I saw a post on Imgur the other day – Why do Pixar's movies look so good? – which highlights that Pixar use limited palettes for scenes in order to set the mood. That got me thinking, can colours alone set the mood of an image? Take out the context, and just have those colours, could that image still have a mood?
The post on Imgur gives scenes from various Pixar movies. It then shows a generalised palette beneath it. I've trimmed the palette so we're focusing directly on the scenes. From this scene from The Incredibles, you get a feeling of warmth, energy, heat.
But what happens if we reorder all the pixels of this image? Do we get the same feeling? Does the image retain it's mood?
The image is still very warm. The limited, warm palette still gives a feeling of warmth, heat, and energy, and you can see that the colours are still evenly distributed. Let's take a look at another image, something a little more sullen.
We all know that feeling. The drab greys and blues of the office environment. What if we reorder the pixels?
Lots of blue and black. You still get the feeling of it being dull and drab, but could this just as easily be a winters night? Let's see what we get if we process the following image:
The blues are a little darker but there isn't much difference between the winter's night and the office environment. Perhaps that says something about office environments.
Next, I have a scene which I found quite interesting.
There are lots of blues and greens in this image. It reminds me of summer days of my childhood, and perhaps sports days out in the big fields. Strangely, it also reminds me of the colour trends of web design in 2007. Let's have a look at it pixel-a-la-pixel.
Still feels quite fresh but now I'm thinking more of SEGA megadrive games. I'm not sure that this particular image has much moodiness to it. Maybe it's meant to feel fresh and carefree and not have moodiness? Perhaps because there are multiple, different colours in the palette?
Finally, I just want to try one more image.
This rainy picture makes me think of an early autumn shower, maybe around 4pm, dark skies and probably a good time for a cup of tea. What do it's colours say?
Interestingly, mostly dark greys, then light grey tones, followed by some shadows and browns. The colours remind me of a city on a Monday.
What do you think? Can colours alone give off a mood?
P.S. You can find the source for this little experiment here.