The Psychology of Color in Film (with examples)
A quick spin through the cinematic color wheel may end up being just what the doctor ordered.
As a filmmaker, it's your responsibility to take advantage of every tool that is thrown your way. Here at NFS, we throw around our opinions on lighting, sound technique, and equipment all the time. But what about color?
No, I'm not talking about color grading, color correction, or even the color quality of different cameras. I'm talking about production design. I'm talking about writing color as an entire character in your script. I'm talking about taking each one of your scenes in storyboard and assigning a color to it—even if you don't end up using it.
If you're looking for a subtle way to make a scene resonate emotionally, there may be no better way than choosing a color associated with the emotion you are trying to evoke. Here's how it works, as illustrated beautifully by video editor Lilly Mtz-Seara:
As you can see in the video above, there are both positive and negative components to each color at your disposal. Within each color are a multitude of hues you can break down even further to specifically hone in on the exact level of emotion you're seeking.
Here's a quick guide:
- RED – anger, passion, rage, desire, excitement, energy, speed, strength, power, heat, love, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence
- PINK – love, innocence, healthy, happy, content, romantic, charming, playfulness, soft, delicate, feminine
- YELLOW – wisdom, knowledge, relaxation, joy, happiness, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine, summer, dishonesty, cowardice, betrayal, jealousy, covetousness, deceit, illness, hazard
- ORANGE – humor, energy, balance, warmth, enthusiasm, vibrant, expansive, flamboyant
- GREEN – healing, soothing, perseverance, tenacity, self-awareness, proud, unchanging nature, environment, healthy, good luck, renewal, youth, vigour, spring, generosity, fertility, jealousy, inexperience, envy
- BLUE – faith, spirituality, contentment, loyalty, fulfillment peace, tranquility, calm, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, confidence, conservatism, security, cleanliness, order, sky, water, cold, technology, depression
- PURPLE/VIOLET – erotic, royalty, nobility, spirituality, ceremony, mysterious, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, arrogance, mourning, power, sensitive, intimacy
- BROWN – materialistic, sensation, earth, home, outdoors, reliability, comfort, endurance, stability, simplicity
- BLACK – No, power, sexuality, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, fear, anonymity, unhappiness, depth, style, evil, sadness, remorse, anger
- WHITE – Yes, protection, love, reverence, purity, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, humility, precision, innocence, youth, birth, winter, snow, good, sterility, marriage (Western cultures), death (Eastern cultures), cold, clinical, sterile
- SILVER – riches, glamorous, distinguished, earthy, natural, sleek, elegant, high-tech
- GOLD – precious, riches, extravagance. warm, wealth, prosperity, grandeur
How have you used color to enhance your film? Share in the comments.