Whether you are shooting a horror film, drama or comedy, the color palette you’ll apply in every scene could either enhance or detract the plot. Understanding the connection between color and lighting is critical in creating effective compositions in digital art and design.

Analyzing different color scripts for inspiration goes a long way when it comes to studying or developing the color script for a piece. Observing the color scripts used by Dreamworks and Disney is a great place to start when it comes to developing your own color script for a project.

In Finding Nemo, the bright colors of the sea become muted every time the story takes a dark turn. Conversely, the colors are much brighter and happier in light moments of the movie. In Pixar’s Up, the color script jumps from bright to dark between the real world and Paradise falls.

How colors are matched, juxtaposed, or mixed with one another could enhance the emotional impact of a composition.  That’s the reason why color schemes always coincide with story arcs and emotional beats in a movie.

Making the right color choices will affect the story and the quality of the film. So what are the best colors to use for your story? In this guide, we’re dishing out ways to plan your color palette for enriching the plot.

All About Hue: The 3 Standard Characteristics of Color

Color has 3 standard characteristics. These are hue, value, and saturation. Hue refers to the pure spectrum of colors that we are all familiar with – red, orange, yellow, blue, green, violet. All these colors could be mixed into each other and when all hues are mixed together, it would create black, theoretically.

Value, on the other hand, is defined as the darkness or lightness of a color. This term determines the value of color according to the amount of light it has been exposed to. A low-value color means it’s closer to black while a high-value color is closer to white.

By adjusting a color’s value, an artist could create spatial illusions, add definition to an image or enhance the gradation between colors. Through careful adjustments of colors, you can boost the realism of a piece as well as highlight or play down certain elements in a scene. Without adjusting the values, a piece would look flat, two-dimensional.

Saturation refers to the intensity of a color. Highly saturated colors look vibrant while low saturate colors look dull.

Creating a Color Script

A color script is a visual outline of how colors are intended to be used in an animated movie to enrich the story as a whole. The process of creating a color script for your piece will involve assessing your completed storyboards and scanning these into a software so all the boards are presented in sequence, ready for adding the color script.

Whatever colors you picked for your piece, how you’ll go through the process of developing a color script, assessing other color scripts, everything will depend on you. One piece of advice, don’t use a color just because you like it. The color should always enhance the plot. If the color does not suit the scene, it will only affect the storytelling.

Analyzing a Color Script

Analyzing other color scripts is a great way to determine what colors to use for your project. From the colors alone, you could tell what messages, emotions, or tone that the scene is trying to convey. From the color script, choose three frames that have very different tones and look closely how the animators pulled it off.

Now check your storyboard and get a feel of the emotions and message that you want to convey. What’s the first color that comes to your mind while looking at each frame? How does your film feel? What is the dominant mood of the film? Determine the central and thematic color of your movie will help you develop the right palette for your project.

Assign the Principal Colors of the Storyboards

Once you’ve figured out what the color that suits the theme of your project, it’s time to go back to your storyboards and assign a principal for each board. Any of the colors you chose could be repeated. The most important thing to remember is to use colors that tell the story of your movie from start to finish.

Identify key moments in the story that should be highlighted with color. Pick the boards that pop in the storyline then start adding colors that correspond to the mood that you are trying to portray in each board. The colors that you chose will support the highlights of the story throughout the film.  

The same thing can be said when it comes to choosing the right saturation and value for the story highlights, the right saturation and value will clarify the intent and enhance the emotions you want to convey. Consistency is key, define these highlights with a certain color throughout the movie so the viewers will associate the color with the right intent.

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

Assign the Supporting Colors of the Storyboards

Now to complete your color script, go through your storyboard sequence again and start working on the supporting colors of each board. Use the principal color that you assigned for each board as a guide for the supporting color. Integrate the principal and supporting colors to color the characters, backgrounds, props, and other elements in every scene. Be creative, break some rules, and go with your gut.

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