September 12, 2016

This Infographic Reveals the Connection Between Color and Emotion in Film

Is it possible to feel colors?

There's quite a number of idioms we use in English to communicate how we feel. For instance, when we're sad we say we're "feeling blue," or when we're angry we say we're "seeing red." But—last time I checked humans can't really—feel colors. So, why does it make so much sense?

We're getting into color theory territory with that question and there are a lot of thoughts and ideas that try their hand at answering it, but regardless of whether or not the emotional response we experience from colors is due to nature or nurture (or both), the fact still remains that it does occur and using colors as a means to convey a message does work. (Just ask any marketing agency.)

This is why paying close attention to the kinds of colors you're using in your films is so important, because whether you intend them to do so or not, every single color is communicating to your audience or eliciting an emotional response. So, if you have a good idea of what kinds of emotional connotations each color has attached to it, you could use them effectively to tell more interesting stories.

StudioBinder has created an infographic that illustrates the psychology behind the use of color in film—each color containing a list of emotions or qualities that are connected to it. Check it out below:

The Psychology of ColorCredit: StudioBinder
[Technically red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet (ROYGBIV) are hues, not colors, but for simplicity's sake, and because we're not talking about how Newton method for divided the visible spectrum, let's just call them colors.]

Choosing a color palette for your film is tricky if you don't know which emotions go with which color. While some are more straightforward than others, like red with passion and danger and blue with sadness and tranquility, colors like purple, yellow, and pink may prove to be a little more tricky to find their emotional connotations. However, as demonstrated by the infographic, studying how films have treated these colors can inspire the way you choose to treat them in your own work—I mean, Denis Villeneuve chose different colors to represent certain ideals of morality in Sicario: blue for justice, black for corruption, and beige for the true morally ambiguous nature of human beings.

This infographic is actually a snippet from an e-book StudioBinder will be releasing within the next few weeks. So, if you're interested in learning more about it, head on over to StudioBinder's website.      

Your Comment

14 Comments

Or you can look at this post and video of the exact same scenes from NFS from June...

http://nofilmschool.com/2016/06/watch-psychology-color-film

September 12, 2016 at 9:33PM

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I think this is great for an amateur look into beginners colour theory, but it is only skimming the surface. It's also a very western concept of colours, not to say that that's bad, but that these concepts aren't necessarily universal. Pink can be extremely erotic (private parts are pink), green can reflect Life, and yellow often translates to hope.

September 13, 2016 at 6:02AM

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Rebar
Director
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You can read the companion article right here (with the free ebook): http://bit.ly/2cjYHqx

September 13, 2016 at 3:42PM

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Shant Kiraz
Co-founder of StudioBinder
362

I really hate this, not NFS for this post but the fact that some movies still subscribe to this colour bull$#!t.

In life when its cold light doesn't turn blue, when things are passionate theres not suddenly more red.

When we first saw Darth Vader in the 70's and he made that entrance boarding the ship the audience instinctively knew to crap themselves. There was no change in colour, it didn't go dark etc yet everyones sphincters tightened.

Its a childish filming technique and condescending to the audience and its lazy.

September 13, 2016 at 5:08PM

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But these are movies and not real life. Watch Eyes Wide Shut and tell me that Kubrick's overt use of red and blue are still childish film technique. Blue Velvet is another one where just about every frame employs red, white, and blue. This color stuff is big.

September 13, 2016 at 5:35PM

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Jake
143

Kubrick was overrated and Eyes Wide Shut was an awful movie. Truely awful.

Having to achieve a mood through colour is a last resort and lazy to me. Audiences are a bit more sophisticated these days and don't need to be treated like children.

There are many ways to convey cold before having to resort to blue.

September 13, 2016 at 9:32PM, Edited September 13, 9:47PM

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What are the good movies?

September 14, 2016 at 5:15PM

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Jake
143

Idiot.

Do you even get what I'm saying. Its a last resort. If you have to use colour to translate whats happening to a mood that means many other levels failed first, direction, performance, framing and on.

Thats why its lazy and viewers associate it with bad films. Have a look and you'll see a lot more bad films than good that resort to this. It might be a tool but that doesn't mean you have to use it.

September 14, 2016 at 9:52PM

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No what you are saying is obviously to highbrow and clever. I am just curious what kinds of movies people who wear beanies like? I am doing a documentary about people who wear beanies, you see.

September 15, 2016 at 9:23AM

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Jake
143

If its cold enough you would wear a beanie too.

September 15, 2016 at 7:41PM

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Yes, life doesn't change colour, but it's a good way to have context. Cinema is a language, and colour has become part of that language, it's what you can use knowing that people will understand (well, as any language it can fail and it has noise). I like it, when it isn't used in excess.

September 14, 2016 at 8:07AM

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Abi Stricker
Student?
307

Using color in film is not a childish technique. Color has a psychological impact and is utilized in the real world outside of movies in a number of ways. Of course, the psychological impact of color is determined by a person's environment. I believe that there are some universal associations that everyone can relate to that we get from nature. There are, however, different cultural associations that vary from place to place. This is something that even translators have to be mindful of when translating text into different languages. They sometimes have to change a color used as a descriptor because it would change the intending meaning of the text.

Color is just another tool in the filmmaker's toolbox and one that can be very effective. It can also be used to tie different elements in the story together or show the evolution of a place or character.

September 14, 2016 at 10:33AM

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"In life when its cold light doesn't turn blue, when things are passionate there'(sic)s not suddenly more red" Wrongo kiddo. :-)

The sun emits white light, however due to Rayleigh Scattering in our atmosphere the sun looks yellow and the sky looks blue. In the winter, the blanket of white snow around reflects the blue sky, and makes it appear blue outside. Hot desserts are yellow/tan warm. After millions of years of evolution our ancestors came to equate the emotions of blue = cold and yellow = warm. Can't change what is embedded deep in our brain stem. (When I am being passionate with my lady I definitely see more red.)

This was a great article... Don't like it? ->Move on. Film technique snob? ->If you are so great then you would be too wealthy to waste time reading this.

October 10, 2016 at 7:02PM

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KB
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Its true not all colors are born equal. They affect us differently. Our feelings, mood and physical responses will likely vary when subjected to different wavelength of electrodynamics radiations, different shades of colorful lights. From an evolutionary stand point, we seem to have developed color vision to assist our brains with contrast detection. It gives us a better chance to detect our preys (and our predators) within our surroundings.

Rule or perhaps more of a guideline. It has been said that all colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites. In other words, lovers attracts and create passion for each other because they are complimenting each other. This principle can also be used in your images when you want to attract someone's attention to an area of interest or if you want to create more passionate scene.

With hot colors, (for example red) we suddenly have tendencies to take more risks as our blood pressure and heart beat rise (ever wondered why casinos tend to have warm colors all around you?) Cold colors, on the other hand, have a tendency to calm and relax us as our blood pressure drops making some of you feel colder physically. More and more the use of ‘colors’ is being considered, researched and exploited in a variety of fields, filmmaking included.

However, colors also take a different meaning and effect depending on the context. “red can be friendly when it’s associated with a ketchup bottle and baleful when associated with blood.” Not only our ‘detection’ of a shade of color can be tricked by its illumination and its environment, our understanding of colors is “relative, historical and empirical”. It varies from culture to culture and person to person and cannot be narrowed down to a series of physical reactions. Western and Eastern traditions differ on the meaning of certain colors. Even within western culture, different part of Europe regard warm and cold colors differently. For example, “Directors from northern Europe feel that cold colours are pleasant and warm colours are aggressive and disturbing.” (David Mullen, ASC.) Southern Directors might use warm colors associated with summerly sunlight to evoke happiness and the cold winterly colors of an overcast day with sadness.

September 13, 2016 at 10:07PM

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Kruno
Cinematographer, storyteller.
166

I agree this is a blinkered reading of colour.

Too many posts on this site are reposts of amateur student readings and observations.
Like I'm going to listen to some pubescant YouTuber telling me he has unlocked all the secrets to Kubrick's work.

A lot of this information on here is damaging if taken as gospel.

September 15, 2016 at 8:54AM

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