What are some sim­ple rules of colour dic­tat­ing mood, and how can I ap­ply them to my en­vi­ron­ments?

Ron McCoist, Australia

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Your Questions Answered... - Paul replies

Colour the­ory is one of those top­ics that seems daunt­ing at first. Yet if you want to cre­ate pow­er­ful images, it’s use­ful to at least have a ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of how colour works and how we per­ceive it. The pal­ette you choose to use in a scene tells the viewer a lot about the story you’re telling, from the over­all mood to the way the world you’re designing ac­tu­ally func­tions.

There are sev­eral com­mon colour schemes and they’re all sim­ple to learn. In fact, I usu­ally only use three vari­a­tions. Com­ple­men­tary colour palettes use two colours that are op­po­site each other on the colour wheel; of­ten the com­ple­men­tary colours are warm and cold, which makes them ideal for high­light­ing char­ac­ters or places of in­ter­est. Monochro­matic palettes just use one key colour; they’re per­fect for moody en­vi­ron­ments be­cause peo­ple im­me­di­ately un­der­stand that a blue en­vi­ron­ment is cold and a red one is hot. Fi­nally, anal­o­gous colour schemes in­volve a key colour and two colours touch­ing it on the colour wheel. This scheme gives a sim­i­lar ef­fect to the monochro­matic pal­ette with a lit­tle more vari­a­tion.

For my an­swer here I’ll start by paint­ing an en­vi­ron­ment us­ing a sim­ple com­ple­men­tary pal­ette. I’m us­ing blue and or­ange (cold and warm), one of the most com­mon schemes, to cre­ate an in­ter­est­ing set­ting with no spe­cific mood. From here I can start mak­ing ad­just­ments to see what other sto­ries can be told.

This en­vi­ron­ment looks in­ter­est­ing to ex­plore, but isn’t telling us a spe­cific story. We can change this by us­ing a stronger pal­ette. Solid val­ues are im­por­tant for colour bal­anc­ing: you want a broad range of tones, but try not to go to full black or white.

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