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