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Color Scripts

Lesson 6 from: Developing Characters, Environments, and Story Boards

Mary Jane Begin

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Lesson Info

6. Color Scripts

Next Lesson: Developing a Style

Lesson Info

Color Scripts

So, the next segment of this is about environments and the props that the characters use in these environments. And, we sort of need to dissect how do we get to those spaces, because environments can be very, very complex. So, the first thing I want to show you is color scripting. And color scripting is a common thing used in animation, it's used in book making, it's used in video games because often times you're moving from one scene, from one spot in a scene all the way to another spot and it may have a very different feel. So, with permadeath, the early stages, they started with color scripting for, this is, for example, scene two, to understand that the characters would start in one kind of an environment and move through to another environment that's sort of the opposite. So, the color script told us that with nothing more that color, and it's interesting because you think that wouldn't have much meaning, but there was a great deal of influence from this to the final scenes, and I...

'll show you that. So, one of the things that the students had to do was also figure out not just, you know, what is the overall coloration of this scene, but what are those elements that are in, for example, in this scene this is Marsyas' Lair, it's in this wooded forest zone that's kind of swampy. So, what does that look like? So, the first thing they did was research actual places that would describe, you know, a swamp or wooded area, and started just taking visual notes and documenting this through both photography and with a lot of sketching; and the second thing they had to figure out, well what would that swampy zone look like? Is it kinda blue-green? Is it purpley, you know, sort of magical? Is it pink? So, they did some color studies to figure out those kinds of worlds, and we talked about this in the color course, Color Composition and Expression, that color studies in all aspects of illustration really, really important to try to avoid doing a full-fledged illustration that you've gone in the wrong direction. If you land these little color studies, these are all done in Photoshop, it can get you to test and see: does this work, is this better, et cetera? So, a lot of that happened at this stage, the vegetation, the environment, and there's also a real consideration of the value structure and the light because the scene involves a battle between Marsyas and Apollo, light figured prominently, 'cause they're moving from a dark sort of space, the forest, to this bright sort of desert, burnt arena. And so, they really had to figure out, well, even if it's dark, it has to still have some aspect of light filtering in so you can see the characters. So, this is just some of those studies. Value studies or black and white, black gray and white studies, are really helpful as well because structurally, it's not just about the color, it's about the value construction that's tied to that color. So, sometimes they would take scenes like this, and then they would just, in Photoshop, put a layer of a color tonality, or color tonalities on top of the value, and that's a perfectly legitimate way to work. They also tried to figure out what Marsyas' throne would like, and I thought it was a really interesting concept that they imagined that a long time ago these huge statues were built out of, you know, all kinds of stone material, and their long since decayed but they're pushing up through the earth and that's actually like a hand throne that he would sit in, and Marsyas is a woodland creature, he might find found objects and use them for his own purpose. So, there's a lot of thinking in terms of the environment, not just, you know, where they are, but the props that exist in them. Now, this is, I think a nice example. Very, very simple studies of all those variations I mentioned in terms of color study, this is in Photoshop and they're just basic shapes in a woodland space, but let's try it in each of these pallets, and can you imagine, kind of, why this or this pallet and this construction might not work from Marsyas. Think about that team mixed group. Well, I would imagine it has something to do with the color of, and whatever those colors do mean. So, I'm trying to think about what his color tone was. Woodland creature, he's made of wood and moss, So, it's the greens. Right, yup. Greens and browns. So, are you saying that it's too much, the same? Actually, these are too different. Like, Marsyas could live in this world because it's related to his pallet, he's a woodland creature, he's natural. This almost feels like, because it's so purple and vibrant, it's too hot and too much like team Phoebus and it's so wildly unexpected in terms of what you'd anticipate a woodland space would look like, that they felt that it dialed it in the wrong direction, and as it turned out, I'll show you, here he is. These are still studies, really rough color studies. But, this is an early study of Marsyas, but does he look like he fits that world? Like he would exist in there? Again, it's like, in addition to the style of a character fitting in an environment, you also have to think of the pallet of that character. It doesn't mean it has to be exactly the same, but it has to feel like it's of that world. And so, we had to make sure that his lair, his zone, feels like him. And so, I think it was really interesting to also see, you know, the consideration is primarily having to do with light and how the light is hitting that main, we'll call it stage, where the battle will start with Apollo and it's landing right on this hand throne. And here's a more detailed rendering of that hand throne, you know, it's large. I mean these are literally stairs that Marsyas would take to sit on that spot. The students also did a little turn around of that, just to figure out what does it look like from different sides, and they started to think about, again, this is a world built with mechanisms and with a natural world. So, they wanted it to be modernized, it's not purely just nature based, there are things that, old tubes and wires that flow through this space from an earlier society that he also utilizes to power his space. And so, it's an interesting combination of those two things and I really love this idea, because I really think it makes so much sense to have something that's old tied to something new that's this constant regeneration of what is old and what is new; and even old technology, I mean think about your early PC or what phones used to look like, it's constantly evolving. So, this played on that kind of idea. Now, again, you've got three worlds that you're passing through during this battle, there's Marsyas' forest, and as Apollo and Marsyas fight it out, they're going to a scorched region, because Apollo is all about heat and sun, and Marsyas is about this cool region. So, this is the between, sort of, barren land, and this is the full desert. So, they had to think about what we'll call the props of the environment, which are the elements that really make the environment up, and how they would look, and how they would be colored. And then, just to swing it back to, this is the original color script, and these are the final renderings of those scenes: Marsyas' lair, the in between while they're battling it out, and then the final spot where Marsyas is flayed, and dies again and again, because it's a video game, and where Apollo exists in all his glory. So, you can see it really relates to the pallet of this original color script, this absolutely helped define this more finished series of renderings. Now, I want you to sort of notice the point of view here as well because I think it's really interesting, when you're doing environments, if you're down on the horizon line, like you're just looking strait out at the horizon line, or you're below the horizon line, the point of view makes it harder to see what's in that world. So, commonly in environments from video games, even animation, is coming from a bird's eye view, looking a little bit more like you're in the tree looking down. It allows you to see more information, so the students did that so you could see more information, the Becker college students could understand this world just a little bit better. You know, and the neutral pallet is comprised of the colors that you saw in Marsyas' world, and the next world which was Apollo's. So, trying to create that color transition is also important for environment. And so, the students were really conscious of making that pallet transition, you know, make a lot of sense, and to create a sense of harmony from scene to scene; and even in doing books, when I'm creating a pallet, you don't want page one to be wildly different to page two unless there's literally a dramatic scene change. You want there to be a relationship from page to page, from scene to scene. So, that's an important issue. Now, the pallet here reflects both kind of the fury of Apollo and the battle between them, and the fact that Apollo is a sun god. So, this is the final moment of the scene, and it's kind of a predetermined, I think it's pre-known that Apollo's likely to win this battle if you think about their weapons and the power of fire versus a flute. But, the red sky is also meant to indicate the fury and the anger and the passion of Apollo. So, it was really important the students wrapped up the color, dialed it up for this scene, it's almost apocalyptic, you know, it's not just a quiet sunset. So, thinking about again, going back to color issues, you need to think about the pallet of your environment just as much as the elements in it have to reflect the emotional content of the scene, whether it's a still scene with characters or it's something like the action. In this case, this is like a backdrop for what you would imagine the characters acting in front of or in.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Character Slides Artist Reference PDF
Character Slides PDF

Ratings and Reviews


I have to say, this class and the companion class were very humbling. I assume I am not like most people who would watch this class in that I have no such artistic talent. I cannot draw at all (limited to "Spike" from TED Talks), but I had no idea such thought, imagination or ideology went into creating these designs. Professor Begin has an amazing presentation style, she is clear, concise and thoughtful. The subject matter was amazing and I can only see it helping me in evaluating my own work and taking a whole new perspective on art, light and evaluation. I highly recommend this class whatever no matter your creative bent. Thank you Creative Live for hosting this wonderful speaker.

a Creativelive Student

This course is well organized, very informative and goes into great detail regarding the best way to develop character(s) and how they should relate to their environment. Mary Jane articulates her points through art fundamentals, color theory and the power of strong research - as well as her extensive experience in the creative industry. I highly recommend this course for anyone interested in advancing their career or pursuing a career in animation, game design, or children's book publishing.

Nancy Morrison

Excellent!! This is a course that I will review over and over for there are so many great bits of information extremely well explained embedded in the broad concepts of composition and detailed illustration both in her own pieces and that of constructive critiquing her student's work. MJ is an excellent teacher! I am looking forward to her other classes! Nancy

Student Work