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Color coding

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, May 18, 2024

Colour is amazingly powerful to humans, despite the fact we see so little of its spectrum. The impact of colour on our daily lives is tremendous but unfortunately not very well researched. What we do know from research is that it can affect one's mental, emotional and even physical status. If your teacher marks your papers in red, your teacher might be negatively impacting your performance than if another colour ink was used.

If you use red to paint the walls in your bedroom you may not sleep as well as if the walls were painted white or blue or even green. If you are from the West, the colour white is often associated with joy and purity. If you are from the East, it might be associated with grief and mourning. Cultural as well as more visceral associations permeate our emotional and mental interactions with colour.

And thus, colour is intuitively a powerful and integral part of creating art. Especially when it comes to storytelling, colour is often used as a quick shorthand for what audiences should think of …pretty much everything. Take a look at these two places. Which is the safe volcano?


Or this?

Even without the smiley face on the second volcano, if made to pick between the two you wouldn't choose the one in black and red, even though both are active. Green and blue is soothing. Black and red is alarming.

The amazing thing with colour is that though there is a general trajectory of ‘meaning’ or emotional stimulation in inspires in people, it really is what you make it: if an artist consistently associates a colour with a particular emotion, then that emotion is what the audience is trained to look for and be primed for when enjoying that artist's work.

Disney almost always colour codes their villains with greens, yellows, and weird purples, even though, according to research, normally these colours inspire contentment or joy:

Whereas the good guys generally tend to have blues and pastels:

Even Tiana's green dress is so pastel it has no relation to, say, the greens of Maleficent's magic. Whenever stark, wild green is on the screen, chances are the villain is too.

But in other works of art, green may be coding for something completely different.

The power of good

The power of creation (yes I know it's technically Disney but do the Fantasias really count?)

Danger, but neutral

And that goes for any colour. Consistency in colour coding some of the elements in narrative works, such as magic, or the effects of danger, or the feeling of relaxation, and more, can help enhance the emotional impact of the story as well as offer striking, memorable visuals that can stay with the viewer long after they have finished enjoying the story and the art.

Do you colour code in your own work?

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PaulEberhardt at 3:23AM, May 20, 2024

Bankers and people of high rank often wear blue shirts to radiate cool calm collected competence. I usually translate this colour code as "thinking too highly of himself and likely to get on my nerves". That's what I mean by both culture and habit being a factor.

PaulEberhardt at 3:19AM, May 20, 2024

How much of it is instinct, how much of it is culture and how much of it is just habit? I don't usually colour-code on purpose, if I colour at all that is, but I've toyed with the idea. @marcorossi: Black dresses are a great example: back in the 19th century women used them both for weddings, including their own, and for funerals, also including their own for all I know, simply because that was the one good dress a woman from a normally earning family could expect to get in her life, since they were very expensive. The symbolism we know today came later.

marcorossi at 7:21AM, May 18, 2024

Re: white in the east and the west: the symbolic color of white is often used as an example of how color connotations can change culturally, but I think in this case it is overdone: white is the color of purity because a white dress gets dirty very fast and therefore pure white must be clean. This might apply to, say, a newlywed wife (but, in Italy at least, traditionally marrying in white meant that the wife was a virgin, a woman who married after a pregnancy couldn't marry in white) but can also mean death pecause corpses are ritually cleansed and put in the coffin with a white cloth (hence ghosts are white too). The male spouse in a western wedding, after all, traditionally dresses black but this doesn't mean death, only seriousness and formality.

mks_monsters at 6:30AM, May 18, 2024

I have to admit that I colour code a lot in my art. Heck, even I am colour coded!

usedbooks at 3:43AM, May 18, 2024

The world is somewhat color-coded too. Not as much as the characters, and usually an extension of them. The bookstore has lilac wallpaper.

usedbooks at 3:38AM, May 18, 2024

My characters have color schemes, especially in attire. I give more thought to some character colors than others. Kaida's colors are more significant than some. Because her TRUE color is lilac -- which is almost never shown. Day-to-day, she wears neutral brown colors. When the lilac appears, it signifies vulnerability. Her twin sister wears purples all the time. Her ex-husband's true color is orange. He also wears neutrals but usually very extreme, stark black and white. Tristan's colors are actually neutral. He's a grounded character. Seiko is usually in pale blues, calming. But flashbacks of her mother show the lady in vibrant primary colors.

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