Thursday, September 7, 2017

New Book: The Color of Pixar

A new visual book called The Color of Pixar by long-time Pixar artist Tia Kratter presents color schemes used in the Pixar movies.

The book presents hundreds of stills taken from all the Pixar films so far, including Cars 3 and the upcoming Coco. The stills are chosen for their predominant hue, and arranged by color. 

As you flip through the book, you proceed through the rainbow, making it easy to compare related color schemes that appear on adjacent pages.

Each image is presented singly, surrounded by a full-bleed colored border. The captions tell you the movie that the still came from, but there's no text explaining why the sequence was rendered in that color scheme. 

It's really a purely visual book that will appeal to artists looking for inspiration on color choices. It might also appeal to teachers who want to explore the subject of color with students.

Kratter says: "Color doesn't just make things beautiful—it makes things emotional."

The book invites speculation about how Pixar uses warm, glowing colors to evoke happiness, and dull, cool blues to suggest sadness, or green-grays to convey fear or alienation.

Sample page from The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts

If you're more interested in how color is used to enhance the particular story arc of each film, another fascinating book is The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts, which presents each of the films in terms of the color thumbnail plan called the color script.

Throughout Pixar's history, these color scripts evolved from little pastel studies to a digital plan that expresses not only the color schemes, but also the shape language of each sequence.
The Color of Pixar by Tia Kratter, currently $20.36 on Amazon.
The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts, currently $28.49 on Amazon.

Previously on GurneyJourney
Pixar supercut arranged by color (video)
Resource for movie screenshots (website)


Smurfswacker said...

Good to see this artwork but I'm not sure of the presentation. It may look good design-wise, but I'm not crazy about the way they surround each picture with a field of color. The reader sees the image colors in the context of the surrounding color. The original images were designed with the assumption they'd be viewed surrounded by a dark theater. The artists would likely have chosen different colors if they'd have known the images would be surrounded by blue, orange, yellow, etc. Though it might have looked too "nineties" in terms of book design, I'd rather the pictures were printed against black to approximate their original screen appearance.

Luca said...

I agree with Smurfs' previous comment. The book look gourgeous...but colors are relative to context, not absolute, so surrounding them with the main color of the scene from the movie is not a great idea, i think. Good for the "rainbow effect" but not good for appreciating the frames. And perhaps it could be more interesting to know why they used that scheme instead of another one.

Talking about animation and books, Aardman (the studio behind Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep) published a book about their 40 years of career, their techniques , etc. I haven't read it yet, but since you are interested in traditional animation , it may interest you too, James!

James Gurney said...

Smurfswacker and Luca, you both have a good point, which was nagging at me a bit too. The strong surrounding color field makes for a dramatic and clear organization of the book, but it actually makes it harder to appreciate the color schemes. What might have worked better would be to surround each frame with black as Smurf said, but then print a thin color band at the last 1/4 inch edge of the page. That way the color would be there, but it wouldn't dominate. Readers of the book could cut a black paper mask to frame out the images.

Thanks, Luca for the info about the Aardman book.

Jim Douglas said...

Does the author name the colors? And if so, do the names follow any particular color wheel/theory? That is, is there a "blue" section or a "cyan" section? Bigger question: Do color names even matter in this context?

Warren JB said...

Like Smurfswacker and Luca, I've wondered about this and the earlier 'Color Scripts' books. The latter seems to give more context, though obviously is missing content from certain of the latest films.
There's a similar situation with Pixar's film-specific art books. It seems that 'The Art of Inside Out' and 'The Art of The Good Dinosaur'* also provided contextless images, often with extremely wide borders, and drew a lot of criticism for it. It might have had an effect - last I heard, Pixar went back to the previous format with subsequent art-of books.

With that minimalist format in general, and 'The Color of Pixar' in particular... I guess if you were a little knowledgable and somewhat determined, you could analyze the images and colors with no help from captions; and Pixar aren't obligated to make their art books educational too. But again, as SW, Luca and other critics say, it's nice to have some concrete insight into the thoughts and reasons of the artists.

* Intelligent dinosaurs coexisting with humans. Cute, but I think I liked it better in something else...

Luca said...

Since i didn't read the book, i'm just guessing, but i maybe Pixar didn't want to offer an insight of their working process with these books (that may interest people "doing art" somehow) but to offer something appealing to the eye of everybody. Just picture, not words. Just beautiful images, not behind the scenes of those beautiful images. The title may be read like "(how beautiful is) the Art of Pixar" and not "(how) the art of Pixar (is done)".

James Gurney said...

All interesting insights, thank you. Warren and Luca, I love "Art of" books from all the studios, especially when they not only give lots of artwork, but also just enough context and explanation to understand the thought process. I've noticed the Pixar "Art of" books vary on those measures. "Inside Out" had almost no explanation—just lots of art, but the book on "Finding Dory" has quite a bit of thoughtful explanation of the intended meaning of certain shapes, designs, and color schemes.