identified what the dream is about, we can look for God’s perspective in the other, brighter, parts of the dream.

These dreams can also be very useful in helping us see what’s going on below the surface of our life. They can reveal hidden fears, ideas, and motives that we didn’t know we had. God often lets us see these things because He wants to set us free from them, or help us understand the situation.

Dream: Missing a train
A friend of mine dreamed they were waiting at the station to catch the train to work. They made a plan for getting on a certain coach, but the train sailed by without stopping and they felt cross because they couldn’t get to work. The dream was a bit foggy and dull; not colourful.

This scene was reflecting my friend’s natural frustration at not being able to get on with what they wanted to do; this feeling helped us identify the area of life the dream was about. The muted nature of the scene revealed that this plan was their plan, not God’s. There was another, brighter scene (also about catching a train) which gave my friend insight into God’s plan.

Black and white dreams

Sometimes dreams (or scenes within a dream) are very obviously black and white, or monochrome. I have only ever had this a couple of times, and it looked like one of the old black and white films, almost with a bluish filter over it.

These dreams are not the ones where you simply don’t remember the colour, or when you just remember it being dark. These are dreams where you specifically remember that they were black and white / monochrome, or they feel dark and oppressive.

These dreams are most likely to be coming from a negative spiritual source (the enemy). Or they could be God giving us a window into enemy activity or a negative spiritual environment.

Dream: Monochrome dream of being chased
I once dreamed I went through a portal and was in a horrible-feeling place, which was obviously monochrome. A tall man was beside me, and he said, ‘Let’s get out of here!’. We were then chased, but I eventually ‘lit up with light’ and flew off.

The colour of this dream led me to believe this was a window into a negative spiritual environment God wanted me to set me free from. Within that setting, I believe the man was angelic help, and the dream was telling me I would eventually be free. Although this was a black and white dream, I believe God sent it – to show me what was going on in the spiritual world.

Some black and white dreams, or oppressive dreams, do come from the enemy. They can be to try and trick us or intimidate us. I have only once had a monochrome scene in a dream like that, and I immediately knew God was revealing a scheme of the enemy that I should resist.

If you have a dream (or scene) like that, it is most likely a counterfeit, so the message can be flipped to understand God’s truth.

Negative dreams can often be flipped to discover God’s truth.

Note: This article is based on my own experiences, and covers the normal, everyday process of understanding dreams as part of a relationship with God. If the nature of your dreams means that you need someone to talk or pray with you, or you need professional support, please seek the relevant help.

There are some basic spiritual foundations that can easily be put into place to help protect ourselves from deception, so we can receive more of the good, healthy dreams from God. I have written about these in the following articles:

Dreams set at night-time

Dreams set at night are, by definition, dark; but that does not mean they are from a negative source necessarily. Night-time dreams can still have colours, be clear, and have a positive feeling or atmosphere.

There could be many reasons why a dream is set at night. For example:

  • Night could be a natural setting. For example, dreaming about the moon and stars, or dreaming about being in bed/ dreaming/ going to sleep, are all normal night-time settings.
  • Night can be difficult times. We have times that are generally difficult, and may even refer to them as dark times. This can be represented by night-time.
  • Night can be when God feels far away. When God feels far away or we can’t hear Him, this is sometimes called the dark night of the soul and can be symbolised by night-time.

Dreams set at night-time could be showing us any of the three categories we have previously discussed (i.e. bright, muted or monochrome). We just need to look a little harder at the atmosphere and details to discern which it is.

Some questions to consider with dreams set at night are:

  • Is the dream action something that would normally happen at night? In that case, the night is probably just a natural part of the setting and doesn’t have significance beyond that.
  • Is it clear with some colour, or is it muted? For example, I once had a dream set at night, but it was clear, and I could still see the red colour of my car. This was still a positive setting; it was just set in a time when God felt far away – but the dream was still giving me a heavenly perspective.
  • Does it feel dark, oppressive or monochrome, as well as being night?  This might indicate that it is in the negative spiritual category.
Picture of London lights and Thames at night, with text: Dreams set at noght can still have colour and be positive

Conclusion

In this article we have learnt that our dreams give us a window into different areas of our life, and what is going on in those areas. This could be:

  • A positive spiritual source/environment (God)
  • Our own natural mind, will and emotions and desires
  • A negative spiritual source/environment (the enemy)

Combined with the help of the Holy Spirit and discernment, the colour and atmosphere in our dreams can help us determine what we are looking at. For example:

  • Dreams from God are usually light, brightly coloured, or normal colour.
  • Dreams revealing our own soul tend to be muted colour, dull or confusing; sometimes it looks like there is a filter over the dream.
  • Dreams from the enemy (or revealing enemy activity) tend to be obviously black and white, or monochrome.

Dreams set at night-time could be in any of the above three categories; we just need to look a little closer to discern which they are.

To conclude, dreams are a great tool for discernment – so pay close attention to the feeling, colour and atmosphere in them; and make sure to record those details when you write your dreams down!

I hope you have found this article helpful. If you want to know more, do subscribe to my emails below to receive regular dream interpretation tips.

The purpose of this blog is to provide solid biblical foundations for interpreting dreams, change mindsets in the church, and encourage others to make their own dream journey with God. I am primarily a writer and bible teacher – who loves dreams, and I hope you will be inspired to learn to interpret your own dreams.

It is not currently my aim to routinely engage in dream interpretations or provide training, except through writing blog posts. You can read my most up to date position on interpreting dreams here:
Requests for dream interpretations.

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