How does colour affect our mood? We’ve all heard about the effects of blue light on our sleep patterns and there is evidence that many ancient cultures believed in chromotherapy (colour therapy) to promote healing for various ailments.

But did you know that modern scientific studies have found that the colour red can raise the heart rate, affecting performance? Or that colour blue can calm us down? There were dramatic decreases in crime after blue streetlights were set up in Glasgow, Scotland in 2000 and Nara, Japan in 2005 for example.

Now, the effects of colour on emotion aren’t completely straightforward – personal, cultural and societal factors can all influence our reactions to a colour. But one thing seems clear: colour is a powerful communication tool that forms part of our visual language and shapes how we perceive the world around us.

Colour in film posters

What does all this mean for the creation of film posters? Well, you’ve got one main goal in mind, and that’s to sell your film. Whether it’s to a distributor, an investor or the audience, the aim is always to create an image that gets people excited enough to want to buy, invest or watch that particular film.

Research has revealed that our brains prefer recognisable branding, which makes colour an incredibly important element when producing a poster. Part of that is using the established visual language of colour: conveying to the viewer what to expect genre and tone-wise and sending a clear signal to your intended audience.

Here’s a break down of some of the colour palettes often used in modern posters:


White backgrounds are often used for comedies, particularly romantic comedies. A simple, uncluttered background creates a light, friendly scene whilst the white base makes the whole image brighter than most other posters. It’s usually used against large cut outs of the main characters to draw the focus to the personal relationships of the film. We’ve all seen the classic ‘two lead actors standing back to back’ against a white background!

The Proposal, The Ugly Truth & Pretty Woman poster examples


Yellow is a very vibrant colour and is great for suggesting an independent voice, which is why it’s so often used to sell smaller films. Studies show that the human eye actually “sees” highly reflective yellow before it notices any other colour – so it’s also an easy way to grab attention, whilst it’s bright and optimistic feel works well for quirky indie projects.

Little Miss Sunshine, Be Kind Rewind & Outsourced poster examples

Blue and orange

Blue holds elements together, whilst orange focuses attention and promises action. These colours have a great synchronicity as they sit on opposite sides of the colour wheel, evoking both hot and cold, without the problems of other colour combinations which have existing cultural associations – such as blue and pink or red and green. This dynamic combination is commonly used to sell bigger budget films as it can suggest epic sequences and action scenes.

Daywatch, Blade Runner 2049 and Eagle Eye poster examples


Blue is a colour frequently associated with thrillers and actions films – it’s a darker and more sombre palette and is often used to promote more stereotypically ‘masculine’ stories. It readily creates a sense of gravity and threat, and the cold tones evoke hints of film noir, and can also be used to suggest a high tech environment.

Minority Report, Jason Borne & Babylon AD poster examples

Colour is a power which directly influences the soul.

Wassily Kandinsky

Colour is a central part of any design – your colour choices – or even the absence of colour – are rich in subtext and can have a powerful effect that the viewer may not even be aware of. When it comes to promoting your film, the colours you use say so much about the world of your film and the impression you want to create. Don’t waste this opportunity to connect with your audience and begin painting the world of your film in their minds.

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