A Crash Course in Color Theory for Film (Part 9)

Colour Study

Click on the following links for previous parts:

There is so much breadth to color theory that entire courses are dedicated to it. This crash course is only a primer for the fundamentals you need to know to use and manipulate color for your production.

There are various different color systems you could know about. For example, camera’s don’t capture images in RGB or CMY, but rather a different system known as YUV color space. RGB and CMYK are just the 2 most common systems and relatively easy to understand. Or you can describe color in hue, saturation and value instead of hue, saturation and lightness.

In this final part, I’d like to go touch on everything you’ve learned about color in this series.


Part 1: Color Systems

Click here for part 1
The two most common systems for color are the additive system (red, green, blue) and the subtractive system (cyan, magenta, yellow). Each of these systems can be plotted on a color wheel by spacing the 3 colors equidistant from each other.


Part 2: Describing Color

Click here for part 2
Color can be described in values of hue, saturation and lightness. Hue being the position of a color on a color wheel. Saturation is a color’s amount of pure hue, a color devoid of hue is said to be desaturated. Lightness or darkness is the amount of white or black added to a color.


Part 3: Color Interaction

Click here for part 3
Color’s interact with each other in various ways. You can change a color’s apparent brightness by pairing it with a bright or dark background. You can also push an analogous color by pairing it with it’s neighboring color or change the apparent saturation of a color using it’s complimentary color as a background or cutting from it.


Part 4 & 5: Color Schemes

Click here for part 4 and here for part 5
There are many different color schemes you could use. The following chart shows examples of each color scheme.


Part 6 & 7: Psychology of Colors

Click here for part 6 and here for part 7
Different colors bring up different emotions. Warmer colors are more energetic and unstable while cooler colors are calmer and stable. On the flip side, warmer colors tend to be more inviting than cooler hues.


Part 8: Controlling Color

Click here for part 8
Different ways of controlling color are using a color script which is a color palette for the production. Via filters for either lights or the camera. The time of day for the shoot, in camera settings, type of film and lab processing or post-production color timing.

I hope you really enjoyed this series on color theory for film, or at least found it useful! Again, it’s a very broad subject and you can lose yourself in studying it but I hope that this guide is great foundation for you to make decisions on what colors to use for your film! Any suggestions or comments are much appreciated below!


  1. andrei says:

    Exactly what I am looking for! I was able to get all the relevant information in this crash course in just a matter of minutes instead of browsing through an entire book. I am glad I stumbled upon this blog.

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