Colour is an important aspect of character design. It can assist in reflecting the characters personality and also convey their emotions. This is linked to colour psychology, which is ‘a popular area of color theory that assigns emotional and psychological connotations between colors and emotions. Many of these meanings are universal because they have an effect on the brain but some are only cultural’ (London Image Institute, 2020). The same colour can have multiple connotations, being used to portray different emotions on different character designs. An example of a colour with more that one connotation is red. It may be used on villains, where the audience would perceive it as an angry colour, which is demonstrated on Captain Hook from Peter Pan (fig 1). Red could also be perceived as a bold and powerful colour in its use with the heroic character of Mr. Incredible (fig 2). Alternatively, red can also be seen as a passionate, sexual colour, as seen in its usage with the character of Betty Boop (fig 3).
Anime character design is characterised by their use of different colours. They are usually adapted from predominantly black and white manga, where the only way they differentiate between different colours is by using different textures and patterns. This has resulted in anime character designs being well know for their liberal use of colours. This can be seen in the variety of hair colours, which more often use extravagant and unnatural colours (fig 4). This can be to convey different personalities and to help distinguish between the characters. Eye colours can also show an ‘outstanding amount of emotions. Eccentric eye colors (pink, violet, apple green) are common in characters with superpowers or who aren’t entirely human.’ (Juliao, n.d).
For my character design, the use of colour is going to be fundamental. The colour combination for my final design must be harmonious and pleasant to look at. I chose a very simplistic, almost monogamous palette, but also incorporated more basic black and white shades into the design (see fig 5). I have always preferred using a simplistic colour selection in my artwork because I feel that utilising too many colours can look too complicated. I am inspired by the Illustrator, Dick Bruna, who, ‘used only a limited range of colours in his books’ (miffy.com, n.d.). Fig 6 is from one of Bruna’s books in which only five colours are used. I feel that this use of simplicity makes his work instantly recognisable, almost creating a signature aesthetic. It has also been said that the ‘best animation studios usually try to limit the colors down to three or four to keep it simple and effective’ (Dreamfarmstudios, n.d.).
After doing more research and learning more about different colour palettes and how they work, I decided to experiment on my character design using different colour palettes in an attempt to find one that would look the most appealing.
Firstly, I tried a monochromatic palette. I used one main colour, in this case purple, and then used differing tones of it. It still looks similar to my original design in fig 1. However, I feel like this one looks too uniformly purple. I prefer how the white details on the design in fig 5 break up the different elements of the character design better.
Secondly, I tried an analogous colour palette. This is where colours within a similar orientation within the colour wheel are used. I do quite like this palette, though I feel that the colours are too bright for the look I am aiming for.
Then I tried a complimentary colour palette. This is where colours from opposite ends of the colour wheel are used. I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of this design, the red and green colours used creating connotations of Christmas. These colours would be perfect if Lola were written to be a Christmas elf. However, it is no longer immediately obvious from the colours used that my character is a witch.
Next, I tried a split complimentary palette. This is where one main colour and two analogous colours are used. I do quite like this colour combination, and feel like the way in which I incorporated them into the design worked well together.
Then I tried using a triadic colour palette. This is where colours at three equal distances on the colour wheel are used. I liked the hair and dress colours on this, as they compliment each other well. The design also reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. However, the inclusion of red in the tights does look very out of place.
Finally, I tried a tetradic palette. This is where colours from four corners of the colour wheel are used. I actually quite liked how colourful this character design became. I could definitely imagine being used in a children’s TV show. I like how it mixes warm and cold tones whilst still looking aesthetically pleasing.
Overall, I thought that a lot of these colour palettes seemed too colourful for my character. Despite wanting my character to be cute and appeal to children, I still want her colour design to reflect the fact that she is a witch. I wanted to give it that gothic, witchy vibe with the use of darker and limited colours. Taking this into consideration, I feel that a more monochromatic colour palette would work best for her. I like the monochromatic design in fig 7, but would still take inspiration from my original design in fig 5 for my final character design. I prefer the use of more black shades included in that one. Although, I am aware that an overuse of black can have more negative connotations on an audience’s impression of the character. With this in mind, the use of pastel purple should hopefully balance it out. Purple is also said to be quite an ambitious colour, and is often used within heroic characters, it ‘is a prominent colour in Aladdin’s design’ (McGuire, 2017). This relates well to Lola’s narrative, as she is going to school to learn to be a witch. Despite her being quite nervous about her abilities, she still has ambition and wants to succeed at her career. Hopefully, my colour palette reflects my character well.
London Image Institute (2020) Color psychology: how do colors affect mood and emotions? Available online: https://londonimageinstitute.com/how-to-empower-yourself-with-color-psychology/ [Accessed 18/11/2020].
Fig 1 – Fandom (n.d.) Captain Hook. Available online: https://disney.fandom.com/wiki/Captain_Hook [Accessed 18/11/2020].
Fig 2 – Fandom (n.d.) Mr Incredible. Available online: https://disney.fandom.com/wiki/Mr._Incredible [Accessed 18/11/2020].
Fig 3 – Milligan, M (2020) Animated ‘it girl’ Betty Boop turns 90 on August 9. Available online: https://www.animationmagazine.net/events/animated-it-girl-betty-boop-turns-90-on-august-9/ [Accessed 18/11/2020].
Fig 4 – Fandom (n.d.) Lucky star school mates. Available online: https://luckystar.fandom.com/wiki/School_Mates [Accessed 18/11/2020].
Juliao, D (n.d.) Anime: history and style. Available online: https://study.com/academy/lesson/anime-history-style.html [Accessed 18/11/2020].
miffy.com (n.d.) Special colours. Available online: https://www.miffy.com/special-colours [Accessed 18/11/2020].
Fig 6 – Bourton, L (2020) The everlasting charm of illustrator Dick Bruna’s Miffy. Available online: https://www.itsnicethat.com/features/dick-bruna-bruce-ingman-miffy-illustration-151020 [Accessed 18/11/2020].
Dream Farm Studios (n.d.) How colour theory can make or break a character design. Available online: https://dreamfarmstudios.com/blog/color-theory-for-character-design/#:~:text=As%20psychologists%20put%20it%3A,psychology%20throughout%20the%20design%20process. [Accessed 18/11/2020].
McGuire, S (2017) What Disney villains can tell us about colour psychology. Available online: https://venngage.com/blog/disney-villains/ [Accessed 18/11/2020].
all colour palettes created on procreate using colours generated in adobe colour cc: https://color.adobe.com/create