Teal and Orange Lighting- Colour Grading

In the past twenty years or so, a trend in film has been established and has become catchy in the film industry. This is known as the amber and teal or orange and teal lighting look.

It has been known as the dark era, used in many a film to the extreme. However, it is a look used primarily in sci-fi films, including super-8 . The reasons for this type of colour grading is vast- one of the main ones being the focus of the film. The majority of films now have actors and the skin colours mainly have orange tints. As most skin tones fall between pale peach and dark, dark brown, leaving them squarely in the orange segment of the colour wheel.Blue and cyan are squarely on the opposite side of the wheel.

A theory, from blogger Todd Miro, is that the orange and blue trends is driven due to the want for contrast. This is because blue and orange as complementary colours- and side by side create contrast. So, if you make your actors as warm and orange as plausible while making them still look human, and make the shadows and the background as blue as possible, you’ll have a vibrant screen, and a pretty darn complementary palette. As Cracked’s Dan Seitz wrote, in an  analysis of generic color grading :

“It’s not necessarily laziness per se. Your average colorist has to grade about two hours of movie, frame by frame sometimes, in the space of a couple of weeks. It doesn’t take that many glances at the deadline bearing down on the calendar before you throw up your hands and say, ‘Fuck it. Everybody likes teal and orange!'” (Priceonomics, 2017).

.TV Tropes’ entry on orange-and-blue color schemes pointed out that, while it might not be naturalistic, the color combination packs a semantic punch:

“Unlike other pairs of complementary colors, fiery orange and cool blue are strongly associated with opposing concepts — fire and ice, earth and sky, land and sea, day and night, invested humanism vs. elegant indifference, good old fashioned explosions vs. futuristic science stuff. It’s a trope because it’s used on purpose, and it does something.” (Priceonomics, 2017).

But as colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld told The Guardian , “There’s no specific colour decision-making process where we sit in a room and say, ‘We’re only going to use complementary colours to try and move the audience in a particular direction – and only use those combinations.’ Every film has its own look.” (Priceonomics, 2017).

Below are some of the films that have this lighting type- some more subtle than others.


Super 8 (2011).


Imitation Game (2014).


Into the Woods (2014).


Tron (2010).


Jupiter Ascending (2015).


Transformers (2007).


Mad Max (2015).

Watch the video below for some interesting montages on this colour grading process.

Literally just watch this for the song. (YouTube, 2016).


Priceonomics. (2017). Why Every Movie Looks Sort of Orange and Blue. [online] Available at: https://priceonomics.com/why-every-movie-looks-sort-of-orange-and-blue/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). Colour Grading, Orange and Teal. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4x4rXsCQTU [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].


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