A Crash Course in Color Theory for Film (Part 6)

July 7 2009 Extravaganza - Prediction = True

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In the previous parts we’ve gone over how to describe and choose color. But why should we choose one color over another? Choosing a color scheme sets the tone for a scene or a film so it’s good to get an idea of color psychology.

We’ll tackle warm colors in this part and move to cool colors in part 7.


A Warning About Color Psychology

Evidence has shown that color has an effect on the mood of the person but there is no one exact color that effects every one exactly the same. Color psychology is subjective as personal and cultural bias come into play. For example, Muslims associate green with heaven while Christians associate blue and white.

Moreover, there are natural associations we make with color such as a blue sky or a green forest, lush with life. Still, we can make some overall generalizations about color and mood.


Hue and Intensity

A general rule of thumb is that the more intense a color, the more intense the emotional value. For example, a darker red might conjure up rage while a lighter red might make you feel angry. The kind of color also has an effect, a yellower green will feel more sickly than a lush green.

Here’s a list of colors and some emotional associations that go with them.



When you think of pink, it usually brings up the image of femininity. This is a great example of cultural bias to color, in the early 1900’s the color was associated with boys. It is a gentle feeling for a color and also brings up images of candy.

Other words associated with pink: girls, youth, harmlessness, boredom.



Red is a very primal and intense color and denotes anger, danger and blood but also passion, love and sex. It’s a very exciting and uncontrolled color so it could come in handy for speed chases or steamy sex scenes.

Other words associated with red: dignity, fire, rage, vigour, willpower, courage, wrath.



Orange has a more earthly tone then red and is a bit more soothing. Endurance, strength and success are excellent words to use when describing the emotional value of orange. You can use it as a more controlled variation of red. It has also been associated with inferiority, nervousness and ignorance.

Other words associated with orange: Superiority, reliable, happiness, ambition, autumn.



Yellow is an extremely cheerful color! It conjures up feelings of joy and happiness but because it’s such a powerful color, overusing it can make the audience feel nervous or anxious. There is also the cultural connotation of being a coward associated with yellow.

Other words associated with yellow: warmth, brightness, sharp, loyalty, lighthearted, childish, freshness, startled, surprise, intelligence, concentration, optimism.



Growth, harmony, nature, healthiness are all feelings associated with green. There are also negative associations such as greed and jealousy. A yellow/green can give you the feeling of sickness.

Other words associated with green: money, ambition, freshness, security, youth.

In the next part, we’ll be continuing with the cooler hues. Any suggestions or comments are much appreciated below!

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