Posted in Visual Storytelling

Multiple Emotions in Pictures

            It’s easy to look at tell the main emotion in a picture. For example, if someone is screaming and the color of the picture is red you would be able to tell that the picture is about anger or rage, but there can still be another underlying emotion to it. That could be either based off of the color of the picture or the actual emotion being shown (like screaming). The way that we view these visual elements are called the Gestalt Principles. The Gestalt Principles are “rules that describe how the human eye perceives visual elements” (

The initial viewing of this painting makes it look like anger. The character painted is red (according to Plutchik’s color wheel red’s emotion equivalent is anger) and is raising a fist to what I can only assume is to punch someone. The underlying emotion that I can see is sadness. There’s just a little bit of blue (blue’s emotion equivalent is sadness, according to Plutchik’s color wheel). The blue color of the character’s sleeve isn’t what gives the underlying tone of sadness. If you look at the eyes of the character the tear ducts seem to be swollen, making it seem like the character is crying or about to cry. Could they be in a fight with someone who hurt their feelings? Maybe the antagonist (unseen) of this portrait hurt a loved one of the subject of the painting. Another emotional pairing that can be seen is anger and anticipation (anticipation’s color equivalent is orange). “Anger + Anticipation = Aggressiveness (with its opposite being awe)” ( The protagonist is clearly being very aggressive, seeming as if to initiate a fight. The colors also work very well together (red and orange). There is also a hint of green in the bottom of the painting which brings a hint of fear to the painting. Could the subject of the painting be fighting for their life? There are many moving parts in this painting: fear, anger, sadness, anticipation. All of which cannot be seen at the initial viewing of the painting.

This is my favorite painting that I found while searching for images that conveyed emotions. It’s entirely different from the normal Plutchik color wheel. A majority of the painting is blue which would translate to sadness, but the face of Poseidon shows pure rage. It’s very much as if the ocean is in anguish. It’s a tsunami of pain and anguish crashing down on the culprits of the pain (most likely humankind). It’s the complete opposite definition of blue according to “Like yellow, blue’s meaning varies greatly depending on the shade. All blues are universally relaxing and safe, but the lighter shades will seem more friendly while the darker ones seem more somber” ( Every shade of blue is shown in this painting but none of those shades seem friendly or safe. The main emotion being shown in the painting is anger, followed by a sense of grief and sadness. Poseidon is grieving over the pollution that humans are pumping into the ocean. At the same time, he is enraged by that fact and the two emotions work hand-in-hand to provide this amazing image. 

It amazes me how so much emotion can be conveyed in one singular painting. In the first painting, four emotions can be seen all working in tandem with the overlying tone of anger. There aren’t as many emotions being shown in the second painting but two different shades of the same emotion are shown (sadness and grief), along with rage. They work very well together. Plutchik doesn’t have grief and rage together as acceptable combinations, but this is where we can criticize the color wheel. “It is also often felt that the model is too simplistic and that there are greater emotional nuances not captured within it” ( There are so many more emotional pairings and nuances that can be shown through a multitude of colors that the color wheel doesn’t mention. One of the biggest ones would be the anger color tree and the sadness color tree. A lot of the times they work hand-in-hand in real life, so why not in images?


Cao, Jerry. “Web Design Color Theory: How to Create the Right Emotions with Color in Web Design.” The Next Web, 11 June 2018,

“Putting Some Emotion into Your Design – Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions.” The Interaction Design Foundation,

“What Are Gestalt Principles?” The Interaction Design Foundation,

One thought on “Multiple Emotions in Pictures

  1. Hi Louis,

    I really like the photos you chose for this post! When I took the first look at the second photo, I did not think much of the color attribution to the emotion. But what you said really clicked for me! I think it really does convey a different emotion than it might be interpreted as. His face gives anger beyond belief, rage, and makes usu uneasy. But although the use of blues and greens may be attributed to his belonging to the sea, i do also agree that there are different emotions causing his grief. This is a thinker and I really like this image a lot. Good job including the readings into this post as well. Sorry for the delayed comment.


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