Color-Coded Wizardry

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"...For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!' I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colors, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered. 'I liked white better,' I said."
Gandalf, telling the Council of Elrond of Saruman's Face Heel Turn.

There is an idea (codified by JRR Tolkien) that wizards are identified as X the Color. Sometimes, it indicates rank, sometimes, jurisdiction, and every now and then, the type of magic being used. White Magic and Black Magic, of course, are the most common examples. Another is Elemental Powers.

As the title suggests, this is a subtrope of Color-Coded for Your Convenience. Related to Colour Coded Elements.

Examples of Color-Coded Wizardry include:

Anime & Manga

  • Although not much is made of it, Slayers gives its wizards colors as well (Rezo the Red Priest, for example). The reason it doesn't enter into it much (especially outside the novels) is that Lina's is "The Pink", which has a reputation in Japanese Culture.

Card Games

  • Magic: The Gathering is centered entirely around a system of five colors of magic: white (focusing on purity and light), green (focusing on nature and life), red (fire and strength), black (death and decay), and blue (mind, time, and the manipulation of magic itself).
    • They sometimes dress in those colors, too, but thankfully don't always...
      • Part of the reason for dressing 'in-color' is that most (but not all!) card art has a palette that matches the card's color.


  • The Lord of the Rings has (at the beginning of the book) Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey, and Radagast the Brown. Tolkien's notes also make reference to Alatar and Pallando, who are both blue.
  • Discworld parodies Radagast with Ridicully the Brown (probably with the intention of making you think of... certain body functions), who, rather than a nature lover, is more of an Egomaniac Hunter. One book also references this by having the wizards' washerwomen mock the cleanliness of those who use "The White" as a title. Finally, a straight example is Ipslore the Red in Sourcery.
    • Mrs Whitlow's line in Equal Rites, mentioned above, is probably another LOTR parody: "Grampone the White? He'll be Grampone the Grey if he doesn't take better care of his laundry."
    • Most recently parodied in Unseen Academicals, where Unseen University's late sports instructor was Evans the Striped. Presumably, they were black and white stripes, as per referees.
  • The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson engages in some Magical Realism by having Enoch Root, who also appears in Cryptonomicon, which is set several centuries later - it's implied that he's a sort of "Wandering Jew" type. His last name is similar to the Dutch or German word for red and, at one point, he's referred to as Enoch the Red and linked to wizardry.
  • And in the Tortall books by Tamora Pierce, the color of a mage's robe signifies his level of expertise - eg, Numair Salmalin in the Immortals quartet is said to be one of only seven Black Robe mages in the world. (...Because almost everyone else who tried to reach that level is dead.)
    • The Circle of Magic series, however, color-codes its mages by their elemental affinity.
    • Also, in the Tortall series, each person's "Gift" has a specific color, possibly related to the color of their eyes - for instance, Neal's is emerald green, Numair's is black with white flecks, Alanna's is violet or purple, and Jonathan's is deep blue. Incidentally, Neal's eyes are green, Alanna's are purple, and Jonathan's are...deep blue. On the other hand, Duke Roger's is orange, and he does not have orange eyes.
  • Most of the adepts in Apprentice Adept are explicitly color-coded and are referred to only by their color. (Protagonist Stile is one of the exceptions.) Later on, in the second trilogy, there are a few adepts that don't bother with the color dynamic at all.
  • The Saga of Recluce color codes its order and chaos mages, though, surprisingly, the chaos mages are white and the order mages are black; mages that can do both are still predictably grey.
  • Trudi Canavan's The Black Magician Trilogy. There's color coding for the three different disciplines of magic (Warriors wear red robes, Alchemists wear purple robes, and Healers wear green robes) as well as for rank (the heads of each discipline wears a black sash, the King's Advisors wear gold sashes, the Administrators wear blue robes, and the High Lord wears black robes.)
    • Also, at the end of The High Lord, Lord Balkan becomes the new high lord and changes the robe color to white, and the black robes are now worn by the Black Magician.
  • Andre Norton describes a similar system in The Jargoon Pard but with more colors; brown, orange, purple, violet...
  • The Wheel of Time does this explicitly with the Aes Sedai, sorting them into one of seven colored Ajahs based on interest: Red, dedicated to preventing another Breaking, which mostly means severing male channelers; Blue, active with personal causes; Green, aimed at preparation for Tarmon Gai'don, the Last Battle; Grey, mediators and diplomacy; Yellow, the healers; Brown, who dedicate themselves to study and knowledge; and White, the philosophers. And Black, the evil ones.
  • Colors are a really big deal in The Seventh Tower, where there is a whole society of Light-magic wielding mages who organize themselves according to the colors of the rainbow: with Red being the lowest rank and Violet the highest. On top of that, most magic in this series has to do with manipulating light, and using one's Sunstone to generate light in various colors has uses ranging from battle to music to common courtesy.
  • Katherine Kurtz's Deryni are somewhat color-coded. Deryni with green or silver auras are able to Heal. The Haldanes have red auras. Since the society is feudal, Deryni nobility tend to have their aura colors included in their coats of arms (Haldane red, Morgan's Corwyn green).
  • Allen L. Wold's The Eye In The Stone takes color-coded magic to the extreme, running through the spectrum of magic-associated pigments three times, so even different hues have their own meanings. Purchasing supplies for a ritual circle to invoke a needed spell, the protagonist has to buy an extra-large box of crayons, because the smaller boxes didn't have a dark enough blue!
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has the Red Priests of R'hllor who have impressive magical abilities, supposedly powered by the sacred fire of that god. One of the major characters who belongs to this group is the Evillish Sorceress Mellisandre, who Word of God has stated to be a similar figure to Gandalf. The other is the much more benevolent Thoros of Myr, who, at one point, is referred to as the Red Wizard.
  • In Septimus Heap, Wizardry is color-coded: Purple is used by the ExtraOrdinary Wizards and their Apprentices, while bright green is associated with other Magyk.

Live Action TV


  • Hordes of the things [BBC radio parody of Lord of the Rings!]; Radox the Green, Badedas the blue, Fenjal the Pink...(all names of bubble bath products).

Tabletop Games

  • The Colleges of Magic in Warhammer Fantasy Battle are each dedicated to a different "wind" of magic, which the human mind perceives as being of different colors. These colors, and their corresponding aspects, are Red (Fire), Gold (Metal and logic), Green (Life and fertility), Blue (Air and the heavens), Purple (Death and fighting the undead), Brown (Animals), White (Light, knowledge, and fighting daemons), and Grey (Shadows, illusions, and trickery).
  • In the Ironclaw RPG, the colors of a practitioner's robe details their abilities. Cognoscente adepts wear either green or purple, Elementalists wear the color of their chosen school (yellow for air, brown for earth, red for fire, and blue for water), clerics wear white, and thaumaturges wear grey.
  • The Dark Eye has the three guilds of mages, white(law abiding and usually following strict ethics and codes when using magic), black(free thinkers who believe that every type of magic deserves to be researched) and grey(somewhere in between). All other practitioners of magic don't fall into this scheme though.


  • The Toa of Bionicle are color-coded based on powers, as are all of the Matoran and Turaga. Red is fire, blue is water, green is air, white is (unusually) ice, brown is stone, and black is earth. Rust colors are often associated with the Makuta. Starts to dissolve in the last couple of seasons.

Video Games

  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion follows this trope implicitly, in that every school of magic has an associated sigil and color and the type of mage in random and most non-random encounters can be identified by the color of their robes.
  • In Guild Wars, most spells and other skills have the color of their casting animation determined by the class and attribute the skill belongs to.
  • Each class in World of Warcraft has a color associated with it, so a character's class can be discerned at a glance, e.g. on a listing of raid members. Warrior = Brown, Paladin = Pink, Death Knight = Red, Shaman = Blue,[1] Hunter = Green, Druid = Orange, Rogue = Yellow, Priest = White, Mage = Cyan, and Warlock = Purple.
  • Practitioners of magic in the Final Fantasy universe are often aligned with colors, although it color-codes according to type of magic rather than specific mages:
    • White Mages actually wear white.
    • Black Mages don't usually wear black, but, like Jawas, have their faces impossibly overshadowed to the point that their eyes actually glow in the shadow cast by the brim of their Sunday hats.
      • Lulu from Final Fantasy X is an exception: she does not hide her face, and instead plays this trope straight.
    • Red Mages actually wear red.
    • Blue Mages actually wear blue.
    • Time Mages are usually associated with purple, but varies from title to title.
    • Summoners are usually associated with green, but varies, especially when Summoning is triggered by some kind of magicite or the summoner also fulfills one of the other mage classes (such as Yuna in Final Fantasy X).
  • Battle for Wesnoth, since it's inspired by Final Fantasy, has a similar categorization. Brown is for apprentice magi, red for master (fire) magi, white for holy magi, silver for teleporting magi, and black for dark (necromantic) magi.
  • Eternal Darkness combines this with Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors. Red, Blue, Green, Purple and Yellow Magick each correspond to a specific Ancient; offensive Magicks cast gain an alignment advantage while defensive magicks grant an alignment-specific bonus. (Red grants Health, Green restores Sanity, Blue restores as much Mana as you've spent casting it and Purple grants Health, Sanity, embues your weapons with Poison and turns your character invisible. Yellow Magick is never available to the protagonists, but apparently belongs to some other, unseen being...

Web Comics

  • Eight Bit Theater naturally has this, being a parody of Final Fantasy I. Played with when White Mage temporarily becomes grey during her Face Heel Turn.
  • The magicians of Zebra Girl earn a The X after their first ascension. The color tends to be something they wore before their near death experience, though. J-jack became Jack The Plaid, for example, with a major boost in power, a tendency to have some rather nice plaid-oriented spells, and a shapeshifting robe that's a pocket into a plaid dimension.
  • In Trigger Star, Breadbun explains to Avocado that Mages are colour coded depending on what their spell specialty is. Breadbun herself is a Panda Mage, which means she uses both holy and dark magic.

Breadbun: ...And then there are rainbow mages.
Avocado: They practice everything?
Breadbun: No, they're homosexuals. Their magic makes everything fabulous.
Avocado: Zounds!

  • in Order of the Stick, a wizard or sorcerer's magic matches the color of their eyes. This even applies to heterochromatic Tsukiko, who casts arcane and divine magic in different colors.

Western Animation

  • The Flight of Dragons animated movie had four wizards (green, blue, gold, and red) assigned to different realms.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the element a person can bend is related to their nation. Since cloth color is based by nation, this means waterbenders will usually wear blues and purples, earthbenders green/brown, airbenders oranges and yellows, and firebenders reds and black.
    • Eye colour also enters the equation, with the people from the Water Tribe having blue eyes, Earth Kingdom having green eyes, Fire Nation having amber eyes, and Air Nomads having grey eyes.
  • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, as of Season 2, Episode 3, unicorn and alicorn magic glows with specific colors, often the same color as the caster's eyes, cutie mark, or hair. Twilight Sparkle's magic is a sort of pink-purple color, Rarity's is a light blue, Celestia's is bright yellow, Luna's is a deep, deep blue, and the Flim Flam brothers' are green.
  1. Originally pink, when Shamans and Paladins were each single-faction, but changed when both sides got access to both classes in The Burning Crusade.