How To Choose A Color Scheme For Your Film


With DaVinci Resolve being free, and a ton of color grading tools available out there, the question now is not “what can I do with my footage”, but rather “what do I want to do with the footage?”.

With all the available advanced controls, like hue vs. hue, hue vs. sat, 3D tracking and keying, We can virtually reproduce any look we want.

But How To Decide On The Right Look?

The question here is, is there a “right” and a “wrong” look?

Well… yes and no.

Different colors affect your audience’s moods in different ways.

For example, if your trying to grade a horror film, and the events take place at night. Even though, from a technical perspective, you can totally make your footage bright and yellow, it will confuse your audience. Because based on the location and events, it makes more sense to grade your scenes dark and blue. It makes the film easier to understand by your audience.

So we have established now, that there are some main rules. Like bright and colorful for comedies, and dark and blue for horror. But even inside the same genre you have a wide variety of coloring options.
If you examine the color scheme of five action movies, you will notice that even though all the movies belong to the same genre their color schemes are totally different. The same can be said also about other genres including horror and comedy.

So how do you decide?

This is what makes color grading an art not a science. Even though there are some general rules, still, your interpretation of the colors you should add to every piece of footage is different, based on the location, the mood, and the message the director wants to send.

So I guess the first advice I can give you, is to gather lots of samples (in the form of screenshots) from as many movies and genres as you can. That way, when you need to decide what color scheme to use in your footage, the first step will be looking at  the different samples and references you gathered.

This does not mean that you have to choose one sample for your entire film. You can choose different samples so that all the exterior day shots Will be matched to a certain color pallet, and all the interior dark shots will be matched to a different one.

Gathering this database is one of the most important assets of any filmmaker. And it must be personal, so you have to gather it yourself from a lot of different movies, in order for the colors to match your own personal style, otherwise we would all be coloring the same way, and we would lose the art of color grading.

Because based on this database, you will be treating all blue shots in a certain way, which means that you will always be using a certain hue of blue in your grade. So you will start to develop your own personal style where it will be known for filmmakers that you usually prefer these colors to grade.

Having your own personal style is one of the biggest achievements you will have as a filmmaker.