My Dead Bunny is my latest book. It’s a tongue-in-cheek picture book about a zombie pet rabbit. My illustrations took a lot of inspiration from movies.
I’ve already written about how one scene was almost an homage to The Shining, how the family home was inspired by a farmhouse from The Walking Dead and how a lot of the images use camera angles and clichés from film.
Today I’m writing about why the illustrations use a black and white (plus green) colour scheme.
Black and white wasn’t the first choice for the colour scheme; originally I was looking at purples and greens. They’re secondary colours, so they don’t tend to have the sunny brightness of primary colours (i.e. yellow, red, blue). When secondary colours are used together they can feel awkward and a little off-putting – but that’s why they were commonly used in horror movie posters in the 50s and 60s. Purple and green were also commonly used in science fiction movie posters from the same period – so when they’re used together now they can have a retro feel (it’s the reason why Buzz Lightyear has the colours scheme he does).
Anyway – back to Dead Bunny. Here’s the first colour scheme test I did, focusing on secondary colours.
I kinda liked it, but the publisher and I agreed it didn’t quite have the right tone. It was still a little cartoony and picture-booky; it needed more of an edge. Amy, the designer, suggested I try more muted colours or even black and white. Luckily I’d been watching old black and white horror movies for inspiration – ones like Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and The Creature From The Black Lagoon.
I’d been looking at a lot of movie posters too. I noticed these Frankenweenie posters- all the characters and background were black and white, but the headings were bright colours. The slimy green worked really well against the grey tones. So I thought, maybe we could go for a black and white scheme plus green.
I tried the new colour scheme idea on the same test image from earlier.
Success – mostly. I don’t remember why I didn’t make the cat green here. The cat is supposed to be a zombie, but without the green it just looks like a normal cat (… except for some exposed bone on his tail).
It became a really useful colour scheme; the black and white harking back to old horror movies, and the slimy green making the zombie rabbit stand out in every scene – while also acting as a shorthand for the reader, telling them very quickly that the rabbit (and cat) are definitely not alive any more.