Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Designing a Character: Color/Hue

Of all the elements of design, color has the greatest psychological impact.  It is also the most subjective.  How many times in your life has the answer to the question, “What’s your favorite color?” changed?

Generally speaking warm/high value hues, yellow, orange, and red, energize us, while cool/lower value hues, blue, green, purple calm us.  There are commonly accepted perceptions to specific hues.

Let’s take a quick peek at some associations with primary colors:
Red: violence, lust, hatred, blood, love, passion
Yellow: youth, health, vitality, action, happiness
Blue: truth, loyalty, sincerity, peace, calm

Go to the secondary hues and you’ve added a layer of complexity, after all it takes blue and yellow to make green.  Go down to the tertiary hues and we have a full palette of possibilities as we mix a primary and a secondary.  Yellow-greens will not have the same emotional impact as a nice kelly or forest green.  Suddenly a bright vibrant yellow becomes sickly when infested with touches of green.

What qualities of color do your characters project?  What hue associations tie in to what drives them through the story?  Are they a primary color, pure in nature or something as complex as a blackened magenta?  Does your character blend cohesively with their setting and other characters, or are they a living mismatched outfit worn out in public, like Professor Trelawney in Harry Potter?  Try mixing some bold, unexpected color combinations to define your character.

One last thought.  When naming colors in your writing, remember the paint chips at the hardware store.  It’s a great place to research interesting color names.  Blues run the gamut from sapphire to midnight, reds dance from crimson to cherry, and even browns span root beer to toast.     

I give you permission to buy the BIG box of crayons and explore. 


  1. Thanks Julie. Loved your latest as well!

  2. Very nice! I am right in the middle of picking colors to paint the downstairs. As a matter of fact, right now I am looking at paint chips, and my favorites are Sandcastle and Brichwood! Hmmmmm.....I loved building sandcastles as a kid, and still do, and I have 5 birch tress on my property. Hmmmm?????? Coincidence? I think not!

  3. Typo up there! "Birchwood."

  4. Glad I could be timely for you alohaselawela, Now I have to go to Home Depot and see what Birchwood and Sandcastle look like.

  5. Great as usual. As you know in my last manuscript, I needed to use this to reflect certain characters. I'm being cryptic I know, I just get weird about saying certain things online. :D