Cyberpunk Colour Schemes – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Cyberpunk colour schemes

Well, for today, I thought that I’d ramble briefly about the colour combinations that work best in cyberpunk art.

Although everyone doesn’t share this opinion, at the time of writing, I personally thought that either a red/blue colour scheme or perhaps an orange/blue one works best when combined with low levels of lighting. Kind of like this:

"Engine Square" By C. A. Brown

“Engine Square” By C. A. Brown

"City Centre" By C. A. Brown

“City Centre” By C. A. Brown

However, when I was looking online earlier this year, I found this absolutely awesome gallery of cyberpunk pixel art on DeviantART by an artist called “Valenberg”. Although his art uses 1980s/1990s-style pixel graphics, it looks distinctly modern and I think that a large part of this is due to the colour choices that he makes.

Most of the slightly older art in his gallery uses a light pink/ light blue colour scheme (with occasional yellow and/or purple areas), against a dark background. The interesting thing is that this doesn’t sound like it would work well with cyberpunk art, but it does. If you don’t believe me, then take a look at this awesome animation.

Thinking about it, the reason why this colour scheme works so well is because it’s a “softer” version of the rather harsh red/blue colour scheme that I like to use in some of my own cyberpunk art. This softness lends the colour scheme a slightly more “realistic” quality, for the simple reason that although harsh colour schemes can look really cool in paintings, they’d probably be considered an “eyesore” if they appeared in reality.

So, if a colour scheme like this were to exist in a real futuristic city, then it’d probably be toned down slightly into a softer pastel blue/ pastel pink colour scheme. This is somewhat less visually striking, but it still contains a slight amount of the “edginess” that comes from a red/blue colour scheme.

Since a lot of colour schemes can work well with the cyberpunk genre, I thought that I’d look at the elements of what makes a good cyberpunk colour scheme.

The first element is visual contrast. Cyberpunk art is, by definition, dark, gloomy and lit by either neon lights or computer screens. As such, your art needs to use a dark background, so that the bright artificial lighting will stand out against it as prominently as possible.

In addition to this, the best cyberpunk art often tends to use a fairly limited colour scheme, rather than a “realistic” one.

Usually, this colour scheme will consist of a slight variation on a pair of complementary colours.

Sometimes, it might also consist of three complementary colours (found by drawing an equilateral triangle over a colour wheel and looking at the colours on each point of the triangle).

For example, one of my cyberpunk paintings from quite a few months ago used a complementary red/green colour scheme:

"On The Streets Of Cyberspace" By C. A. Brown

“On The Streets Of Cyberspace” By C. A. Brown

One interesting colour choice for cyberpunk art might even be to use a red/green/blue colour scheme, for the simple reason that these are the three colours that are used in most computer and TV monitors. I’ve only really tried this once, but the results were certainly interesting:

"Cyberpunk Diner" By C. A. Brown

“Cyberpunk Diner” By C. A. Brown

Even so, I’d argue that variants on the classic red/blue colour scheme are sometimes best when it comes to making ominously futuristic cyberpunk art. These two colours are close enough to being complementary to go well together, but they also clash just enough to lend any painting a slightly ominous atmosphere.

Still, I guess that the only real way to find an interesting colour scheme for your cyberpunk art is through experimentation and/or trial-and-error.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful šŸ™‚

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