Updated: May 25
The first thing you need to know about color theory is that, as the name implies, it is a theory. In other words, while the color theory has many aspects that are accepted as fact, it remains as a set of guidelines for using colors together in harmony, including for art, animation, and design.
Many artists and animators have an instinct about using colors in harmony. In any case, we all can benefit from learning more about color theory.
It is both science and art which uses color. It also explains how humans perceive color; and the visual effects of how colors to mix, match, or contrast with each other. It also includes the colors to communicate and the methods used to replicate color.
The Color Wheel
An early color wheel was designed by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
As per the traditional art from the field of design, a color circle is based on red, yellow, and blue.
The first color wheel was invented father of science by Sir Isaac Newton who developed the first circular diagram of colors in the year 1666.
He split white sunlight into red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, and blue beams; then he joined the two ends of the color spectrum together to show the natural progression of colors. Newton associated each color with a note of a musical scale.
The traditional color system was developed and created by Munsell; The three types of colors primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.
Primary colors are which are red, yellow and blue. All other colors are derived from these three colors and these colors cannot be created by mixing or combining any other colors.
The secondary colors are green, orange and purple. These are created by mixing primary colors together.
There are six tertiary colors, each formed by combining a primary and a secondary color. These are yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, and yellow-green.
These are the colors formed by mixing a primary and a secondary color. That's why the hue is a two-word name, such as blue-green, red-violet, and yellow-orange.
Harmony can be defined as a pleasing arrangement of parts, whether it be music, poetry, or a color. In visual experiences, harmony is something that is pleasing to the eye. It engages the viewer and it creates an inner sense of order, a balance in the visual experience.
A color scheme based on nature
Nature provides a perfect departure point for color harmony. In the illustration above, red yellow and green create a harmonious design, regardless of whether this combination fits into a technical formula for color harmony.
Common Color Schemes
Finding harmonious color combinations it is the key to create a visually appealing video. The colors you would choose should be neither bland and boring, nor too chaotic and busy to be pleasant. For video makers, you want your text or images to stand out against your background, but not to be jarring or unattractive. It’s a good idea to avoid bright and oversaturated colors because they’re really hard on the eyes and to look ugly.
There are a few different ways to pick colors that are harmonious.
Here are a few of the most common approaches.
Warm and Cool Colors
The color wheel can be split down the middle, between warm colors and cool colors. Warm colors are on the red/yellow side, while cool colors are on the green/blue side, though as you can see in the graphic below, there are cooler and warmer shades of each color.
Warm and cool colors can work together, as you’ll see in the color combinations below, but in general, you want to avoid using too many warm and cool shades, as this can appear chaotic. It’s a better idea to pick just two or three colors that work well together.
Complementary colors are hues that are opposite to each other on the color wheel such as red and green, blue and yellow, red and purple, yellow and green which have several variations in the leaves and several variations of red-purple in the orchid. These opposing colors create maximum contrast and stability.
They stand out against each other without clashing designers and video makers using one complementary color as the background, and the other to call to attention to the most important content.
Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel. These color schemes are often found in nature and are generally visually appealing, balanced, and nicely matched which are side by side on a 12-part color wheel, such as yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange.
Typically, an analogous color scheme will have three colors: one dominant color, accompanied by the two colors found immediately on either side of it. Yellow, orange, and red are an example of an analogous color scheme.
Triadic color schemes are created with three colors found 120° from each other, or at each point of an equilateral triangle. These are which one color used as the background and the other two used as the main content color and a highlight color.
Monochromatic color schemes use a single base color, accompanied by tints, shades, and tones of the same hue. A tint is a color with white added, while a shade is a color with black added. The tone is a color with gray added. Adding black, white, or gray changes the value of the color by darkening, lightening, or muting it respectively.
How Color theory works in animation
What is the best color choice for your story? What is just the right amount of color to use? How can you use color to enhance the emotional impact of your piece? This will tell u to give some simple guidelines for how to plan your palette and enrich your story with well-informed color choices.
Color has tremendous storytelling power. It can express emotion, clarify motivation, and even dictate the entire meaning of a piece. A farmer’s lush green field means something totally different if instead, it’s yellow-brown; a hero’s ride off into the sunset becomes a ride into the depths of hell with a slight tweak in hue;
So what are the best color choices for your story? What is just the right amount of color to use, if any at all? How can you use color to enhance the emotional impact of your piece? This chapter will answer those questions and gives you some simple guidelines for how to plan your palette and enrich your story with well-informed color choices.
First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about basic color. As you may know, there are three standard characteristics of color: hue, saturation, and value. When we ask, “What color is that?” we’re asking for the hue.
Hue refers to the common color name in the spectrum like red, blue, green, blue-green, and so on.
Saturation is the intensity or purity of a color. Highly saturated colors look vibrant and bright while low-saturated colors look dull, almost grayish.
Value is the relative lightness or darkness of a color—basically how much light the color is exposed to determines its value. A low value means a color is closer to black.
Create a Color Script
A color script is a sequential visual outline of how you intend to use color in your animated film. The process can be highly experimental, and, as usual. This trick is to balance what you think looks right in your individual scenes with what helps to enrich your story is always first, so you may need to replace colors that you absolutely love if they don’t serve the big picture of your story.
To begin this take a step and try to define what color your entire story would be if it could be only one color. This is akin to figuring out the theme of your story, as it will influence each of your color choices as you move forward. What is the overarching central mood of your film, and is it strong enough to base your film’s palette around? Figuring out the dominant, thematic color of your film will help to establish the palette of your other colors moving forward.
Once you have one color this is your storyboard represented by a series of single colors, one for each board. Each color in the series can be repeated. Think of your pre-color script as a game of charades—you have to tell your entire story start to finish but you can use only one color per frame to do so.
Take for instance the story of a bear cub lost in the woods. Say the cub faces off against some dangerous predator during the night and by dawn finally makes her way back home to her family of bears. The moments where color is important to seem straightforward: when the bear cub gets lost in the woods, when the cub fights off a dangerous predator, and finally when the cub arrives safely back home. If these key moments are to be represented by solid hues, which would they be?
I encourage you to go with your gut in answering that question, and break some rules, and be creative. However, if the ideas aren’t flooding in, it doesn’t hurt to start your color thinking with popular symbolism that permeates Western culture. Red represents menace, anger, or danger, like Darth Vader’s red lightsaber or Captain Hook’s red hat and jacket. For instance, you may think to use a splash of dramatic red when the bear cub is fighting against the violent predator.
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