Examples of Colours in Films: Selecting a range of colours

We know exactly what colours are capable of. They can give meaning to objects, convey feelings and make us go from tears to laughter almost without being aware of it.

Each colour is associated with feelings, and like when we design our logo, these colours are going to help us convey the brand idea we need. It is time to use those colours in larger areas.

In design, when we are making for example a poster or a presentation we must also be careful with the range of colours we are going to use for it. If it is for example a poster for an event for children we will use a different range of colours than it is an event for adults. If we are working for woodworkers, for example, tones will be more neutral and more “natural” than if we are dealing with the presentation of a playground.

The colours are with us in every moment of our lives and rarely do we use them randomly. We try that our house is perfectly decorated following a range of colours, and we dress using different tones depending on the occasion.

Sometimes we may not realize it but the colours are even able to change the mood of the people. When we are sadder we like to wear more bright colours and want to see the sun … Remember the infographic on colour, each of them conveys a feeling.


Thus the power of colours is used in photography or painting. Often we retouch an image to prioritize some colours, and with photo editing softwares like those that we saw it is very simple, in some cases, to apply a filter to the image so that it is framed in precise tones and transmit a specific feeling. We can choose a picture of a stock images and turn it into something ours and different from the others.

As happens in painting, depending on the colours and tones that we use on the canvas, we will emphasize more or less feelings and sensations that this painting shall transmit in one or another way. The colours are not random. If we think of the Mona Lisa with vivid hues or Van Gogh’s room in black and white, they would not be the same. They would transmit other things and we would understand them differently, as in these cases the colour is the most important thing.

Thus, in this case, we will analyze the colours of some films to understand what they convey (the next time we will revise it on painting.) I am not pretend to be expert or cinema or painting, so I will only analyze them from the standpoint of colour. As you will see, thanks to the power of colours we can understand much more than it may seem.

Shall we start?

Saturation to change the feelings: Up

When we talk about the saturation of a colour, we refer to the intensity of a specific hue based on colour purity, which is determined by its brightness. A highly saturated colour shows a very vivid and intense colour; and a little saturated colour appears faded. If we desaturate a colour, it would become grey.

So it is a good technique used in the cinema to change the hue of the moment: to change the mood with the same colour palette.

In the film Up we can see an example of this. Following a palette that is representative for the entire film, the colours are vibrant and very saturated in good times.


But when bad news occurs, the saturation decreases to approach us darker colours that transmit that feeling.


The range of colours has not changed; colours are always the same, but they do not transmit the same.

In Up we can also find a game with very representative range of colors. We have two identical scenes in which the protagonists go up a hill. The difference is that the range of colour is different, the opposite.

In the first case predominates the green and blue, very vibrant colours that transmit energy; cool colors that talk about youth and where those feelings are accentuated with saturation.


On the other hand we see the same scene, but the colours are warmer now and appear less saturated. How could it be otherwise! In the first case we are representing fertility, youth, reminiscent of the spring, while in the second case, we get closer to autumn, old age, and sunset.


You have certainly seen the film, but even if you have not done it yet, after looking at the pictures you can see that they are capable of transmitting two different and quite opposite times in the lives of the characters thanks to colour. It does not matter if you do not know the script for the film, or which character is up and down, but certainly if you compare the two images you will have no doubt what is what.

In fact, these scenes do not carry dialogues and although we may see the characters displayed in old age, we also see the transition in the different colours of the scenes. I encourage you enjoy the film or at least the first 10 minutes of it, and if the “story” allows you, you may analyze the colours and how they help the transit of it.

True detective: (the colour of) cinema led to television

As we have seen, colours used in the right way can change the mood through the image or make us see it in one way or another. We have already talked about the colours in the cinema, in which we analyzed some films. Each film has a special filter intended for it, without which it would convey totally different feelings. Sometimes we watch films and series in which for example the atmosphere is grim even when there are sunny days and open spaces, and that, as in the animation can be achieved with saturation.

An example of this is the True Detective series, in which all the scenes appear with little saturation, taking the liveliness and joy to the colours, so dimmed.

Thus, they get a mood we might almost say gloomy, in which there are no moments of joy. Everything happens with a feeling of decadence, in which so open and desaturated landscapes do nothing but increase it. Just with its opening scene we can already have an idea of the environment in which the series will be developed.


Leaving aside the script and the characters, through the use of colours we are able to position ourselves well in the scene in which the plot unfolds. I have not been in Louisiana (yet,) but I imagine the hot and humid climate perfectly. The colour introduces us to the scene and leads us to think how the characters feel; we have no doubt about their mood.


Moreover if we return to our beloved chromatic circle we can see that it uses combinations of analogous colours, in which starting from yellow, the range is shown from orange to green, always desaturating colours and bringing it closer to black or grey. It is very reasonable to use this combination, since as we saw it is perfect to convey a calm nature.

Her: the colour orange is not everything … does it?

In all the films we see an atmosphere different from above (though admittedly sometimes that atmosphere is associated with a particular manager) who as we saw in the previous case, makes them different and special.

Well, if you have to say a colour associated with Her, 99% shall say orange. Everything is orange, the atmosphere, the characters… Her presents us a futuristic world where there is almost no blue. The warm orange fits perfectly in tune with the feelings of the protagonists. In a cold world orange is responsible for tuck them in, giving the necessary warmth. If you realise, funds are grey; they do not convey any emotion, but all have an orange halo.


You know that orange is the colour of the change, which is between the red and yellow, taking the positive qualities of both and leaving aside some part negative.


Thus, in general the range of colours that is presented in the film Her is monochromatic orange. We start with this colour and we will take different shades of the same, achieving a dominant colour from which the scenes unfold.


If you have any film or pictorial proposal do not hesitate to tell it to me; I will be happy to try to analyze the colours of the frames and how they are able to introduce us in the relevant atmosphere.

Comments (1)

  1. I love that you explored the way that color affects the opening sequence of Up, it was interesting to see how different emotions could be represented. My son wants to go to school for film, but he is overwhelmed by the amount of work to get every color right for every shot. He would love to find a program that can help balance colors and saturation so he can focus more on his storytelling.

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