Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Designing a Character: Color/Schemes

Individual colors each have their own subjective emotional impact, but start putting them together and you can create dramatic, sympathetic, or powerful structures.  Assign your characters colors and then play with combining them into scenes to create discord, harmony, mystery, or chaos.   

Monochromatic – This is when you take a single color and add either black or white to it.  Think of it as the shadings of your character.  Your protagonist might start out their journey as a primary blue until the obstacles they face darken them into a more mysterious midnight shade.  On the other hand, a character may lose burdens and lighten into a powder or sky blue, moving closer to the white end of the spectrum.

Triads – Play colors like chords on the piano, three notes of different hues.  The color triad of red, yellow, and orange stimulates appetite.  Think about the color scheme of many fast food restaurants.  These three colors are also high value, suggesting energy and vitality.  I imagine three teen friends on an adventure when I think of this triad. (Probably all boys, stopping to eat often at fast food restaurants)

The triad black, white, and red radiates power, and may suggest villainy.  Picture the flag of Hitler’s Third Reich.  

Complimentary – Colors in opposite positions on the color wheel work against each other in dynamic harmony, red/green, orange/ blue, yellow/purple.  Complimentary schemes may signal conflict between characters.  Picture a romantic entanglement where opposites attract and join for an exciting relationship.

Analogous – Any neighboring colors on the color wheel – ex: purple/magenta/red or blue/turquoise/green.  You feel them fading in to one another and getting along.  An analogous scheme may signify the calm family life of a character before their quest/problem throws their life into turmoil.  At journey’s end analogous colors reflect the happy well-balanced land to which a hero returns in triumph after slaying literal or figurative dragons. 


  1. What a cool idea! As I read this, I was assigning colors to my characters. Yep, all these colors worked perfectly.

  2. It's fun, trippy, and sometimes very revealing to investigate character dynamics with color. Have fun.

  3. Another awesome way to look at things. Nice! Now I want to read about a love triangle with a villain in a fast food restaurant for some reason...

  4. Great post! Colours are so important to so many people (me included). I think a colour palette does indeed tell us so much about the person. :)

    I adore the title of your blog - I'm a teacher too, and it cracked me up!

  5. I've never thought of this way of looking at characters and will have to keep it in mind. I like thinking in terms of colors in regard to describing things like furniture or skies. I sometimes will refer to a color chart to get the name of the right shade I what to use.
    For characters I usually only think about eye color or what color clothes they're wearing.
    You've given me something to think about.

    Tossing It Out

  6. Hello! Am over here from Stina's blog. What a great way to think about characters. Thanks for this! (And I love your blog name as well - oh so many times I heard a teacher say that in class!)

  7. Heya Arlee and Jayne. Welcome. I just found a whole new color interpretation chart that has to do with what we dream. It was really trippy. I'll have to blog about that soon.