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How Animators Use Color in Animation to Influence Viewers

“Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet.”

Paul Klee

Color has the potential to hold your attention, calm you down, annoy you, or send an impactful message to viewers. Color plays an essential role in everyone’s lives as it is culturally significant and it has the potential to influence our decisions. 

Color in animation is an important visual device to consider when creating your animations.

This is because of the potential emotional effect it might have on your viewers. 

Not only that, but the color in animation can be used to convey the meaning you want through your animations more effectively. However, one of the greatest potential upsides to carefully considering what colors to use in your animation is the marketing potential. 

The right color combination in an animation marketing campaign can make a business or product succeed or fail. Color has an incredible psychological effect on viewers, and this can be used to your advantage to more effectively market your skills and services. 

Color is an essential part of any advertising campaign, especially in animation, as it conveys the right mood and allows potential animation clients to associate those emotions with your animation services. 

Color in animation can also be used to demonstrate the level of your skill to potential animation clients or employers. For this reason, it’s important to consider the colors you use in your animations carefully, as they can either make or break your projects. 

In this blog, we explain how you can use color in animation to influence your viewers to market your skills and animation services or advertise your animation clients’ products more effectively.

How Animators Use Color in Animation

color in animation can be seen in how animators design characters

GIF by Disney Pixar via Giphy

Typically, animators use color in animation in the form of color script definition to map out the color, mood, atmosphere, and lighting of an animated film or project. Using color script definition, animators can create a quick, working document that establishes which color schemes relate to specific emotional touch points of a story. 

Color in animation is also used to keep an animation project consistent throughout by ensuring consistency between the brightness of colors, color hues, lighting, and the textures of different objects. Color in animation can also be used to make your animated videos stand out.

The color and lighting in animated films are usually chosen very carefully by animators to portray a specific mood or emotion. The colors are also used to communicate the story or message of an animation. Animators and artists follow conventional techniques with color choices to create a greater emotional response in the viewer.

The lighting and color in a scene or image can have a profound psychological effect on the viewer. There are standard practices and conventions used by animators to influence a viewer's emotions. For example, only using blue light in your animation might make the viewer feel sad.

The lighting choices made in an animation become a mode of communication to deliver the animator’s message to the audience. And this goes beyond just the plot. The subtleties of emotion and mood are also conveyed by the choices that an animator makes when producing an animation.

Good color design is not only an artistic choice, but it also serves the narrative since it helps immerse viewers in the setting of the world created within your animations. Both art theory and human psychology show evidence that lighting and color have a large impact on the viewer's perception.

Animators generally have a good understanding of color theory and how to use color in their animations to convey a specific meaning or idea. However, it’s also important to keep the psychology of color in mind when animating, and this can help you take your animations to the next level. 

The Psychology of Color

color psychology in animation can elicit emotions from viewers

GIF by Feliks Tomasz Konczakowski via Giphy

Color psychology is the study of how colors affect perceptions and behaviors. In marketing and branding, color psychology is focused on how colors impact consumers’ impressions of a brand and whether or not they persuade consumers to consider specific brands or make a purchase.

When looking at statistics, it’s clear that color has an immense impact on consumerism. For example, 85 percent of consumers cite color as the primary reason for choosing which products to buy. 

It is also shown that 90 percent of product impulse decisions are based solely on the products’ colors. According to color psychology researchers, 42 percent of consumers form their opinions of websites based on the sites’ designs, with color contributing more to their opinions than any other factor. 

Additionally, 52 percent of the time, poor color choices and other inferior design choices send users off a website, never to return. 

Color psychology can be seen everywhere, and it involves the mental and psychological effects that the use of particular colors has on viewers. These psychological effects are most common when looking at the two main categories of colors: warm colors and cool colors. 

the red color in animation eliciting emotions of anger in lion king

Image by Bilge Ebiri via Vulture

While cool colors tend to induce a sense of calm and peacefulness, warm colors do the opposite. Warm colors tend to arouse and stimulate viewers, and that’s why it’s a prominent color in advertising because it captures viewers’ attention more easily. 

The color red, for example, has been shown to trigger increased heart rate and a subsequent increase in adrenaline in many people. Interior decorators generally won’t recommend a bright red for bedrooms, instead opting for blues and greens, which are more often associated with calmness.

When deciding which color combinations to use, it’s important to remember that nature always has a balance of cool and warm. A lack of warmth in your animations will make a piece seem lifeless. 

Warm colors and cool colors can be used advantageously to mimic a specific feeling in your animations. For example, if your characters are in a stressful situation like a high-speed chase, using warmer, brighter colors could create a sense of angst and urgency in viewers.

warmer green colors in animation can evoke a feeling of bravery and strength

Image via Empire

On the other hand, majestic shots of magical landscapes would call for more relaxed tones of blue and green to create a sense of wonder. Too much warmth might also appear harsh or jarring. 

A well-chosen color palette will include warm and cool blues, yellows, and reds. The potential for color mixing, while not as great as nature’s, gives animators many expressive possibilities.

It’s important to note that you can’t always rely solely on colors to instill a particular psychological effect because of the different cultural meanings of colors worldwide and people’s personal experiences with colors.

However, color should still be considered an important tool to create a specific psychological effect and create an impact on the context of your animations. 

Color in Animation and Its Effect on Viewers

color in animation can inspire your audience to take action

GIF via Giphy

Whether it’s a certain aesthetic choice made when coloring or the wardrobe and objects with which the frame is filled, color can manipulate the emotions of an audience on many different conscience and subconscious levels.

Colors can mean many different things and be used in many different ways. Finding an appealing and unique way to stir up feelings within your audience through the use of color is the real challenge. Colors can influence buyers, and each color has its list of associations that you can take advantage of in your marketing and advertising materials.

Different colors portray different moods and thus can be used to engineer the atmosphere and feeling of your animations carefully. Depending on what you share with your viewers, some colors will suit your animation project. 

For example, a lot of yellow imagery can appear warm and optimistic, but the use of grey tones feels calm and sleek. This could even relate to the shades or tones of the colors you’ve chosen. 

Color in animation can help you highlight a specific aspect of your animation that viewers need to pay more attention to. This can be done by using black and white with a pop of color that highlights an important object or moment. It helps your viewers’ brains hone in on what is most important.

Jeremy Birn is an animator at Pixar Animation Studios, and he wrote about the importance of lighting and color in his book “Digital Lighting and Rendering.” Color choices are used to elicit specific emotions from the viewer. 

These associations between color and emotions often take place at a subconscious level. By carefully selecting colors, animators can cause a greater impact on their viewers. For example, red is a color that causes alarm or apprehension. Yellow evokes happy emotions and gives the audience the expectation that the story will take an optimistic turn. 

In general, warmer colors capture viewers’ attention more effectively than cooler colors, so they appear so often in advertisements. A warm color palette brings excitement and energy to the picture.

In contrast, cool colors let the viewer feel more relaxed. Outdoor scenes involving nature are dominated by cool colors and are thereby suitable for neutral backgrounds. Blue will convey sadness or coldness. Green is unique because it is the quintessential color of nature, yet green light can also make a place look eerie or portray illness.

While there are established conventions for using color, they also must be used carefully with their impact in mind. For example, giving the villain in a story red eyes is an instant visual cue that the character is terrible, yet it is a cliched technique that could upset the viewer. 

Using color in lighting is a powerful tool, but it should not limit creative expression for the story.

How to Use Color in Animation for Marketing

color in animation for marketing

GIF by Andrey Smirny via Giphy

It’s important to understand that, in animation and video marketing, color acts as a medium of communication. When making your animation marketing framework, it’s important to keep color in mind as this has a considerable effect on how viewers and potential animation clients perceive your brand.

Color is an essential element in any business ad campaign, especially for animators. It plays a significant role in generating sales as it can influence consumer feelings and thoughts about the animation services you are promoting in your ads. Consumers first draw on color before words and messages.

Therefore, the impact of color selections on the mood of viewers and the associations that are subconsciously made by certain color combinations can greatly affect the image your animation is projecting.

This is also important to keep in mind when creating animations for animation clients that need you to create an animation that is in line with their brand and the image that the brand is projecting.

Our brains use colors to recognize traits about products and the brands that produce them. The associations our brains make with specific colors are key to bridging the gap between marketing materials and their target audiences. 

There are commonly used colors in advertising that are used repeatedly. These are the colors that animation clients tend to connect with their needs and expectations from animators in the animation industry.

color in animation marketing can be impactful to the audience

Image via Edublogs

Color in animation is also an important visual element and can be particularly impactful and memorable when used with intention. Matching color palettes is therefore crucial. 

As we’ve discussed before, it’s essential to choose the correct color combinations for your animation ads. This choice should be part aesthetic, part testing, and part science. Colors speak a language words just can’t replicate. They communicate with us emotionally and are thus more effective at persuasion.

It’s one thing to know that colors are important in marketing and advertising, but the real challenge lies in harnessing color psychology to speak to your animation clients. Color psychology isn’t just about evoking specific emotions. It’s about using colors to meet your clients’ expectations for products and brands.

Color blocking the scenes in your animations is another way to pack a visual punch. This effect can be seen in the film “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” as the color schema changes throughout the story arcs of the film. Another example is Disney’s “Up,” which uses color, lighting, and hue to indicate the passing of time.

The context you’re working within is an essential consideration. The feeling, mood, and image that your brand or product creates matters. It’s important to choose the right color by asking yourself if the color matches your animation or your animation client’s brand.

The right color will usually compliment the overall atmosphere or feeling in your animation.

It’s also important to make sure your animation or your animation clients’ services stand out above the rest by using a unique color scheme.

To effectively develop this color scheme, look to nature to see what colors mean and how they appear in nature. In animation, it’s best to use colors according to nature’s rules. People make purchasing decisions based on what they expect from the colors they see and whether they feel the colors are doing what they are supposed to do. 

the cold colors in animation can make the audience feel what the characters feel

Image by CinemaPalettes via No Film School

Our associations with color can even vary depending on our cultural backgrounds and personal backgrounds, and individual tastes. But there are generalizations we can make based on the science of color psychology. This can be combined with target audience research to get a deeper insight into what your animation clients prefer.

When choosing your color scheme, always keep your animation clients’ cultural backgrounds in mind. Many colors have specific associations in some cultures that are different in others. For example, the color yellow.  In Germany, you go yellow with envy, not green. 

Using a color scheme that doesn’t fit your animation clients’ expectations for your animation business can doom it before it reaches the market. This is especially true with freelancing since you can have clients from all over the world. Make sure you discuss the color scheme with your animation clients to make sure they agree to it. 

To know whether or not you’re making the right design decisions regarding color in animation, testing is the best route. Try running multiple iterations of an A/B or split test to determine which color scheme is most effective. 

Once you’ve tested your desired color scheme, you can confidently implement your color choices for each element of your animation. This includes everything from calls to action to backgrounds to text.

How to Influence Viewers With Color in Animation

While the color in animation can be used to create beautiful and vibrant animations than convey a lot of emotion and depth, it can also be used to create effective marketing campaigns. By effectively using color in animation, you can influence viewers' emotions and affect how they feel about your animations.

This is valuable when creating marketing campaigns for yourself for your animation business or your animation clients.

If you’re looking to grow your animation skills, check out our free masterclass, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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