How to Match Scene Color Palette to Character Emotions

Color palette is extremely important to a film's frame. It is often said that the director is the author of a film, even when the script was written by a different person who came up with the story all by himself. That's because films are a visual medium and the frame is where everything happens. The frame is controlled by the director. He/she decides what we will see, what the composition will be, what the actors will wear, and what the set will look like. Everything that happens on screen was decided and approved by the director. And a huge aspect of the frame is the color palette. If the director is a true artist then the colors he/she chooses to be in the frame are setting an emotion that is helping to tell the story as much as the action on screen. So how can you use colors to help express a character's emotion?

Understand the Story

When prepping any script you need to break down every element of the story. This is especially true of the characters. You need to understand what the characters are feeling so that you can effectively direct your actors' performances. By understanding the characters you will be able to understand their emotions.

How Colors Can Express Emotions

A director's job is to communicate his or her vision on screen to the audience and colors will help him or her do that. Before you can pick what colors you want to use you need to have a basic idea of how they make people feel.

Everyone is different and how a color specifically affects them is subjective. But most people generally have the same general feeling about colors. For instance, blue is soothing and cooling. Red can be sexual but it can also symbolize danger. How you use colors will ultimately express the feeling you are wishing to communicate.

Colors as Wardrobe

You want to pick a color that can express who a character is but this color should also complement the actor's look. For instance, dressing a femme fatale character in a shade of red that complements the actress will highlight emotions of sexuality.

Color as Sets

Dressing your setting to a specific color can help evoke a character's mood as well. A setting that seems to favor red more than any other color can subconsciously seem dangerous and can put the audience on edge. While a setting that favors a cool blue communicates relation.

Balancing Colors in the Frame

While colors can communicate a lot it is important to keep in the colors in the frame complementary and balanced so that it is as visually appealing as possible.  A frame that has a red set and actors all wearing the same shade of red will subconsciously turn off an audience.