Have you ever watched a video or film and immediately felt an overwhelming sense of emotion afterwards? Filmmakers use certain colors in specific context to influence the emotions of an audience both consciously and subconsciously. During production, certain objects and colors are placed strategically throughout scenes to provoke the audience’s emotions. This can also be portrayed through postproduction overlays, color grading, etc. Below is a list of common colors and the emotions portrayed behind them:
Passion, Power, Anger
This bright, vibrant color can be used to describe a variety of emotions. Red has been shown to raise blood pressure, heightening the emotions of an audience. Red is an energetic color mostly used to portray passion about something, most commonly regarding anger, aggression, etc. Red can also be used to describe feelings of love. Red is also supposed to trigger hunger which is why it is a common color in food related videos and brands.
Warmth, Youth, warning
Orange is a warm color, often used to portray feelings of happiness and warmth. Orange is also used as a color for warning an audience as it can create a sense of alertness for an audience. We associate orange with heat as well.
Bright, cheerful, jealous
A bright yellow shows the audience a sense of youthfulness and happiness. For example, the film Despicable Me uses yellow “minions.” On the contrary, yellow used as a video overlay communicates a sense of danger.
Nature, jealousy, darkness
Green is almost always associated with nature. It is easy for the eyes to process and because it reminds us of nature, it provides an audience with a sense of relaxation. There is also another side to green that relates to the popular saying everyone knows; “green with envy.”
Relaxing, calming, cold
Blue is by far the most popular color amongst men and women. It is pleasing to the eye and gives the audience a calming sensation. Blue is used to portray an overall sense of sadness or dreariness. Warm Bodies, a movie set in the future about a planet divided between zombies and humans uses a blue overlay to depict the sad, slow state of the Earth. In the end, when the zombie plague is resolved, the blue overlay is strategically lifted to display the audience with a sense of new beginnings.
Serene, majestic, peaceful
Purple has the unique ability to portray a mystical feeling. Because there are not many objects in nature that are purple, we often view purple as “out of this world” or “extravagant”. Purple is used in film to make a certain object or scene create a lasting impression on an audience.
Sweetness, innocence, femininity
Yes, even in 2020, pink is still used to depict femininity and innocence. This tactic is typically used in older films but is still being used today. Many horror films specifically use pink to portray the victim as innocent and unknowing.
Color an underestimated element that has the power to change our emotions. Each color does not have one singular meaning, the context surrounding the color intention is what helps us understand a director’s vision. These tips should be helpful when trying to convey a specific scene or emotion in one’s film.