Colour Palettes in Films and TV

I wanted to look at some of the colour palettes used in modern films and cinematography and see what I could learn from them. This is because I wanted a cohesive colour palette for the opening of my film.


TV Week True Detective, S1: Ep. 7 - After You’ve Gone Cinematography: Adam Arkapaw

his scene is based around the colour yellow but uses colours such as brown and green as complimentary colours. If for example the character was wearing a purple shirt, he would stand out from the background more but would contrast almost too much from the background. The black he is wearing works much better as it doesn’t contrast as much as it is being used in parts of the background as well. There are also many whites and greys in this scene, this draws your eyes to certain key points for example the text and the character in the middle.

TV Week Breaking Bad, S5: Ep. 9 - Blood Money Cinematography: Michael Slovis


This scene is almost one colour entirely, with shade variants due to shadow and lighting. the red and burgundy of the steel contrasts well with the bright yellow of the paint. If that paint was a much darker colour such as a purple or a green it wouldn’t work as well (unless it was a neon but that would arguably look worse). This scene is also framed well, with the darker colours of the characters clothing aligning with the shadow cast by the background, if he was framed to the right third instead of the left he would be better to wear a lighter colour such as a grey or a red.

TV Week Lost, S2: Ep 10 - The 23rd Psalm Cinematography: John S. Bartley

This scene is based off of the colour green. The character is wearing a beige shirt which blends into the background perfectly. Again if he was wearing more of a contrast colour such as a red it wouldn’t work as well. The black however, works as there is black from the smoke. The brown form the dirt, the tree and the characters skin is more of a noting colour as it offers little contrast and blends well into the background: really just highlighting the characters clothing.

Here’s what I learned form these scenes. The scene is usually based around one colour, with large patches to establish it as such. there are often supporting colours: variations of the main colour. and there is a contrast colour, this is not however, ever too striking as to alienate the background of the scene. for example a good contrast colour for a blue would be a yellow instead of a deep orange.

I want to base my scene off of the colour white so good complimentary colours would be greys, browns and blues. A good contrasting colour would be a much deeper grey or orange. The location where I am looking to film has a black floor so I’ll be sure to avoid that when filming there.



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