If you’ve read some of my previous articles covering colour concepts and the relationship between genre and colour in film posters, then you’ll know how much importance I put on the role of colour in design.

With this in mind, I wanted to take a deep dive into one of my favourite genres – sci-fi – to examine how you can use this knowledge of colour to approach different looks for your film poster.

But as you hone in and decide on a concept, don’t forget one of the key considerations you should make for a film poster of any genre – what is your focus? This could mean following the world of the story and consequently its colour palette (e.g. the film is set in a forest or a desert so you will use colour that reflects that) but alternatively, you may want to highlight genre (using classic colour palettes), theme or emotional mood. As always, there is no right or wrong, just the awareness of what you are communicating.

So, let’s take a look at some of your colour palette options…

Keep it Cool

Cool tones – in particular blue and/or green – convey a classic sci-fi look. It suggests a futuristic world with slick technology. These colours convey genre very clearly – making it ideal for a lesser known indie film such as Prospect, whose poster uses icy blue shades, rather than the greens and browns that feature strongly in the production design.

Or Turn Up the Temperature!

Using colour tones from the warm side of the colour wheel is more commonly associated with portraying a distinctive film storyworld. It often evokes a desert dystopia and the accompanying discomfort – when used well, you can almost feel the heat coming off the image.

Black or White…

Stark colour palettes that focus heavily on either black or white, tend to signal that the world of the film is one very different from the one we know. In these films we are likely to find ourselves very far from home in either space or time. Black or white are often combined with the cool colours of a classic sci-fi palette.

Black may also suggest a dark theme in the story and white may indicate that a sanitised environment such as a hospital or spaceship will make an appearance.

Or Blinded by the Light!

Neon colours usually reflect a seedy underworld vibe. These films are usually very heightened and uncanny/unreal in some way. Unlike the sci-fi cliché of the storyworld looking slick and cutting edge, neon suggests a messiness – either in the world or the characters’ lives (or both).

Less is More

Desaturated colour palettes can provide a riff on more classic sci-fi looks.

It can signify a more stylised film world but also tends to be associated with grittier stories that have a human focus and/or level of complexity.

Take a Pop

Contrasting colour pops can be used sparingly to add interest and a focal point for the design. A common use of this idea is red colour pops against a cool background – but this is a perfect concept to get more adventurous with!

This is just a very quick overview to get you thinking! What do you think of these palettes? Are there any that you find especially exciting? Or overdone? Are there any other genres you’d like me to share my thoughts on? Drop your ideas in the comments!

If you have a question or there’s a poster design project you’d like to discuss developing, feel free to drop me a line at adam@strelka.co.uk.