I think as writers and directors we often get caught up in the big elements of a story. We're worried about the plot, dialogue, set pieces, and so much more, that we forget there are the little things that can make a big difference. Those touches to a screenplay or a film can accentuate voice and theme.

One of the most significant "small" elements is color. A pop of color can enhance a mood, pull out a theme, or even evoke an emotion. 

Today I want to go over some simple ways to add color to your work. Check out this video from In Depth Cine and let's talk after. 

How Creators Use Color in Filmic Storytelling 

Film color theory is something we geek out about here on No Film School. I truly believe in the power of color to help harness your storytelling capabilities. But first, you need to learn how to harness it. As someone who is primarily a writer, I'm not here to tell you to describe the lighting in a scene. But I am here to say that the mood and tone of the screenplay should be an excellent blueprint for the director and DP to identify how they want to make a lighting scheme. 

I also find it useful to think about different colors as you write scenes. Would it benefit the scene to mention a neon glow? Or talk about a pale blue light cast by the moon? Or maybe you want a character to be in the red light district... bathed in a maroon shadow? Again, this is all about mood and tone. These are elements you can add to help people's imagination and sell certain themes

Here's a quick color guide we've used before:  

  • 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, vigor, 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, sensitivity, 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


Specific vs. General 

There are two schools of thought when it comes to color. One is that specific colors evoke specific emotions, as seen in the list above. The other is that color can generally skew a mood, and is great to add depth to scenes. These two schools of thought will sometimes battle, but there are merits to everything. I think the most important part of it is that you're using color to break out from the norm. You're using it to engage with people and highlight everything you want them to feel and understand about your story. 

What are your thoughts on color in films and TV? What about how you use it in your writing? 

Let us know in the comments. 

Source: In Depth Cine