Characters 101, Larp

Building A Color Palette For Your Character

Color is important. It can tell a story all on its own. The colors you choose will influence how others perceive your character. Picking the right colors is an important step in the character design process.

With the right color choices, you can convey who your character is and their personality. Helping you tell their story without having to say a word.

The Basics

Pick a tone range as a foundation.

Try using colors within the same tone range as your foundation colors. Jewel tone colors, earth tone colors, pastel tones, warm or cool tones are all great foundations to build a color palette from. With a strong foundation palette, you’ll be able to build a cohesive look for your character.

Use the color tone range for the most of your primary costuming.

Pinterest is your friend for finding quality color palettes to work with.

Choose a color palette the complements each other.

When picking a palette, use a color wheel to choose colors that pair well together. Try to avoid mixing clashing colors (unless there is a reason for it. ) Use Coordinating colors to break up the costume, a different color for each piece or section of the body.

Don’t go all black.

It’s tempting to pick black as your go-to color for a character. It’s dark, mysterious and edgy. But it’s also cliche and does little to convey who the character is. Additionally, many of the fine custom details get lost in black.

Instead, consider using black as an accent color or a color to link a few other colors together. Black makes a perfect divider between different costume pieces.

If you want to use black as a primary color, consider using a dark tone palette that includes greys, dark blues, and deep reds instead. It will give you much better definition and make a complete look.

Choose your accent color.

Next pick the accent color. Generally, this should be a solid and stark color that goes well with your primary palette. Usually, this color is what you’ll try to match accessories like belts, bags, and pouches too.

Choose your metal.

Gold, silver, bronze, iron, the choices are many. Add cohesion to your costume by picking a primary metal color. Then match your jewelry and metal accents to it.

Telling a story with color and costume.

The color choices you pick can tell a story. Bright and flamboyant colors speak of excitement, action, and wildness. Dark and subdued colors often exude professionalism, strength, and steadiness. Whites and washed out colors tell a story of purity and piety, but also makes a great canvas for corruption.

Don’t be afraid to choose colors that tell a different story than the one you want to convey. Stark differences in tone and theme can create memorable characters. It’s up to you to choose how you want to tell your color story.  

You’ll also need to decide if you want to weather and wear your costume and it’s colors. Is your character a clean freak with a pressed shirt and pristine clothing? Are they soldiers, mercenaries, and adventures with well worn, but cared for gear. Have they slept outside in the ally? Are they dirty and grimy in a way that would take more than one bath to fix?

Reflect the personality and station of your character in their colors and condition. A nobleman with scuffed boots is suspicious and no one will believe a clean street urchin. Think about who they are, what they do, and how they take care of their things. Modify your palette and costume to help tell their story.

Finally, if you choose a dark color, add a splash of color. It could be a simple accessory, a belt, sash, or another such thing. But adding a bit of color to a dark costume will help others remember you and adds character to the costume.

Pick an item of emotional importance to the character and make it stand out. The silk scarf of a loved one, a jeweled brooch they took from their first kill, or anything with a story behind it. People will notice this island of color in a sea of darkness.  They will want to know about it.

An Example.

Recently I built a character for a new larp. The choices I made for their color palette became the backbone of their persona. I selected colors that would help convey their personality. With a bright palette of jewel tones and flowing materials to speak of their mercurial nature.

For accent colors, I picked dark charcoal to contrast with their bright foundation. I selected tarnished silver and gunmetal for their metal color. And finally, I decided to lightly weather their clothing to help convey their adventurous life on the road.

As part of the design process, I also commissioned character reference sheet. This helped me visualize the character and their wild colors before I began to make the costume. If you have room in your character budget, I recommend doing this.

The palette you pick will help you tell your character’s story and convey who they are.

So tell me in the comments, what colors are important to your character.

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