Color Palette

Colour Psychology, What Colours Communicate

Colours liven up our lives every single moment. The ability to see and perceive colours is a boon for us. Without colours, our world would have never been the same; so beautiful, so much fresh, and endearing. Colours actually infuse depth, beauty, soul and what not. The mere mention of colours draws up vivid imagination. Its plain and boring without colours. So, when we say colour s the whole and soul of everything, what do we have in mind? Do colours mean something? Is there a reason why everything has a particular kind of colour?That can be answered when we try to understand a little bit about colour psychology. For this we need to understand colours, i.e. why colours are there? What is their significance and implications?

Going step step deeper into the depths of colour psychology, we first need to understand, why colours? Colours basically help us put our mind to focus on a thing, like in a plain, dark room, we’ll spot a colourful object right away when we enter. We can easily and in a pretty quick manner spot the colours at any place. Colourful things catch our attention. So, we can utilise this concept to change the mood of the viewer. In interior designing, for instance, a pop of colour in an otherwise plain and dull room, brightens up the place immediately. Just a dollop of colour transforms an entire outfit or a wall (talking of interior designing). So to enhance the look and feel, designers use this psychology everytime to give a makeover. However, way too much colour can lead the viewer into the lost world i.e. it might make a person look sullen and irritated if the amount of colour is not handled properly. Thus, it is very important to implement this concept properly as a colour might make or break your scene. Colours are also an important indicator of originality regarding photo realism. They can let a person make out if a picture is fake or genuine. Meanwhile a grayscale picture (turning the same picture into a grayscale) will not let you identify any fake attributes. Colours are the biggest giveaways that your image is fake. This is because we are way too much familiar with the natural shades of things around us without even realising that we are soaking in so much information about colours and their variations (in shades) around us. So any editing easily give away the reality.

Now we have always learnt about primary colours, secondary colours. But do we actually see those colours anywhere? You would probably say yes, but in reality what we actually see are different variations of those colours. The basic colours (with no saturation or value) are raw and they will actually make a picture really ugly and dull. However, what changes the game are changes in their saturation level or the intensity of the colour and value which is the brightness or darkness of the colour. Changing these two attributes can give you a whole spectrum of colours associated with a single colour. You could make a painting with just a single colour using its different hues and shades by just changing the saturation and value.

Keep in mind, though, that highly saturated colours look really fake. Using such colours in immoderation might be disastrous. Seeing highly saturated colours everywhere strains our eyes and ultimately irritates us. However in moderation the highly saturated colours can do wonders to a painting, photo etc. This allows the viewer to focus on a particular element and follow the idea behind the picture i.e. it lets the user smoothly glide into the picture and actually see and appreciate the beauty of it. The startling appearance makes them noticeable and registers the picture in our minds. Artists have used this concept very cleverly throughout history. In the paintings of Jesus and his followers, Jesus is always painted wearing a red robe, this is done to achieve a dual characterisation because it lets viewers to focus on him amongst his crowd of followers and it also signifies that he is a powerful influence and is mighty (red being associated with power). So, it helps perceive the picture and the character portrayed in a better way. Now as far as cartoon are considered, here bright colours can work in your favour. To sum up, colour saturation and value gives a whole lot of information, physical as well as emotional or indirect inference. Here are some things to keep in mind while dealing with saturation and value of colours,

  • Don’t overdo it
  • Use it to guide the viewer
  • Use it to tell the story
  • Use it change the mood
  • Use it to draw attention to something

For instance, the colours used in the initial scenes of the movie ‘Up’, an acclaimed Hollywood animated movie, were really vibrant like pinks and oranges. The reason behind it was to portray the joys and the happiness in the lives of the two characters. But later the scale tilts towards dull colours, desaturated ones, a lot of grays and browns as their life gets sad and lonely. So, colours let you feel the emotions,along with the scenic beauty, behind a scene as well. This idea has been used in so many movies like ‘The Incredibles’, ‘Matrix’ etc. Thus colours can be seen as a really powerful mood changer.

Colour harmony is another important aspect that pertains to the fact how colours communicate with each other, like what colours go better in combination or which colour should be used with which other colour to give the maximum impact. Also known as colour scheme. Here we have,

  • The monochromatic – shades of just one colour. It is better to be used for single subjects. It can also used to create striking atmospheric effects.
  • Analogous – colours adjacent to each other on the colour harmony pallet or wheel. It is generally used to create a peaceful, comfortable mood as they are easy on the eyes.
  • Triadic – equally distant on the colour harmony wheel. This combination goes well in cartoons or surreal scenes. They come across as playful, hence difficult to pull off.
  • Complementary – it is a naturally pleasing combination and has been used extensively throughout our history. However, one shade (generally the weaker shade) should overpower the other, equal quantities of such colours might not be a wise decision.
  • Split complementary – similar to complementary but one end extended, like with green and red complements, extending the green end with blue shade gives more room for creativity. These type of colours are used to give a lively, joyous feeling to the viewer.
  • Tetradic (or double complementary) – two pairs of complementary colours. These are best used for foregrounds and backgrounds effectively. Using these four colours doesn’t mean using equal proportions of each, the weak colours should be used predominantly with the strong shades in patches or particular sections. This one is hard to pull off but results in a pleasing picture.

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