Class notes – Aesthetics [COLOUR!!!]

Start thinking about colour!

The balance of colours in the film is really important. Where does the audience look? How does the colour affect that? You have to think about where you’re trying to make the audience look – draw the eye. Colour will help draw the eye – characters standing out or not from a backgr0und for example. Lighting and other things should be considered but colour is also a very important part of it as well!

Pick your colour palette – keep it simple and don’t over complicate it!

  • Red and Green (wes anderson films) (browns and muddy reds – natural earthy colours) (amelie)
  • Orange and teal/ turquoise (used a lot in movies) (action films) (brave) (lion king)
  • Muted palettes – greys,black and whites. Washed out colours.
  • Purple and yellow


Its a pretty terrible video in many ways but these guys take a look at colour in the movies:


These guys talk about the orange/teal colour palette and its overuse in the movies at the moment. There are many movies that adopt this colour scheme – you could say it’s overused as it’s certainly used on many productions that i’ve personally seen in the past few years. They conclude that directors, etc have lost originality. (The sounds production on this video makes some of what they say hard to hear, but they do mention this topic and i couldn’t find the better video that i watched that went over the overuse of orange teal in the industry at the moment.) Anyway…


This is an image from Paranormans development/design work. The orange and teal palette is used and the orange is quite dark compared to the light teal where the character is headed to and where the audience’s eye is being drawn.

Palettes contain many colours – but there are dominant colours.


This is a movie barcode for the film Bambi. (They) take every frame from a movie, skew it to be only a pixel wide and lines them up in a row, creating a barcode-like image of the entire film. [1]

How well does the black and white skunk stand out when Bambi first meets him in the predominantly yellow flowerbed? Or Bambi’s bright orangey hue against the pale greens of the forest behind him? All these things are planned out to the most minute detail to make sure that the viewer can clearly see what is happening on screen.

They make the point that characters have to stand out from their backgrounds so that the audience can see whats going on easily and follow the story without problems.




Finding Nemo



These barcodes are fascinating, and can give us some idea of colour – but studying the colour palettes of movies, like the ones below, may give more insight…


Movie Colour Palettes:

Spirited Away – Studio Ghibli (Japanese animation) This animation has a pretty equal range of darker to lighter colours. It has a red/blue colour palette.


A scene from Monsters inc (Orange and teal/turquoise/green are the main colours here – the characters stand out against the orange background.


Ponyo – Another Studio ghibli movie. seems to be a very light film – not as much contrast. The reddy/pink against the greeny/blue is the main colour palette.


UP – Pixar

There are a lot of resources online at for movie production art, etc. here’s is some colour stuff from the movie Up.


I could lose myself forever looking at this stuff, here’s a couple more images from movies, colour references for artists that are made before they begin making the film..



How to train your dragon:

color httud.jpg


Mary Blair – worked on Alice in wonderland, Sleeping beauty – she was an original disney background artist and produced some amazing work in the films and the theme park (disneyland).


Animator Marc Davis, who put Blair’s exciting use of color on a par with Henri Matisse, recalled, “She brought modern art to Walt in a way that no one else did. He was so excited about her work.” [2]


She knew how to use colour and space to the maximum effect when creating art.

“Mary Blair was a fine art water colorist. She had this real classical background to her work so that when she did the fantasy she had a sophistication to her work that belied the naiveté of the work itself. Her work is often called ‘childlike’ but the technique behind it is anything but,”  said Canemaker. [3]

John Canemaker was professor and head of animation at New York University Tisch School of the Arts and was the author of ‘The Art and Flair of Mary Blair.’

He also talks about the fact that Mary was a concept artist, her job was to make what the writers came up with into something real. To create the visual world for the story, the characters, world, backgrounds, colours, everything!

i’m sure she did’nt work alone but her influence is clear in the films she worked on.

The director of Monsters inc says that before every time they start a project they look at Mary Blair stuff to inspire them.

They look at her for ideas for color, shape, designs, and imaginative possibilities. She’s still a big influence on children’s book illustrators. Many of them admire her so much and they still consider her an inspiration. She’s, in fact, almost bigger than she ever was when she was alive.” [3]


Google did a search bar to commemorate Mary and her work, so millions of people around the world would have seen that.

She was also a children’s illustrator and even though you might not realise it, she probably worked on something you grew up watching or reading, and something you loved. She is a familiar style, even if you didn’t know it!






Eyvind Earle – Eyvind Earle was an American artist, author and illustrator, noted for his contribution to the background illustration and styling of Disney animated films in the 1950s.

He has a really iconic style as well, and produced some incredible landscapes during his lifetime. His work can reach such a grand scale and can seem so huge – and his use of space is obviously great.



Self-narrated biographical videos, from childhood to disney work and beyond – featuring his artwork (in three parts):

I believe it is our cosmic destiny that we are miniature suns. We follow in the footsteps of god. We are creators, art is creating. So much does the beauty and truth in our work manifest. Art is the search for truth. Art is another word for life and life is infinite.

Website –


‘The Renter’ – John Carpenter (website:

The colour used in this film is really interesting – it’s dark and the film is a bit disturbing and moody – it sets a feeling throughout the film. The child is afraid, i think, and sees everything going wrong even when it isn’t, although to be fair they probably witnessed their first chicken murder so its not surprising they were a little affected by it. Being in a weird new place with strange untalkative people wouldn’t help either.

The opening shot of this film is beautiful. We are a passenger in a car, looking out the window. We see trees pass by and what might be a lorry – the art style hints at shapes and as the car is moving fast the objects outside are already blurry and more formless. The clouds and reflections of light work really well and the scene draws us into the animation.

So this animation has a muted colour palette and also a messy unfinished style. At one point the cloud has been drawn in full and you see it through the wall – it’s over the top of the inside wall somehow – defying physics – but still working and looking great!! I noticed it and yet it never affected my enjoyment of the video.

Lots of darkness in this film, and black is used throughout.

Matthew Walker – ‘John and Karen’

A short animation about a polar bear apologising to his penguin love interest. It has a muted colour palette. Its a good animation to look at when thinking about my ideas for the internal monologue animation – with a range of emotional responses, some very subtle and brilliant. The penguin will not let the polar bear apologie easily – he must go into it and explain things until she is satisfied he is actually sorry/remorseful.

I’m a monster – red/blue and orange/green are used in this animation. the orange monster standing out against the blue/green backgrounds. The shadows are blue and the light is orange.

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