Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Business of Animation Logo

The Enormous Impact Of Animation Color Choices On Viewers

ben marvazi 2020

Make More Money as an Animator

Check out our FREE TRAINING on How Animators Can Make Over $10,000 Per Month

The Power of Your Animation Color Choices

Animation color is much more than an aesthetic choice in the realm of animation; it is a potent tool that animators wield to breathe life into their creations, convey emotions, and communicate deeper meanings

The colors chosen for characters, environments, and even the slightest background details play a crucial role in shaping the viewer's experience and emotional response.

an animated paintbrush and palette

Image by Freepik via Flaticon

In this blog post, we delve into the enormous impact of animation color choices on viewers, exploring how these decisions can alter perceptions, evoke feelings, and enhance the storytelling process. 

Understanding Color Theory in Animation

At its core, color theory is a fundamental set of guidelines that artists and designers use to communicate with viewers through the use of color. 

In animation, understanding color theory is essential for creating visually appealing scenes that support the narrative and emotional tone of the story.

Basics of Color Theory

The color wheel, consisting of primary (red, blue, yellow), secondary (green, orange, violet), and tertiary colors (mixes of primary and secondary colors), serves as the foundation for color theory. 

Animation color palettes can be combined in various ways to create color harmonies, which are pleasing to the eye and evoke specific moods or feelings.

a spinning color wheel

GIF by Brite Lite Tribe via GIPHY

Color Harmony

Color harmony in animation ensures that the colors used within a scene or character design are aesthetically pleasing and coherent. 

There are several types of animation color harmony choices, such as complementary (colors opposite each other on the color wheel), analogous (colors next to each other on the color wheel), and triadic (three colors evenly spaced around the color wheel).

Each harmony serves a different purpose and can help set the mood of the animation.

Animation Color Psychology

Color psychology plays a pivotal role in animation by influencing how viewers interpret and feel about what they are seeing. 

How To Start An Animation Studio - Businesss of Animation

Business Mastery for Any Animator

For animators at any level, learn the essentials of turning your passion into a profitable career.


Animation color can evoke certain emotions—red can signify passion or danger, blue can induce calmness or sadness, and yellow can represent happiness or anxiety. 

Understanding the psychological effects of colors allows animators to make informed choices that enhance the storytelling and connect with the audience on a deeper level.

The right animation color choices can transform a scene, enriching the narrative and captivating viewers, drawing them deeper into the animated world.

Color Choices and Their Psychological Impact

a head with different animation color ideas in the brain area

GIF by Trazoz via GIPHY

The psychological impact of animation color choices in animation cannot be overstated. Colors have the power to instantly set a mood, communicate a message, and influence the viewer's emotions and perceptions. 

Understanding this impact is crucial for animators aiming to evoke specific feelings or themes through their work.

Warm Colors

Warm colors, which include red, orange, and yellow, are often associated with energy, passion, and happiness. However, they can also signal danger, caution, or aggression, depending on their context within the animation. 

Using warm animation color can draw attention to important elements, create a sense of warmth and comfort, or heighten emotions in scenes depicting tension or excitement.

waves of warm colors

GIF by Orla in Berlin via GIPHY

  • Red often signifies love, passion, or danger. It's a powerful color that can dominate a scene and create a strong emotional response.
  • Orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow, often used to portray enthusiasm and excitement.
  • Yellow, the brightest color perceived by the human eye, symbolizes happiness and optimism but can also evoke feelings of caution or anxiety in more saturated hues.
Cool Colors

Cool animation color choices, such as blue, green, and purple, are typically associated with calmness, stability, and tranquility. They can also evoke feelings of sadness or aloofness when used in certain shades

Animators use cool colors to create a sense of peace, convey sadness, or establish a backdrop of trust and reliability.

  • Blue is often associated with calmness, sadness, or serenity. It's versatile, being able to convey reliability and trustworthiness or a deep melancholy.
  • Green symbolizes nature, growth, and harmony but can also indicate jealousy or inexperience. It's used to create a balanced, refreshing environment.
  • Purple combines the stability of blue and the energy of red, often associated with royalty, wisdom, or creativity. It can also signify mystery or magic.
vertical blue color waves


“Neutral” Colors

Neutral animation color choices, including black, white, gray, and brown, serve as the backbone for many color schemes in animation. 

They can ground an animation, providing a base for brighter colors to pop or conveying a range of emotions from the simplicity and purity of white to the mystery or sophistication of black.

  • Black can represent power, elegance, or evil, often used to create contrast or depth.
  • White symbolizes purity, innocence, or emptiness, offering a clean background that allows other colors to stand out.
  • Gray is the middle ground, representing neutrality or indecision. It can add sophistication or dampen emotional impact.
  • Brown evokes a sense of stability and earthiness, useful for creating a warm, comforting environment or depicting nature.

By thoughtfully incorporating warm, cool, and neutral colors, animators can dramatically influence the viewer's emotional journey through the animation. 

a crying green lizard

GIF by lizardparty via GIPHY

The strategic use of animation color enhances the storytelling, making each scene more memorable and impactful.

Practical Tips for Animators

Making strategic animation color choices is essential for animators seeking to convey the right mood, theme, and emotion in their work. 

Here are some practical tips to help animators select and use animation color more effectively in their projects.

Selecting Your Palette
  • Start with a Mood Board: Before diving into animation, create a mood board that captures the emotion and theme of your story. Include images, color schemes, and elements that inspire the mood you wish to convey. This will serve as a visual guide for your animation color choices.
  • Use Color Scripts: An animation color script is a sequence of small panels, similar to a storyboard, that outlines the animation’s color progression from start to finish. It helps in visualizing how the color palette changes with the story, ensuring consistency and coherence throughout your animation.

Consistency and Contrast

a contrast circle spinning

Image by Freepik via Flaticon

  • Maintain Color Consistency: Ensure that your color choices remain consistent throughout the animation to maintain a cohesive look and feel. Consistency helps in reinforcing the animation’s theme and mood.
  • Utilize Contrast: Use contrast to draw attention to key elements or characters in your animation. A high contrast between the subject and background can make the former stand out, while low contrast can be used for more harmonious scenes.
Tools and Resources
  • Leverage Digital Tools: Take advantage of digital tools and software that offer comprehensive color palettes and allow for easy experimentation with color schemes. Adobe Color, Coolors, and Paletton are great resources for exploring different color combinations.
  • Study Color Theory: Continually educate yourself on color theory. Understanding the emotional and psychological effects of colors can significantly enhance your ability to use color effectively in storytelling.
  • Experiment with Lighting: Lighting can dramatically affect how colors are perceived in animation. Experiment with different lighting conditions to see how they change the mood and appearance of your colors.

The Transformative Power of Animation Color

The strategic use of color in animation is not just about aesthetic appeal; it's a vital narrative and emotional tool that can significantly impact viewer engagement and perception. 

The enormous impact of animation color choices on viewers underscores the importance of being deliberate and informed when selecting color palettes for animation projects.

Bart Simpson saying "at leas I got to see some cool colors"


Remember, the goal is not just to make animations that are visually stunning but to use color as a tool to tell more compelling, emotionally resonant stories. 

Whether you're an experienced animator refining your craft or a newcomer eager to explore the nuances of color in animation, the journey toward mastering animation color is an ongoing process of learning, experimenting, and discovering.

If you’re an animator who’s looking to start your own studio or grow your career, check out our blog on How to Start an Animation Studio and GET FREE TRAINING to kickstart your animation career today.

rocket for boa

Lacking Business Skills as an Animator?

Transform your animation skills into a profitable business with our expert-led free training.
Business of Animation Footer Logo
Helping Animators Succeed

Feeling Stuck in Your Animation Career? Learn How to Break the $10,000 Per Month Barrier!

crossmenuchevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram