In today’s episode of this writer’s unhealthy obsession with everything Korean, we’re going to talk about how the colors used in certain drama scenes almost always tell us the overall tone of the Koreanovela we’re watching.

You might have noticed it too, how colors have a huge impact on communicating the story to the audience. It’s not just in K-dramas, films in general use color to externalize the internal. To create meaning without words. Since humans’ eyes are designed to react to different light waves, filmmakers maximize the use of colors to help tell their story, and in turn, the colors greatly affect our viewing experience.

We have gathered screenshots from some of the well-loved Koreanovelas below. See for yourself how the specific palette strongly influenced the story and you might not even realize it until now.

Color Sets the Atmosphere

The Power of Koreanovela Palettes in Storytelling
© Screenshot from Hotel del Luna, 2019

Red is the dominant color here. In most cases, red symbolizes love and passion. But in this scene from Hotel del Luna where Man-wol and Chung-myung finally meet again, the dominance of the color red implies rage. From the color of the curtains to the blood rushing down their covers a few minutes after this still, the use of the color red effectively set the mood throughout this fight scene.

Learn more about different versions of red here.

Color Shows Time

The Power of Koreanovela Palettes in Storytelling
© Screenshot from Reply 1988, 2015

Probably the best slice-of-life drama for me, Reply 1988 successfully worked with colors to give us a glimpse of life back in ’88. To mimic a color palette from the past, the makers drained the color saturation while keeping the vibrant vibe. As the story progresses, you can see how the colors transformed together with the characters. If you haven’t yet, make sure to carry a tissue with you when you watch this Koreanovela. I got serious second lead syndrome watching this and haven’t recovered yet.

Color Directs Attention

The Power of Koreanovela Palettes in Storytelling
© Screenshot from Goblin, 2016

To draw the attention of the viewers to the important element, this drama used monochromatic colors as backdrop for the color red. In this famed seaside scene in Goblin, one can easily notice the red scarf Eun-tak was wearing. Perhaps that’s the goal as this scarf was an essential part of the story. And to say that it was effective is an understatement, this easily became one of the most memorable scenes that it even gave way to a unique business in Korea.

Color Helps Tell the Story

The Power of Koreanovela Palettes in Storytelling
© Screenshot from Uncontrollably Fond, 2016

The use of yellow in the latter parts of Uncontrollably Fond signifies the calm after the storm. A new beginning. The transition of colors from dull, muted ones to finally brighter tones helped in telling the story of Noh-eul and Joon-young in this melodrama. Yellow is a happy color and it effectively manifested in this scene. The irony of it is that not long after this heartwarming still comes a heartbreaking ending. Watch this Koreanovela on your favorite online streaming site. Okay, don’t. Save yourself from the heartbreak.

Find your best version of yellow here.

But while color helps further the story, it must do so without calling too much attention to itself. Colors used in storytelling, as said by colorist Alex Bickel, work best on a subconscious level. I’m no expert but I think this is why we rarely notice the effect and importance of color palettes in shows we’re watching; it means the colors effectively played its part.

Pardon me as I binge-watch more Koreanovelas to see how they use colors in telling stories. I swear, I’m doing this for research. For other stories and color inspirations, subscribe to our blog. Stay safe and well-informed!


Jess is a copywriter who brushes up on her paint knowledge daily. Together with Boysen professionals, she makes the technical stuff easier to digest. When she’s not writing, she searches the internet for the latest dessert bar.

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