October 8, 2014 at 11:10AM

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How do YOU prepare and choose the colors for your film?

I'm writing a film that I will be shooting at the end of the year, and one thing that I want to really focus on are colors, especially of the wardrobe.

My main character of the film is struggling with an inner situation within himself that leaves him very on edge, but also lost in his own troubles. I'm thinking keeping his wardrobe within the realm of greyscale would really push the feeling of his "being stuck in some sort of a limbo."

I know that color temperature/grade obviously has a huge affect on the tone and style of the film, but what are some things you guys keep in mind for wardrobe colors for your characters?

22 Comments

There's so much that goes into all of this that it simply can't be summarized in a tiny post.

When talking about color palettes of a scene, from a wardrobe emphasis, I suggest putting a lot of effort in creating a fully-realized color pallet by properly set dressing the entire scene. People often think that color grading will allow you to create a specific look you imagine may be possible, but it's the power of good art design, which is overlooked at times, that really sells the color of your scenes.

Budget can become a concern when you need to build sets. So what I like to do on low-budget projects, is buy 2 or 3 buckets of paint and get some set-specific props which will really help realize the design. It really can be anything, just don't waist your time with meaningless props, plan it out. So when picking your wardrobe, make sure it plays well with the entire set as well. Color creates moods and if your character is in emotional turmoil and usually wears grey, then touches of a secondary color around the set can help push the mood you are trying to convey.

October 8, 2014 at 4:31PM

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Daniel Falcon
Director, VFX artist
239

Thanks, Daniel!

Matt Bastos

October 11, 2014 at 11:53AM

To pick your color palette, a clever idea is to study the great painters. Check the masters from the Renaissance and see how they use the different colors.

October 9, 2014 at 6:03PM

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Stel Kouk
Filmmaker
3105

I haven't thought of that. I love trying out new ways to find inspiration. Thanks, Stel!

Matt Bastos

October 11, 2014 at 11:54AM

What a fantastic tip! Thank you!

Pepper Video Productions

October 19, 2014 at 8:30AM

This book may be very helpfull

If its purple someones gonna die.
- This enlightening book guides filmmakers toward making the right color selections for their films, and helps movie buffs understand why they feel the way they do while watching movies that incorporate certain colors.

http://www.amazon.com/Its-Purple-Someones-Gonna-Die/dp/0240806883/ref=sr...

October 12, 2014 at 3:50PM

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Just added to my wish list, thank you!

Matt Bastos

October 12, 2014 at 10:58PM

I've always been interested in changing the color of the wardrobe throughout a film.
A color can tell something about the character. If it's blue or green, it will or can stand as the color of the character.

A simple example,
a character loves writing books. And in the scenes the character writes and loves it, he's dressed in red.
Then he get's in an accident. He wears the white robe when in the hospital. When eventually he get's home, he's wearing black. He can't write books. (Because of reasons)
As the film goes, he will eventually get back on his feat and finds himself. He now wears green. Recovery.

Presenting a color when presenting the character at a certain emotional state. And yes, I presented a very bad example. But I hope I got my point crossed.
Thanks.

October 12, 2014 at 4:04PM

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Johannes Karpe
Director
141

These are great answers. How many times have I had a film maker say, "Make it look like Amelie! (Or some such)" When they have not given the time or effort to properly art direct a scene in that way. A lot of effort went into the art direction of said movie, and I am unable to Instagram it out in a matter of seconds. Also, studying the masters of painting can also help, like Stel said, in understanding light and shadow and how they affect mood. Lighting is as critical as color with in a scene. Great book, Alan. Great recommendation.

October 12, 2014 at 4:05PM

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Heather Hay
Digital Colorist
86

I think the color "science" is as big as the film-making itself.

For us, the beginners, the complexity if further compounded by budgets and by wardrobes our actors would have.

After pondering this for a bit, I decided to focus on all things but colors until I can partner up with somebody who "gets" colors.

October 12, 2014 at 8:47PM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3810

I can advise you to read the book:
Cowan & Beck - Spiral Dynamics - Mastering Values - Leadership and Changes.

It talks all about how colors work subconsciously in our head and what certain colors stand for. Hope it helps.

October 12, 2014 at 9:11PM

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Ralf Schooneveld
Actor / Producer
74

Thanks!

Matt Bastos

October 14, 2014 at 12:16PM

Yo can choose a movie with the colors similars. And learn form that.

October 13, 2014 at 2:58AM, Edited October 13, 2:58AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7662

On a pure "graphic" plane i suggest you, as a support to the others hints, to use paletton.com. The site allows you to create color palettes, starting from one color or a shade, to have hints on what colors could match the ones you have in mind. :)

October 13, 2014 at 4:42AM

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Piero Cioffi
Videographer
86

Hey Matt,

Have you seen this blog?

http://moviesincolor.com/

Its a great, quick reference for seeing the overall mood of popular films and tv shows. Hope it helps!

October 13, 2014 at 5:37AM

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Lucas Ferreira
Cinematographer
441

Hey Lucas, I have thank you! I actually just bookmarked it, so thanks again for the link. :)

Matt Bastos

October 14, 2014 at 12:15PM

listen to your intuition. you wrote or chose that screenplay for a reason. what do you see? what colors do you see? who do you see? who do you see it playing the role? if you don't see any colors, then what color is closest to "nothing" for you? you are a filmmaker, and not just a camera operator, not just a grip (not knocking those roles at all). what do you feel? if you are unsure then look for advice from a pro. But everybody has an opinion. you should start from yours.

October 13, 2014 at 10:22PM

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Kazu Okuda
Filmmaker
1323

Very true, thank you Kazu!

Matt Bastos

October 14, 2014 at 12:15PM

Thanks everybody for your answers so far! Also, thanks to No Film School for posting this on their Facebook page! :)

October 14, 2014 at 12:16PM, Edited October 14, 12:16PM

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Matt Bastos
Filmmaker/Writer
791

This site is great for breaking down specific color palettes used in popular films :) http://thecolorsofmotion.com/films

October 15, 2014 at 5:12AM

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Angelina Sereno
DP/Director
123

Thank you, Angelina! :)

Matt Bastos

October 15, 2014 at 8:17PM

I agree with everyone, I thought Kazu in particular was a good post, just to add to that post, try it
I am a one man band filmmaker, I take my actors, put them in costume, see how it works with my room, frequently doesn't work, make costume change till I am happy.

January 25, 2016 at 4:45PM, Edited January 25, 4:45PM

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