How would you explain magic with eclectic connections between effects, colors and inter-magic interactions?

Basically, "Why do these colors of magic do the things they do?"

Such as this following system, where gems are just a placeholder for a source of color. It could be paint or whatever:

All spells are cast with colored gems which can be used alone, or in combination, mixing colors, or staying with a single color.

When used by themselves, these colors have these effects:

Red: Fire, Explosions

Green: Wind, Air, Lightning

Dark Yellow/Orange: Earth, Metal, Endurance-boosts

Light Yellow: Paralysis

Purple: Poison

Pink: Summoning

Blue: Water, Ice, Healing

Black: Life Drain

White/Silver: Anti-Magic

These are the effects on spells when colors are combined:

Red: Stronger Spells, or Strength Enhancement

Green: Spell is duplicated, adding more projectiles, or, if the spell is used on a person, it's Speed Enhancement.

Blue: Inflicts Poison or Paralysis

Dark Yellow/Orange: Longer-lasting and/or homing

This was intended to make a magic system for fanfiction of Chantelise, but that's just history.

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    $\begingroup$ Adding a Grand Unifying Theory to a set of magical color schemes without having planned for the GUT from the beginning can be much harder than allowing the GUT to slightly massage the colors. Have you considered letting the colors shift meaning while you develop your theory? Also, GUTs usually feel a lot more poignant if they are developed with respect to the world, rather than being done in isolation. The ideas should be those that a mage in the book could have come up with. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 29, 2015 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon - Well, this is for a fanfiction, so I'm trying to get an explain to fit with what I've got to work with, instead of changing it... $\endgroup$
    – Malady
    Nov 29, 2015 at 22:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Malandy fan fiction? For what original work of fiction? That would no doubt help people answer the question. Coming up with a single theory (preferably there'd only be one reasonable explanation, or it wouldn't be a very good theory) to unify more than a dozen different arbitrarily-colored categories will be difficult without some additional source material. $\endgroup$ Nov 29, 2015 at 22:50
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    $\begingroup$ @type_outcast - Chantelise. $\endgroup$
    – Malady
    Nov 30, 2015 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ So one challenge I do see is the blue combination effect. Blue combination is poison or paralysis, while the colors on their own are purple-poison and light-yellow-paralysis. That's odd enough of a pattern that you might be able to start from trying to make it work, and then let the rest flow. If you start elsewhere, it may be hard to make that effect make sense. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 30, 2015 at 4:31

4 Answers 4


Best explanation to me, spells are powered by human mind. However, humans have so long associated certain colors with certain spells that they are always cast this way now. People believe that the colors must be associated with the magic and so don't question that fact. Depending on how well magic is truly understood, they may not even realize that these presumptions are inaccurate and that they only hold true because new mages learn them and subconsciously maintain the status quo.

As an added bonus this gives an opportunity for you to break the status quo if you see fit. Introduce a new mage from a foreign land, or someone self taught, because their some sort of outcast that can not or is not allowed to have a proper tutor, because they are isolated from all other humans etc. This person may use magic that doesn't fit the usual color scheme. This is a great way to have him best others easily when he first encounters them; they misunderstand his magic and defend against it wrong because of the color scheme. Thus you can introduce a new threat that easily bests powerful folks on the first encounter and seems to have a strange new way of doing magic. It's a great way to either build up threat or simply exotic nature of this individual. If you wanted to play with expectations even more you could later reveal he is not as powerful a threat as others believe, his strange magic is a fluke of how he learned it and no stronger; he was a threat early on only because no one knew his magic worked differently and thus were surprised by how it worked.

Alternatively a character raised in the traditional system may simply learn through research or simple skill and intuition the true nature of magic and learn to either remove colors or use the 'wrong' colors for his magic; which could impress people with his skill without requiring him to necessarily do any powerful magic to impress others; the messing with color is impressive enough.

The point is this idea adds an opportunity to play with expectations and set up a nice character defining moment if you choose to utilize it.

Taken even further, imagine a group of folks that can mess with colors of spells, because they know the truth of how this works, being their main gimmick. Either a foreign power that never used color but learns of their enemies expectation of color to trick them over and over by playing with those expectations. Or a single person who learns the truth and can teach a handful of others it. Imagine if you have one person who knows this and teaches a few of the protagonists, ones with lower magic power, and your protagonists use this knowledge for lots of tricks to make up for their lack of raw might. If you go this route perhaps say that those who use the traditional colors tend to have stronger magic (they still subconsciously associate that color with their magic and thus have a subconscious block weakening them if they work with a foreign color), but they can cast slightly weaker spells with odd coloration. Thus they stick to the status quo usually (to avoid others figuring out the truth to fast) but sometimes choose to go the weak but skilled route of weaker sneaky magics.


Cultural biases of the mages, who associate certain emotions to certain colors subconsciously, based on what their society consider the colors' meanings.

Another magic system, in the same world, but created in a entirely different society, would have different colors for similar spells, which can be a source of much confusion (and fun :-)) when they meet.


Perhaps gems have manifested in a different way than they do in our world, and are in fact the solidified energy of that magic type. Why each magic type has that color could remain vague, but there's a few possibilities that come to mind. The energy types could reflect emotions as color, and once solidified, hold their color indefinitely. There's a lot of options for answers, if this one isn't direct enough, try to refine your question to be more specific.

After playing the game that this is largely inspired by, I've decided to add a bit of detail to a specific theory. The in game explanation is that magic crystals are the solid representation of magic, which is an ambient background energy. The four classical elements are the most common type of crystal by far, and their color scheme makes some sense, red=fire, green=air, blue=water, yellow=earth. The others are quite rare, but could still fit into the same framework as the others, but be less common because they are more specific than the four classical elements. Now, as to why each one has the color it does, I can see magic auras being more about how a person's mind filters something so foreign to natural law that it just files it as color to reduce the mental strain, since there is no proper sense for perceiving magic.

From there I see two interpretations, Magic colors are Constant and Fixed, Or, Magic colors are fluid, and malleable.

  • $\begingroup$ Vague is fine! ... I'd be amazed if someone found a specific reason for all these varied traits to be attached to all the colors of gems that I've given. $\endgroup$
    – Malady
    Nov 30, 2015 at 3:31
  • $\begingroup$ I think I have the game you mentioned on steam, but i've not yet played it. Once I have an idea of the setting you're starting from i'll see about adding to my answer. $\endgroup$
    – Jonathan
    Nov 30, 2015 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ The in game explanation is that ambient energy crystallizes into these different colors to represent the four classical elements, Green=wind/lightning Red=Fire Blue=Water/ice Yellow=Earth $\endgroup$
    – Jonathan
    Dec 29, 2015 at 13:09

An ancient, now vanished, race of supreme magic users modified the laws of your universe to make magic easier to learn. By color coding the mystical energies and binding their intangible essences to physical gemstones, the ancients hoped to make magic more accessible to the comparatively primitive natives of your world.


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