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Color Wash

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"So what are you trying to tell me?
There's a green filter everywhere?"
"Well, I hope you like the color blue, 'cause this movie sure does."
Phelous, Pulse (2006) review

Color Wash refers to a process designed to create a largely uniform tint or stylized color timing to a work, typically done in post-production on the natural footage but cinematographers and production designers have used lens filters, lighting gels and coordinated sets/costumes to achieve the same effect in-camera.

The methods applied and the reasons for it depend on the intended goals. Warm Place, Warm Lighting helps convey that the characters are sweating it out in a hot location. Real Is Brown may be a variant of Deliberately Monochrome with a Splash of Color. Very popular is an Orange/Blue Contrast pushing skin tone to appear orange-y and everything else teal for Color Contrast. Mood Lighting often goes along with Unnaturally Blue Lighting. And there are standard flashback.

Using lots of Color Wash can sometimes create a grating visual, but it can also be used to highlight important details or comment on a character's state of mind. Like any trope, it depends on execution.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Toei first series anime of Yu-Gi-Oh!, the palette seems to be made up entirely of super-saturated neons that don't go together.
  • The infamously confusing anime Bounty Dog takes place on the moon, and everything is tinted in a sickening shade of yellow.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 
  • Brother Bear uses an orange wash to emphasize the setting of Native American Alaska.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Early black-and-white films, especially during the Silent Era, like Civilization, would tint the film to give it an evocative mood.
  • Suspiria (1977) by Dario Argento is the go-to example as red, green, and blue lighting are both common motifs of this film and played for horror.
  • The Ring series is almost entirely bathed in green to give it is a sickly, ominous feeling.
  • James Cameron always uses a strong blue tint when scenes in his films are supposed to be set at night. It allows the scene to be strongly lit so that the audience can see everything, but also to give the indication of darkness.
  • The first film of The Twilight Saga: Because Forks is a dreary, rainy town, the director decided to desaturate the colors to get this across.
  • Among the many, many reasons the Battlefield Earth movie was considered awful was the blue filter on many of the shots. It also enjoys combining green and purple, using the same logic as movies that use orange and teal - the colors contrast, so putting them together causes them to "pop".
    The Providence Journal: Battlefield Earth's primary colors are blue and gray, adding to the misery. Whenever we glimpse sunlight, the screen goes all stale yellow, as though someone had urinated on the print. This, by the way, is not such a bad idea.
  • In The Matrix, scenes in the real world are tinted a cold blue, whereas scenes in the Matrix itself are tinted green, akin to an old monochrome computer screen. In fact, the green tint becomes more and more prominent as Smith takes over the Matrix. The final scene, after Smith is defeated and the Matrix is freed, is completely devoid of this tint.
  • Spy Game uses different filters for each flashback segment. Vietnam is orange as hell, Berlin is kind of a cool blue, and Beirut is sort of a sandy yellow. This serves to easily delineate between the flashbacks and the central hub of the story.
  • Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings uses digital color grading, and it becomes blatantly obvious at times. It's especially noticeable in day-for-night scenes, like with Merry and Pippin in Fangorn. There's even a scene in The Return of the King where Pippin is searching for Merry that appears as a daylight scene in the theatrical version, but was regraded to night for the extended version. An interesting example occurs with several shots used more than once (Green Dragon Inn exterior, Boromir's last stand, and a certain close-up of Elrond) in different movies; frame-by-frame comparison shows exactly the same image but with drastically different colors.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? plays with this a lot. The producers messed with the hue and saturation until everything was an intensely colorful brown, imitating the look of early 20th-century photos. This was also done because dying yellow crops look better in a Depression-era film, whereas most of the greenery was verdant as Hawaii during filming. Also, it was the first feature film to be entirely digitally color corrected. The directors consulted with modern colorists on how to accomplish the look they wanted, as they wanted to preserve particular colors, and the reply was that it was impossible to not affect everything in the frame. They explored digital color correction and were able to manipulate the specific set of colors they wanted, which turned out to be rather groundbreaking.
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona is very golden-yellowy tinted since Woody Allen likes warm colors.
  • The movie version of Kamikaze Girls is really, really yellow.
  • In The Thirteenth Floor, one character comments about how the colors are off in the computer simulation.
  • Used far too much in the made-for-TV film Jason and the Golden Fleece, with desaturated colours and hard light.
  • Avalon has a very amber filter, to the point where it becomes monochrome, until the end, when it's removed to suggest that the main character is now in "the real world."
  • The Moroder version of Metropolis used color washes over the whole screen: blue for scenes in the underground Worker's City and reddish tones for surface scenes (although there were some variations).
  • The original Star Wars trilogy has a fairly consistent dark blue wash (very noticeable in scenes set on mostly grey spaceships) in the DVD release that wasn't in any earlier version (compare the bonus disc, which has the original theatrical version without the blue wash).
  • In the film adaptation of South Pacific, everything appears heavily yellow because the film was filtered through a yellow sheet of cellophane in post. This was overkill of what the filmmakers wanted, which was to make the movie "more yellow", and they hadn't actually intended it to be all yellow. But they released it anyway.
  • David Fincher is a big fan of alternating between yellow/green and blue. A big part of this is his use of natural and "practical" light, rather than conventional stage lighting. He did this a lot on his later work.
  • In The Book of Eli, the entire world is brownish as if it's being seen through the sunglasses everyone's wearing.
  • Saving Private Ryan looks fairly washed out thanks to cinematographer Janusz Kaminski subjecting it to a very specific post-production technique. This also makes the images appear sharper and shakier, making it look more like documentary footage than a $70 million Hollywood production.
    • Director David O Russell used a similar technique while filming Three Kings. Except he went for a more high contrast/bleached look in an effort to try and reproduce "the odd color of the newspaper images of the Gulf War".
    • Steven Spielberg and Kaminski have done this at least twice now. Minority Report has an icy hue to it, likewise accomplished in the film processing stages of post-production.
  • Clerks II, except for the dance scene. The film was originally intended to shot in black and white like the first one, but producer Harvey Weinstein wanted the film open wide so director Kevin Smith chose to desaturate the colors instead.
  • In i am sam, a blue filter is used in certain scenes, portraying bad times for Sam, like in court or in the hospital.
  • The first Harry Potter film is full of vivid colours, with plenty of warm reds and gold. However, every subsequent entry in the series becomes more and more desaturated until Deathly Hallows is practically in black and white.
  • Ghostbusters (1984) used a purple wash to give the film an eerie, paranormal feel.
  • The theatrical release of Payback has a stark blue filter applied throughout the whole movie, but the director's cut doesn't have this (it also changes the whole last third of the plot).
  • The Wrong Guy uses a bland mix of grey and blue-green in the early "corporate" scenes. After the boss is murdered and Nelson discovers his corpse, color begins to seep in, starting with the red blood. By the time Nelson meets Lynn, the palette is brighter and a broader spectrum.
  • The Raid is very blue.
  • For some reason, the Hollywood Darkness in the Action Prologue of On Her Majesty's Secret Service wasn't considered dark enough, and it was suddenly given a dark blue color wash in the Ultimate edition DVD.
  • Kontroll is set in the Budapest Metro (underground railway), and most scenes have a green-yellow cast. When we see these scenes being filmed in the "making of" feature, they all have natural colors and are brighter.
  • Zack Snyder loves his dark and gloomy (though sometimes vibrant as well) filters, as demonstrated by the likes of 300, Watchmen, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League. More often than not, it helps his movies' special effects to look better.
    • Man of Steel has a dark bluish tint when Clark is out in the world, while Smallville scenes use yellowish lighting.
  • Some of Steven Soderbergh's films have this:
    • Many scenes in Side Effects are tinted warm yellow, especially in the first half.
    • Contagion (2011) varies from scene to scene, with green, yellow and blue being popular choices.
    • Traffic (2000) has different filters for different locales. For example, Mexico is always awash in orange-yellow, whereas the United States has a blue filter.
    • All the outdoor scenes in Magic Mike are extremely orange, emphasizing the Florida setting and more sharply contrasting the nightclub and strip club scenes, which are all dark and neon-soaked.
  • The color and lighting in the '70s scenes of X-Men: Days of Future Past deliberately invokes the feel of movies from that era.
  • The film Reflections in a Golden Eye, directed by John Huston and starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor, was originally tinted with a golden color. However, there were so many complaints from audiences that the film was pulled from distribution to reprocess the color back into a conventional palette for re-release.
  • Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom uses a sickly yellow tint for the scenes set in China and washed-out colors for the part in Dublin. The final scene, in a Gaeltacht, has no filters, making the colors seem bright, vibrant, and full of life.
  • The film adaptation of Dolores Claiborne jumps back and forth between blue filters for the present day and orange filters for 20 years earlier.
  • Fury (2014), set in Germany in April 1945, has a cold blue/grey tint.
  • The director of the film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof wanted the film to be shot in earthy tones, and the director of photography noticed a woman wearing nylons in the exact shade of brown he wanted, so he asked for them right then and there. The film was shot with the nylon over the lens, and the weave of it can even be seen in parts of the film.
  • The Underworld (2003) franchise is almost entirely colored in shades of black, white and blue.
  • The opening and closing scenes of The Day the Earth Caught Fire are in yellow-tinted monochrome, while the rest of the film is in standard black and white. The tinted scenes are in the story present, and the untinted scenes are a long flashback leading up to the present.
  • Most scenes in Morgan have a cold grey/blue/green/overcast color palette, with flashbacks in sunny natural color.
  • In Nocturnal Animals, scenes in the present day tend to be cold and desaturated, flashbacks are natural, and the film within the film is more saturated and harshly lit.
  • Not every scene in Blade Runner 2049 is orange, but it's the way to bet.
  • In Season of Miracles, the colors look desaturated for a while after Rafer is diagnosed with a fatal blood disease.
  • The Golem is a silent film from 1920. Every scene is tinted, in a variety of colors. The strength of the tint varies between restorations.
  • I Know Who Killed Me: In a nod to the works of Dario Argento and Brian De Palma, every scene with Aubrey has a form of blue lighting, and a similar case occurs with Dakota and red lighting.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Banshee: Befitting the bleak, gritty tone of the story, the colors are desaturated and the lighting is made to look more harsh. On the flip side, flashbacks to Hood and Carrie's life under Rabbit are often shown in a monochromatic tint.
  • In Battlestar Galactica, scenes on lifeless planets tend to be very washed out, but the scenes on Kobol have implausibly vivid green foliage.
  • Used for Stylistic Suck in The Boys (2019), where Dawn of the Seven, the film-within-a-show, has a level of color wash that can only be described as "piss-yellow". It's especially evident when the camera cuts to the same set in more normal lighting conditions.
  • Charlie Jade has a different color wash, depending on which dimension you're currently watching: Alpha was green, Beta was Blue and Gamma was red.
  • In Chernobyl, not every indoor scene is underlit with a green tint, and not every outdoor daylight scene is overcast, but it's the way to bet.
  • The miniseries Children of Dune did a lot of oversaturated brown and orange, probably to emphasize the desert planet setting and give it a visual style similar to older Biblical films, most of which were filmed in places like Italy, Spain, and other regions containing dry, arid locations similar to the ancient Middle East.
  • Cold Case uses this a lot. Scenes that take place in the present have either only a slight blue tinge or no color wash at all, Those in the past, however, have a color wash that 'fits' the time. For instance, scenes in the 1970s have vivid, warm colors to contrast with the present.
  • Because CSI: Miami is set in Miami, everything is drenched in orange. Whenever someone is walking outside in daylight, the sky is a vivid orange as well.
    • Related, CSI: NY uses Unnaturally Blue Lighting, particularly in season one (and the crossover with Miami has Horatio Caine bringing his orange light...).
    • Not to mention, CSI has a green tint.
      • Not so much. In earlier seasons, scenes set in daylight have a noticeable Blue/Orange Contrast, while those taken indoors or at night have a more realistic blue tint.
  • The Defenders (2017) has a habit of using color wash to reflect the thematic colors of its main protagonists: red for Matt Murdock, yellow for Luke Cage, green for Danny Rand, and blue for Jessica Jones. This is especially predominant in the first episode, when the heroes are all running their own thing, and the colors start to gradually blend together as the heroes begin teaming up.
  • The last two series of Foyle's War are noticeably desaturated compared to the rest of the show, reflecting the more morally ambiguous nature of Foyle and Sam's work in MI-5 and the difficulties of life in postwar England (which was still difficult thanks to continued rationing, economic troubles, and Shell Shocked Veterans with inadequate support).
  • Heroes often filmed their New York settings in a blue or green light, while Texas, California, and other outdoors settings in the show had a yellow or orange light.
  • Earlier episodes of House have an almost orange look to them, fading out to a very slight greenish tint for the rest of the series.
  • Jekyll plays with this to wonderful effect. When Tom Jackman is awake, colors are subdued by means of a subtle blue filter, while vivid colors mark Hyde being awake.
  • Life on Mars was made to look older (the show takes place in the 1970s) by washing everything with yellow during the coma/whatchamacallit (and that lasted the entire show). In comparison, the 2006 scenes were almost drained.
  • Like in the movie, Limitless shows the perspective of NZT users in orange and yellow, while reality is more dull and blue.
  • Each timeline in Ordinary Joe has distinct shading as differentiators, with the Musician Joe timeline being red, the Nurse Joe timeline being green, and the Cop Joe timeline being blue.
  • Power Rangers consistently uses this for a relatively inexpensive method of giving BBC Quarry planets an Alien Sky and otherworldly atmosphere (and to distinguish them from the very similar quarries the Rangers visit all the time on Earth): the moon is blue, a volcanic planet is red, the post-nuclear Robot War wasteland is yellow, etc.
  • The Scrubs episode "My Way Home" features heavy color saturation as a homage to The Wizard of Oz.
  • In Skins, scenes that take place outdoors have very saturated colours. This is often seen as very good cinematography.
  • Star Trek: Picard:
    • In "Absolute Candor", the Qowat Milat monastery scenes have a strong orange tint, although it's slightly less intense for North Station.
    • In "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2", there's a greenish-grey hue in the scene where Narek and Narissa first meet on the Artifact.
  • Similarily to Traffic, from season 2 onwards, Breaking Bad would frequently visit orange-yellow-tinted Mexico.
  • The entirety of Utopia is shot in vividly over-saturated colors.

    Music Videos 
  • The music video for BTS' "Blood, Sweat and Tears" has the image suddenly gain very high contrast and a fuchsia tint during the second chorus.
    • The (vastly different) music video for the Japanese version of "Blood, Sweat and Tears" has this as a defining feature, with each scene having very saturated color palettes that tend towards a single color (one scene looks extremely green, another looks extremely fuchsia, etc.).
  • The video for Devo's "Girl U Want" is very purple-and-green, to the point that there almost aren't any other colors. Even skin is mostly purple.
  • In the lyric video and full video for Poets of the Fall's "Drama for Life", colors shift between heavy washes of deep blue, purple and red.
  • Animated band Savlonic exists in a world dominated by shades of red.
  • Tears for Fears:
    • The birthday party segment in the "Mad World" video has a slight orangish hue to reinforce the delight of the partygoers and further juxtapose the bleak mood of Curt Smith's character in the background.
    • Most of "The Way You Are" video was filmed with an orange filter, but some shots of the female photographer working in her studio has Unnaturally Blue Lighting.
    • A lot of scenes in the "Advice for the Young at Heart" video are mildly pink-tinged to heighten the romance and joy of the newlywed couple.
  • The Halo Effect: The video for "In Broken Trust" is a playthrough of the song on the roof of a skyscraper at night, with a green lens filter.

  • It's not uncommon for a Lighting Designer to implement one or two dominant colors in a play.

    Video Games 
  • Singularity is overly fond of lighting everything with orange. Anything that isn't orange tends to be blue.
  • Vagrant Story, like Singularity, is fond of a yellowish-brown color for absolutely everything with occasional blue-lit areas (usually in the Undercity).
  • Battlefield 3 is the bluest game in the history of gaming. Even the night maps are blue instead of black.
  • [PROTOTYPE] is one of the reddest games ever made, with red menus, red monsters, red zombies, red pulsing hives and building, and red skies.
  • The third Resistance does this (with a different color every stage) as a compromise between the Real Is Brown of the first game, and the brighter, more natural colors of the second.
  • Deus Ex has a color scheme where the primary color on the palette to denote high technology is blue.
    • Deus Ex: Human Revolution also has this, but yellow.
    • Parodied in Bro Team Pill's sponsored Gunnar Optiks video. When he's wearing them, the game on his screen is Deus Ex, but tinted yellow. When he takes them off, it's vanilla Deus Ex Human Revolution.
      This isn't the right Deus... Shouldn't it be the other one?
  • In Devil May Cry 5, King Cerberus changes the theme of his battle arena to fit which among of his heads' Fire, Ice, Lightning powers is currently dominant. Apart from the demon itself changing colors or the presence of temporary structures (from his ice powers), the color palette of the arena itself may temporarily shift to red (fire), light blue (ice), or purple (lightning).
  • Metal Gear Solid's Shadow Moses and a good deal of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty are green-blue. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater continued this trend, opting for a green-yellow filter.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the Twilight Realm was initially designed as grayscale with some splashes of color. However, the design later changed to an incredibly hyper-saturated color scheme, with gold, brown and magenta being the most prominent colors. Most praised the new design, citing it as more original and evocative of a creepy, alien twilight world.
    • Used to a lesser extent with normal-Hyrule, which has a faint yellowish tint to most things.
  • World of Warcraft uses different color grading in different areas. The difference is sometimes very noticeable; for instance, Ghostlands looks very different when you're looking in from Zul'Aman than when you're inside and the darker color grade takes hold. It's sometimes so strong (particular with red colored areas like Durotar) that it takes a while for eyes to readjust to another color when changing zones.
  • Used in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for an accentuated atmospheric sense. Since San Andreas is a huge state with contrasting environments, there's a color wash scheme that differs from place to place. Los Santos is orange-ish with heat hazes; San Fierro has unnaturally teal lighting to convey a mild-to-cold atmosphere, reinforced by the city's constant fog; Las Venturas goes for a less blatant color scheme, but with a dash of yellow to convey the desert's hot weather; the forested countrysides of Red and Flint Counties have a pastel green/brown tint to them; and finally, the deserts of Bone County take it further, with bright white sand and yellow skies that turn purple at night. All of this is much more pronounced in the PS2 version; later versions such as the PC port toned it down for a more sober, less in-your-face look, but it's definitely noticeable, especially when the sun is setting.
  • Done to the second and third games of the Grand Theft Auto IV trilogy, Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned and Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony, respectively. Lost and Damned, being Darker and Edgier, subtly shifts to desaturated, grimy tones, while Ballad of Gay Tony is Lighter and Softer, preferring brighter neon hues.
  • The NES games on the Wii's Virtual Console have a filter that not only darkens the screen, but also darkens the colors. This was supposed to emulate the way NES games would look when displayed on a 1980s TV set, but it makes the games look like someone put a gray film over the screen. Ports of the NES games plus emulators don't use this feature, which makes the games look brighter and more colorful by comparison.
  • Super Mario Galaxy uses color tints on the cosmic comet missions: red for the speed run missions, yellow for the Fast Foe missions, blue for the cosmic clone missions, white for the daredevil missions, and purple for the purple coin missions. The effect is subtle, but it's there.
  • Almost everywhere in Fallout 3 has a strong green tint (save for the Tranquillity Lane simulation, which is sepia-toned). If you remove the tint with a visual overhaul mod, you'll find that a lot of textures had their saturation reduced to exaggerate the effect, making the Capital Wasteland look quite grey without it.
    • The areas added by some of the DLC packs have their own color palettes. The industrial setting of The Pitt has a red-brown wash, whereas Alaska in Operation Anchorage is tinted a wintry blue. Point Lookout cranks the wash of the main game up and adds a thick green haze, likely to hide the lack of detail outside of the playable parts of the map.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has an orange-brown tint, in keeping with its desert and Western themes. It's probably not as obvious as Fallout 3's green tint, though, since the Mojave is, like most deserts, pretty brown to begin with.
    • Some areas shift to a different tint when you enter them. For example, the recently nuked Camp Searchlight is very green, and Camp Forlorn Hope is a drab sepia, in keeping with its occupants' low morale. This filter is seen in a few other places around the Colorado River, like the Deathclaw Promontory.
    • The Sierra Madre resort in the Dead Money DLC uses a strong reddish-brown filter, which makes a lot of the outdoor scenery look either orange or purple.
    • The Lonesome Road DLC's color palette is like that of the main game, but amplified. The exceptions are the three nuclear blast sites (the Courier's Mile, and the two optional post-endgame areas, Long 15 and Dry Wells), which have the same tint as Camp Searchlight.
  • Bethesda deliberately averted this with Fallout 4 for the most part, likely due to the popularity of de-tinting mods for the previous two games. However, a sickly greenish-yellow wash was added to some heavily irradiated areas like the Glowing Sea, and during radiation storms. According to Word of God, this was done as a deliberate aesthetic Call-Back to Fallout 3.
    • In addition to sharing a few plot elements, the Far Harbour DLC's setting has a very similar aesthetic to that of Point Lookout. The exception to this is the Nucleus, which has the same colouration as the Glowing Sea in the base game.
  • Final Fantasy XII: Whenever you fight with an Esper, the whole screen is tinted the color associated with that Esper (e.g., red for Belias, blue for Mateus).
  • Final Fantasy XIV has a slight gray tint that dulls out the colors of the whole game.
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla does this in a different color for each portion of Mars: Parker is slightly brownish red, Dust is vaguely blue-ish, Badlands is yellow, Oasis is green, the Free Fire Sector is grey, and Eos is white.
  • Game Boy games that were compatible with the Super Game Boy tended to feature this, since the Game Boy could only display objects in four shades of gray, with the games being programmed to reflect this. While certain static areas of the screen could be given individual color palettes, mobile areas of play (such as stage backgrounds and characters) all used single, unified palettes, sometimes changing these palettes from stage to stage. Two notable examples of this were Kirby's Dream Land 2 and Pokémon Red and Blue, which used a different "tint" for the game depending on what world/area the player was in (which was also present in the world selection map in Kirby's Dream Land 2, where hovering to a different world immediately changes the game's tint). Games that weren't compatible with the Super Game Boy could also use color washing thanks to the various palettes the player could create and/or choose from, with certain titles having default palettes pre-coded into the SGB's hardware. For example, Alleyway used a primarily lavender and yellow palette, Kirby's Dream Land used a reddish-pink palette, and Metroid II: Return of Samus used a near-psychedelic red, green and yellow palette.
  • Heavy Rain has the colors in the prologue very bright and vivid, making everything pop out. When the game actually kicks off, all the colors are muted, with lots of gray tint due to the heavy rain occurring. The only time the colors become more vivid is inside certain buildings, but the colors there aren't quite as colorful compared to the beginning of the game. The color differences also expresses the mood; the bright colors are during happier times before the tragedy strikes. After said event occurs, the darker colors show how dark and depressing the story has become.
  • Gravity Rush:
    • The first game gives each district of Hekseville its own distinct color. The run-down residential Aldnoir is reddish-brown, the entertainment area of Pleajeune appears to be Always Night and is a more festive purple, the industrial district Endestria is yellow, and downtown Vendecentre is a light green.
    • The effect is downplayed in Gravity Rush 2, with the poor district in Jirga Para Lhao shrouded in overcast greys to give it a gloomy, dismal feel in comparison to the brighter, more colorful areas of the city. It returns in full force in the last third of the game, when Kat finds herself back in Hekseville, which retains the old color wash with higher resolutiom visuals.
  • When played on a Super Game Boy, Metroid II: Return of Samus defaults to using a red, black, green, and yellow palette, befitting the "alien" nature of SR388. Because it was released before the Super Game Boy went into development, however, this default palette is precoded into the SGB's hardware (as with numerous other pre-SGB games), and doesn't feature any of the more advanced color trickery seen in SGB-optimized titles.
  • In Hollow Knight, deserted civilization zones, such as the Forgotten Crossroads and City of Tears, have dark blue-heavy palettes; Greenpath and the Queen's Gardens are green; the Fungal Wastes are slate blue with hints of yellow; the Royal Waterways are turquoise; Crystal Peak is pink; The Hive is appropriately golden brown; the lowest depths of Hallownest, such as Ancient Basin and Deepnest, are gray; and the White Palace, well, is white.
  • In Ori and the Blind Forest, the forest of Nibel starts out vibrant during the prologue, but appropriately turns to drab shades of brown, gray, blue, and purple once the decay sets in after the defilement of the Spirit Tree. Outlying areas have color washes in varying hues: Thornfelt Swamp and the Ginso Tree are brownish-green, Moon Grotto is midnight blue, the Misty Woods are teal, the Forlorn Ruins are ice blue with glowing orange machinery, Sorrow Pass is mustard yellow, and Mount Horu, being a Lethal Lava Land, is red-orange.
  • In Haven (2020), each biome of the planet Source has a unique color wash. The plains are cyan, Rust-covered areas are magenta, the swamp is green, the desert is yellow, and the lava zone is red. Abandoned buildings are generally gray with electric blue Tron Lines, corrupted fauna have a red-brown aura, and consumable plants are highlighted with their own colors.
  • Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 have a color wash depending on the campaign being played. To name a few examples, No Mercy has a bluish-green tint to reflect the gloomy weather in a city at night, Dead Air has an orange hue due to the fires and smoke in the city, and Hard Rain has its later half washed in a green-blue tint due to a hurricane. Meanwhile, safe rooms in all campaigns have a warm yellow tone to convey a cozy and safe feel. Developer commentary states that the color wash was intentional since the developers wanted to invoke the feel of a B-horror movie with fog "smoking the set". Using mods that alter the color correction or removing fog entirely gives the visuals a more clean look, but also exposes the flaws that would have been hidden by the color correction and distant fog.
  • The E.M.M.I. zones in Metroid Dread use a gray-green tint, with film grain and low lighting to invoke the sense of dread when dealing with the patrolling E.M.M.I. robots. Once Samus destroys one of them, the color wash and film grain are lifted to restore the zone's natural colors while turning the lights back on.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 3 recycles a lot of demon artwork from the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series, and splashes it with a desaturated gray filter to match the rest of the game's rather-dreary, muted color palette.
    • During Persona 5 Royal's third semester, there is a noticeable gray filter over most of the outside areas of Tokyo to represent the chill of winter. During snowy days, interiors get hit with the gray wash too.

    Web Comics 
  • In Cucumber Quest, by the water scene, in blues.
  • In Far Out, the color palette is tinted toward ruddy orange.
  • This technique is used in Keit-Ai in order to differentiate the two universes involved (the boy's universe is tinted blue and the girl's universe is tinted brown).
  • Played with in an arc of No Need for Bushido. Scenes seen through the eyes of Yori (who, at that point, is under the effect of a powerful hallucinogenic drug), have duller colors and a sap tint, as opposed to the usually vivid visuals of the rest of the battle.
  • A frequent technique used by TamberElla, often to set up a specific mood. This is taken to the extreme in their webcomic Ink which is set in a world made of stain glass.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • If one person were to accurately see through another's eyes, this is what you could get, as everyone has their own balance of cones, which lights the world in a certain way: one person's blue looks slightly different than another's.
  • The particles in the air during a red sandstorm can make everything appear, well, red.
  • Volcanic ash can make the moon appear blue, which is why some people say that volcanic eruptions occur once in a blue moon.
  • Differing weather and atmospheric conditions within an area in general can naturally create these. The added moisture of a good rain shower or a particularly humid day can enhance the light of the sunset to cover an entire city in golden orange or red while snow (fresh snow in particular) is so reflective that it will oftentimes bathe the immediate area in whatever color the strongest ambient light source is at night.
    • Fog and even smog can make everything in the daytime look desaturated due to the sunlight being filtered out. At night, fog can bathe everything in a certain color from lit street lamps, depending on the color of the light from said lamps. During the COVID-19 pandemic where many cities went on lockdown, smog heavy areas like China and California were shown to be a lot more bright and colorful in the daytime due to less pollution being released into the air.
  • A lot of cities and towns use orange sodium based street lights to light up streets and buildings during the night due to being cheap to use and install. Not only do the street lights make the surrounding area have an orange hue on them, any object (such as cars for example) that is not white will almost appear black under the orange lighting.
  • A widely distributed propaganda picture of the 2022 Winter Olympics intended to shame China for hosting the Big Air event in what appears to be a nuclear power plant, but is actually a decommissioned industrial area turned into an open air museum and green space, and has a very obvious grey wash, making it look like a hellscape wasteland.
  • The BBC was caught adding what could only be described as a "smog filter" to a news report about the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan.
  • During the 2022 World Cup, a meme about the Poland vs. Mexico game parodied the Unnaturally Blue Lighting/Blue Means Cold filter used in media set in Eastern Europe, and the Warm Place, Warm Lighting filter used in media set in Mexico, with each team's half of the field having different palettes.
  • The June 2023 Canadian wildfires had its smoke drift southward, which impacted several east coast cities like New York. Cities that were affected by the smoke had the sky under a yellow fog due to the sunlight penetrating the smoke. This created a very apocalyptic looking environment.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Color Grading, Colour Wash


BTS - "Blood, Sweat and Tears" music video

In this part, the video jumps from a more natural color palette to a fuchsia/pink (adding other effects shortly afterwards). At 00:10 it starts to go back and forth between a natural color palette and this fuchsia Color Wash before eventually settling on the former.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ColorWash

Media sources: