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How to Make a Colour Script for Animation Projects

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Read Time: 6 mins
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

A color script is a sequential visual outline of how you want to map out the color, lighting and emotional beats in an animation or film. This process can be very experimental and is incredible helpful in keeping the look and feel consistent throughout. Color scripts are also used to convey certain moods in specific parts of a story, or help define how particular colors are linked to certain characters.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to create a color script and how it can help your film or animation. We will be using Adobe Photoshop for the majority of this tutorial, however these skills are transferable to other image editing programs as well.

What You'll Learn in This Tutorial

Adobe Photoshop has many different tools that will allow us to create a color script quickly and easily. In this tutorial we'll show you how to create a color script in order to provide a road map of color and how it can help your film or animation. You'll learn:

  • What a color script is and why they are important
  • How to use color to convey certain moods and emotions in order to support the story
  • How a color script effects the overall tone and feel of a animation
  • How to quickly apply color to your moodboard

What You'll Need

For this tutorial you will need your own storyboard or some images to create one. For the purposes of this tutorial we will be using some images from Envato Elements:

image exampleimage exampleimage example

A Color Script Helps Visualize the Story

Color is an amazing tool for storytelling. It can be used to express different emotions, clarify motivation and help your audience understand the meanings behind certain scenes. It can be used as a visual map, helping you as the creator to visualise the entire story.

Due to it's experimental nature, it can also help you evolve your ideas and help you try out different approaches to your storytelling during development. 

And finally a color script also helps maintain a consistent appearance to your animation or film, by keeping each frame similar in look and feel.

color scriptcolor scriptcolor script

The Meaning Behind Colors

Before we begin creating a color script, let's take a look at the different meanings behind certain colors and how they relate to specific emotions and moods. This will help you what colors to choose depending on what you want to communicate to your audience. It is important to note that colors have different meanings and significance in the different cultures, religions and artistic traditions of the world, so don't just take our word for it; you'll need to decide how to use color in each new project.

For the purpose of this tutorial we'll be concentrating on western color symbolism, though again, this has changed really greatly over time and from place to place. There is a huge diversity of opinion, in time and space, about the meaning of color.

It's also possible to create a unique aesthetic and color style for your project, where your story has it's own, internal integrity and consistency about color meaning. Here's what color means in our example color script:

color meaningscolor meaningscolor meanings

Example: Warm Colors

The use of warm colors such as red, yellow and orange can often be associated with the feeling of comfort, joy, extravagance and romance. Red for power, passion, danger and aggression. Brighter warm colors such as yellow, orange, and pink represent happiness, optimism and hope.

warm colorswarm colorswarm colors

Example: Cool Colors

The use of cold colors such as blue, green, violet or grey can be associated with feelings of loneliness, sadness, mystery, or peacefulness.

cold colorscold colorscold colors

Define Your Own Associations

Keep going, thinking about all the emotions and colors in your story. What about the emotions in your script? Imagine the colors connected to them, and wrtie those down. Look at the colours in your artwork, what emotions or associations do you feel are connected to the visual story? Write them down.

If you want to learn a bit more about color associating, How to Apply Colour Theory in Photo Compositions is a quick read with picture examples.

How to Prepare the Color Script

Step 1

Using Adobe Photoshop or your image editor of choice, lay out all your frames into one document.

lay out all the imageslay out all the imageslay out all the images

Step 2

Convert all your images to black and white. In Adobe Photoshop, using Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (Control + U) lower the saturation to zero to create a greyscale image.

make the illustrations greyscalemake the illustrations greyscalemake the illustrations greyscale

Step 3

Increase the contrast or your images by adding areas of darkness and light using the Brush Tool (B), an adjustment layer, or the adjustment settings.

increase the contrast of the imagesincrease the contrast of the imagesincrease the contrast of the images

Add Color to the Frames

Step 1

Now that we have prepared our frames it's time to add the color back in. First decide what emotions or associations you would like to convey for the specific scene and refer back to the section where we discussed The Meaning Behind Colors. With this in mind, choose the most suitable color that relates to the emotion you wish to convey. 

color meaningscolor meaningscolor meanings

Step 2

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, or use the Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (Control + U) adjustment. Activate the Colorize option which is usually located in the bottom right corner. 

select colorizeselect colorizeselect colorize

Step 3

Use the Hue and Saturation slider to find the color that you want to use for the frame.

use the hue slideruse the hue slideruse the hue slider

Step 4

If you find that the frame is a little bit too monochromatic, add a mask on your adjustment layer and use the Brush Tool (B) to paint some extra colors back into the frame. You can experiment with the opacity settings for the Brush Tool to carefully bring back some color information into the frame. 

paint color back inpaint color back inpaint color back in

Step 5

Repeat the steps for the other frames to create your color script.

final color scriptfinal color scriptfinal color script

Awesome! You're Finished!

Congratulations! And that's how to create a color script to help visualise your film or animation. Remember that a color script is a working document that is meant to set the visual tone, and it will change and become more nuanced throughout the development process as you experiment with different colors and try out different approaches to help your storytelling. I hope you've found this tutorial useful and I'll see you next time, on Envato Tuts+!

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