The exposure of yellow


Our neighbor brought us a yellow watermelon the other day. She said, “It’s sweeter than red one”, but I didn’t think so. However, the more I looked at its yellow pulp, the tastier it seemed, i.e. the color of the berry itself improved the taste.

Alright, yellow is the brightest color; its peripheral vision is 2.5 times higher than, for example, red. In bright and warm tones it is perceived to be the color of happiness and enlightenment, God and creativity, sun and summer, wisdom, knowledge, relaxation, joy, optimism and imagination; whereas in dark and cold shades it’s about cowardice, betrayal, selfishness, madness, dishonesty, envy, greed, deceit, danger and physical illness, for example, jaundice, malaria. The last association is correct from a scientific point of view – the sources of yellow pigments are mainly toxic metals: cadmium, plumbum, chromium.

Yellow is rarely used in interfaces and, for instance, in household appliances. It’s curious that almost everyone in the world believes yellow is the color of happiness, however the effect of yellow is not considered at the household level. It's the kind of dye we all love, but don't want to coexist with.

Obviously, every human being, due to personal experience and feelings, owns individual perception of color and color combinations. However, there are patterns that do work eliciting certain emotions, thereby assisting authors in conveying a thought correctly.

yellow line

Do you have yellowish shades in your wardrobe? I have yellow jeans which I don't wear much, because of the morbid image they create, the association with illness, both physical and mental (not for nothing madhouses are called “yellow”).

However yellow really suits eccentric Coraline from the Henry Selick movie — her cape and blue hair contrast with the surrounding real world.

Coraline, Henry Selick, 2009.

Have you noticed how the girl changes as the story progresses? From a child's point of view, her parents’ workaholism is selfish, Coraline does not understand them and hates everything surrounding her (although, of course, there are reasons for this - the landscape and the environment around are way too gray). Only the pleasantly warm, textured Other World and a “truly loving” mother can change her attitude. As a result, we see a completely transformed heroine in the finale.

In pursuit of absolute fun and happiness, Coraline is like Joy from Inside Out: both of them want to experience only positive emotions, until eventually they grow up and understand the true value of other feelings.

Головоломка (2015), В поисках Немо (2003).

Another character aspiring to protect his world from all possible worries and "bad feelings" is Marlin. Just as Joy refused to let go of the balls with happy memories and tried to return them back to the place till the end of the movie, Marlin did not want to let Nemo go even a single step away. Their fluffy yellow fish home symbolizes calmness, balance and comfort.

Talking of which, it is interesting how in almost all of the sunshiny Pixar films repulsive dirty shades appear along with warm pleasant ones.

Recall the scene in Toy Story 3 when Lotso, Chuckles and Big Baby are thrown out: everything is painted in dull, withered yellow color that evokes sad feelings.

Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich, 2010.

And this scene from Inside Out is dominated by dark yellow, showing the crisis in which the character ended up.

Inside Out
Inside Out, Pete Docter, 2015.

See how the color smoothly changes from the girl's inner bright purple world to the real one in which she decides to run away from home. This is done very smoothly and completely imperceptible to the eye of the audience: at first the scene is completely purple, then we see some yellow tints in the second frame from the left, then even less purple hues, and after that the whole scene is filled with dirty yellow.

If you thought: “What does yellow color have to do with it? It’s green!”, — here’s an eyedropper from Photoshop:

Here are two colors for comparison: yellow with the addition of black and green with the addition of black. Pixar uses just the first option. Yellow is terribly afraid of dark shades: for example, when black is added, it immediately becomes sickly yellow-greenish. But Pixar consciously chooses this particular shade, which is largely inherent in horrors.

Check out the scene from Monsters University where, unexpectedly for the viewer, Mike triumphs over the university's best monsters. At first, rainbow colors reveal Mike's world in all directions, at this moment everything is colored with the victory of green. But as soon as the audience disperses, the gamma fades, the brown mannequin poisons the atmosphere of the frame, and we find out the truth. Then things get even worse - the gamma changes to black and white: whitening light from a flashlight, red light from a police car. It all comes down to clarifying the relationship between the characters.

Monsters University
Monsters University, Dan Scanlon, 2013.

Sitting by the river in a void with almost no color, the main characters reconcile — Sally finds a friend, Mike finds himself. Together they do the impossible while frightening the adults: red indicators rise from the darkness, the light illuminates yellow capsules overflown with screams. An explosion of color, light and emotions occurs in the audience.

Remember the scenes when the Frankinsteins go out to befriend Woody; when Marlin realizes that his son is dead; when Woody ends up in a landfill — in moments of crisis, there’s always a dirty yellow.

For the record, it was this exact shade of yellow with transition to brown — Pantone 448C — that was recognized as the most unattractive according to the results of a study conducted by GfK Bluemoon.

Toy Story (1995), Finding Nemo (2003), Monsters University (2013), Toy Story 3 (2010), Inside Out (2015).

Dirty yellow is also the main color in Ridley Scott's Prometheus. I remember it so well precisely because of the content of morbid yellow and how this color slowly influenced the perception of the film.

Prometheus, Ridley Scott, 2012.

See how subtle these shades are. Whitewashed colors are everywhere, this pastel yellow-green, penicilliny color creates a lifeless feeling. Each frame in the film is sterile, cold, as if treated with bleach.

The combination of dense blues and pungent yellows runs throughout the movie, becoming its main expressive medium.

Prometheus, Ridley Scott, 2012.

The fun part of the palette starts here. It seems to me that helmet lighting was not designed by chance and carries a semantic load. The yellow chosen for this movie is not the nice, cozy, warm yellow that we love so much. For example, look at almost the same backlighting in the Pacific Rim:

Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro, 2013.

The design is almost identical, but now the shade is warm, honeyed, it gives a completely different feeling - a sense of some security in what is happening.

The yellow in Prometheus is poisonous and radioactive, and the fact that it flashes on protagonists' necks adds a very strange strangling sensation, as if it is infecting with some kind of virus. We literally feel everything on ourselves, around our own necks.

Prometheus, Ridley Scott, 2012.

All heroes are in great danger; it hasn’t even been shown yet, but we are already besieged. Even in small pauses, the color haunts us, only becoming stronger. Now it's poisoning our subconsciousness.

Prometheus, Ridley Scott, 2012.

The same shade is used in The Matrix: in combination with sterile, cold, hospital-tiled walls, it gives the feeling of a morbid dream.

The Matrix
The Matrix, The Wachowskis, 1999.

In Sin City, almost all the characters are mutilated and to highlight the filthy main villain the authors use yellow color .

Sin City
Sin City, Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, 2005.

When it comes to harmonious honeyed shades that give a sense of warmth and coziness, Wes Anderson movies come to my mind first. The abundance of yellow runs through all of the director’s works, with only exceptions being Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and the Grand Budapest Hotel.

In Fantastic Mr. Fox and Darjeeling Limited, yellow is generally the leading color and the main movie palette bases on it. As well, there is enough yellow in Steve Zissou.

Wes Anderson
The Darjeeling Limited, Hotel Chevalier, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson.

Wes's yellow hues are always warm and pleasing, not only helping to immerse the viewer in a cozy atmosphere, but also supporting the humor based on a flat and ideal composition: children behave as adults, like in the Kingdom of the Full Moon, and adults act like children — Royal Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Yellow is especially symbolic in The Royal Tenenbaums: for a long time Richie sought closeness with his half-sister, and only in the finale did he see her in his own coziest honey-colored tent, emphasizing his feelings at the moment.

The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson.

Tent in Anderson's films is akin to a symbol of love — in Moonrise Kingdom, Sam and Susie also hide in a yellow shelter.

Moonrise Kingdom
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson, 2012.

Wes's artworks are so saturated with goodness that even when a warm, cozy home is broken, the story won’t lose its magic even for a moment - yellow emphasizes childhood and infantilism in every frame.

I was once struck by the fact that yellow is the brightest of all colors of the spectrum. It works in full force and manifests its essence only in bright tones, its calling is to be the light.

For comparison, I took the primary colors and arranged them from white to black: check how each color has a specific luminance phase in which it is expressed at its full saturation. The next picture is as ugly as possible, but it serves a purely scientific purpose, so respect the rainbow.

The essence of shades in relation to their light and shadow.

As you can see, the whole essence of yellow is manifested in light shades, whereas essence of blue is in dark ones; while it is interesting how many shades yellow holds in dark tones and how few dark shades blue has.

In The Little Prince, the cold space of adult life is contrasted with the warm textural world of the Aviator, the author's drawings, dunes in the desert, the sun, paper and the stars.

The Little Prince
The Little Prince, Mark Osborne, 2015.

The yellow that captures our attention more than any other is the color of sunflowers and lemons, egg yolks, canaries and bees.

Big Fish
Big Fish, Tim Burton, 2014.

Edward from Big Fish has blood on his face, but he is smiling and the background of daffodils gives an atmosphere of calm and joy. When looking at this frame, it is impossible to perceive what is happening as a drama, it immediately becomes clear that there is no real fight - that’s how distracting the yellow color is.

The Village is another example of the combination of red and yellow: in the movie colors are assigned to the opposing forces. And if with the choice of red as the antagonistic one everything is clear — it does worry us, cause anxiety and aggression, then with yellow, at first glance, not everything is so obvious. Why not use soothing blue instead, or safe green as the opposite of red?

The Village
The Village, M. Night Shyamalan, 2004.

Psychologists say that yellow is the happiest color of the spectrum, it inspires optimism, calmness and joy. But yellow also puts us into a state of expectation; like a traffic light, it excites our nervous system and makes the brain work. In alliance with red, it symbolizes impulsiveness and destruction, and also becomes "stronger", making the heroes' yellow cloaks seem like real protection from monsters.

Amid the background of major large-scale movies that use beige palettes as the main ones, our brain craves to get fed up with color; this is why yellow in particular has become a part of the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Here, in addition to yellow, every other rainbow color is used, and even the bad guys are painted in bright candy blue.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn, 2014.

Yellow in the Guardians is a symbol of change and rebirth: yellow prison overalls, Drax drowning in yellow cerebrospinal fluid, Groot's yellow spores, and the yellow net of Nova Corps fighters fastened together.

Okay, then how about Mad Max Fury Road ? If the director of Guardians just wanted to add some vibrant colors to the film, then George Miller literally dyed the entire movie to the limit, quenching the thirst for bright colors for several years. Very juicy, very.

Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller, 2015.

Sun. Heat. Agony. No water. Even less food. Thirst is physically born watching the movie — it's only fire, sand and dehydrating whirlwinds.

Different chase and completely other perception of yellow - the basic color of humor. Don't forget to check out the ingenious composition of the frame: no matter how much this yellow slug is in a hurry, all the lines are pulling him back.

Monsters University
Monsters University, Dan Scanlon, 2013.

A classic example of the use of yellow in the comedy genre is The Simpsons. Since purple is a complementary color to yellow, authors often use it as a background.

Simpsons Movie
Simpsons Movie, David Silverman, 2007.

Remember Shaolin Soccer? Сheck it out if you haven't already.

Shaolin Soccer
Shaolin Soccer, Stephen Chow, 2002.

In the movie all footballers play in yellow kits. And although yellow belts are known to be the lowest in martial arts, the team, of course, wins in the end.

In Dirt, yellow appropriately emphasizes the absurdity: the man's sweater echoes the color of the lion in the painting, which does not correspond at all to his character.

Filth, Jon S. Baird, 2013.

The partners in Hot Fuzz, of course, did not wear yellow uniforms throughout the whole film, but for clowning the color works great.

Hot Fuzz
Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright, 2007.

Chuck Russell in The Mask did a pretty cool thing regarding the coloring of the main character: his face of an unpleasant yellow-green color plays in contrast with warm-yellow clothes — a similar feeling arises when you see your favorite meal in an unusual color: you kind of want to eat it, but the color itself discourages desire.

The Mask
The Mask, Chuck Russell, 1994.

To create a picture that is pleasing to the eye and at the same time to control the heart rate of the audience in the theater, you need to be highly knowledgeable in the science of color and its effects on people's psychology. That is why it is always interesting to observe the use of shades out of place and for other purposes.

For example, if you take a pleasant honeyed color and put it next to black, it is immediately perceived as aggressive or poisonous. Tarantino has already used bee paint twice for his key figures.

Death Proof, Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino

In Throne, the forces of antagonism are underlined in fiery yellow, while the forces of good are pure and cold.

Tron: Legacy, Joseph Kosinski, 2010.

When you get right down to it, the logical choice has been made correctly: white-blue acts as the color of wisdom and tranquility, and yellow-red is the color of aggressors and fire, however, a large amount of pleasant yellow makes it feel like it needs to be changed.

A great example of using yellow in reverse is Better Call Saul. Everything is yellow in Saul: car, clothing, interior, furniture, lighting, and despite the fact that it is the shade of joy and Saul himself likes to have fun, the series is nowhere near a comedy. If you have already seen this video, just watch it again. I added footage from the second season.

Yellow is used here just out of place: instead of giving a rise to joy and hope in the film, it is used sarcastically and all the failures of the main hero are dyed in the color of laughter.

A similar discrepancy can be seen in Little Miss Sunshine. The movie slightly resembles Wes' works, but it doesn't evoke the same relaxed perception. The child as the protagonist, the frequent use of yellow is inverted in this sense.

Here, the color is used to support humor, just as in Better Call Saul, but even the main symbol - the yellow car - instead of becoming a kind of shelter (like, for example, Wes’ tent), turns into the main place of disputes and crises.

Little Miss Sunshine
Little Miss Sunshine, Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton, 2006.

Each color contains thousands of shades, and each shade contains a certain idea or its opposite, so the author aspiring to convey the thought through color must always remember that the choice of context is more important than the choice of a particular shade.

23 september 2016

The exposure of yellow


The Revenant by Tarkovsky


Invisible leading lines


Wes Anderson colors


Shades of Wes Anderson in The Grand Budapest Hotel