Reviews for Colour by Numbers have been generally positive. It was ranked at number 7 among the "Albums of the Year" for 1983 by NME. Smash Hits magazine gave the album a rare 10 out of 10, with reviewer Peter Martin commenting "This is simply one of the most enjoyable records I've ever heard. " Allmusic's Jose Promis retrospectively rated the album four-and-a-half out of five stars. He noted: "The songs were infectious, the videos were all over MTV, and the band was a media magnet. " He explained that it was "flamboyant, fun, sexy, soulful, colorful, androgynous, and carefree" like other 1980s music. He concluded by calling it "the artistic and commercial pinnacle of a band that still attracted new fans years later. " Robert Christgau rated it a B+, explaining that "[Boy] George's warm, well-meaning, slightly clumsy croon signifies most effectively when it has the least to say – when it's most purely a medium for his warm, well-meaning, slightly clumsy self. " He also stated that "his real aim in life is to reenact the story of the ugly duckling – and to radiate the kind of extreme tolerance that's so often engendered by extreme sexual ambiguity. "