How To Choose The Perfect Color Palette For Your Brand
Did you know that color is one of the most important parts of a brand?
Color has the ability to help make your brand memorable and recognizable, think Tiffany blue and John Deere green. Color also has an ability to bring an emotional response from your clients or audience. It can make them feel safe, happy, energized, or even trusting. Color can attract your dream clients and audience or it can have them running toward the hills.
While color is important to the overall brand experience I see many small businesses struggle to nail down a color palette that tells their brand story. They aren’t sure how many colors they need or how to use them. I see a lot of business owners falling into the trap of choosing colors that are too similar to their competition making it difficult to stand out in the crowd.
Don’t worry if this sound like where you are right now, because I can help you. I’m going to show you not only how to choose the perfect color palette but how you can use it to tell your brand story.
Before we jump into the that I use with my own clients I think it’s important to go over the psychology of color.
Color is a powerful tool used by designers and businesses to tell their audience a story without words. The right colors can drive your audience to take specific actions, like buy a product, or feel specific emotions. It’s so powerful in fact that research has shown that 90% of consumers make snap judgments about products based on color alone.
To understand how color impacts an audience look at some of the most common color associations.
Pink is most often associated with femininity, but more and more you see pink being used in more modern branding. T-Mobile has done an amazing job using pink in its branding and seen great success. So gentlemen don’t count out pink as an option for your business as well
The most common positive associations for this color are healthy, happy, sweet, and playful. The negative associations weak and immature.
Red is a powerful color choice for branding. Red attracts more attention than any other color. When you see a red light it grabs your attention and you stop. That’s why so many businesses use it in strategic marketing, like sales and opt-in form.
The most common positive associations for red are powerful, strength, desire, and energy. The negative associations are danger, anger, and warning.
Yellow brings to mind sunshine and warmth. It’s also good at grabbing attention, like taxi cabs on a busy street. Yellow can also represent caution and if overused it can create discomfort in your audience. Did you know babies cry more in yellow rooms?
The positive associations with yellow are bright, sunny, energetic, happy, perky and warm. The negatives are caution, irresponsible, and unstable
Orange is an energizing color that combines the happiness of yellow and the power of red. Orange is a very confident color and is often stimulating. It can even stimulate your appetite so it’s a great choice for anyone in the food industry.
The positive associations with orange are courage, friendliness, success, creativity, and affordability. The negative associations are ignorance and sluggishness.
Blue is often seen as a calming color and can create a sense of trust with your audience. Blue is a popular choice for businesses dealing in finance and travel but rarely used by the food industry because blue is said to suppress the appetite.
The positive associations of blue are tranquility, security, integrity, peace, loyalty, trust and intelligence. The negatives are coldness, fear, and masculinity.
Green is a color that brings to mind nature and money. No real surprise there. It’s a popular choice for eco-friendly business. Green is also a calming color that slows metabolism. Green also commonly produces emotions of safety.
The positive associations with green are freshness, environment, money, health, and fertility. The negative associations are jealousy, envy, and guilt.
Purple is the color of royalty so naturally, it brings to mind luxury. Purple is used by companies like Hallmark to bring a sense of nostalgia and Cadbury to represent decadence. Purple combines the energy of red and the trust of blue.
The positives associated with purple are royalty, nobility, luxury, ambition, and wealth. The negatives are mystery and moodiness.
Black is elegant and no-nonsense. Black is also classy, think about that little black dress or tuxedo. Black can make a bold statement and is considered very traditional.
The positive associations for black are tradition, elegance, protection, drama, formality, and class. The negative associations are death, evil, intimidating, unfriendly and mystery.
Brown is a very earthy color and often represents nature. Brown can represent dependability and stability. Which is why companies like UPS have seen such success with this color. Brown isn’t popular for branding but if you want your audience to feel comfortable and safe it might be a good choice.
The positives associated with brown are security, balance, earthiness, seriousness, simplicity, and sincerity. The negatives are roughness and waste.
How To Create A Color Palette For Your Brand
Now it’s time to take everything you’ve learned about color psychology and use it to help you find the dynamic and unique color palette that accurately represents your brand identity.
These 4 simple steps are the same steps I use with each of my clients.
Step 1 // Define Your Business
If you have decided to design your own brand one of the first things you need to ask yourself is, what is your business?
At first you might think of your business as the products and services that you offer but in reality, it’s so much more than that. Your business is to sell your brand and to do that you need to define it.
Ask yourself these questions and try to find 10-15 adjectives that describe your brand.
What image do you want to portray? (trustworthy, loyal, spunky, fun etc.)
How do you want your clients/audience to feel? (safe, energized, empowered etc)
What aesthetic do you want your brand to have? (serene, modern, edgy, minimal, classy etc.)
Once you have found the adjectives you want to associate with your brand it’s time to use a little color psychology to find some inspiration.
Step 2 // Inspiration
Pinterest will be your best friend for finding inspiration. If you haven’t already found the joy that is Pinterest I recommend hopping on over to their site and creating an account. And no, Pinterest is not just for women.
Once you’re on Pinterest go ahead and create a board and name it (your business name) Inspiration Board. You can make it a private board if you don’t want your followers to see what you’re up to.
Now is when the fun begins. Go ahead and plug all those adjectives and colors into the search bar and let the magic begin. Pinterest will pull up image after image that is associated with your search term. Once you find an image that makes you think of your brand pin it to your board.
Step 3 // Color Ideas
Now that you have some inspiration go ahead and look at the images that you chose. Now pick a photo or two that accurately represent the look you want for your brand.
After you have chosen the photo or photos that speak to you, you’re going to want to pull colors from that photo to create a color palette. There are many ways to do this but I recommend using Adobe Color.
Adobe color is simple to use and has some really great features. You can explore color palettes created by other people and create your own palettes and save them. But the best feature is your ability to upload an image and pull colors directly out of it. I absolutely think this is the easiest way to create color palettes for brand identities.
Once you upload your photo to Adobe Color the program it will automatically choose some colors for you. The drop-down menu on the right will give you some preset color combinations or you can choose the custom setting and choose your colors by dragging the circle icons over the image. Like I said it’s easy peasy.
There are three different types of color palettes you can incorporate into your branding:
Monochromatic color palettes have one main color and then use tints and shades of that color. Because you’re only using one color and varying the shades your palette may look a little… well… boring. If you choose this type of color palette to try and find a complimentary color to add a little pop and use it to draw your audiences eye to important elements or information.
Analogous color palettes use colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel. They usually use either all warm colors or all cool colors. Again, I recommend adding a complementary color to help give your color palette a pop of color.
Complimentary color palettes consist of colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel and will include both warm and cool colors. This is my favorite color palette to use because it gives your brand more personality and adds interest that your audience will love.
Now that you have the colors you like hit the color wheel icon located at the top right of your screen. That will take show you the colors in RGB and their Hex Codes (website color codes). You will want to save this information so that you can use them on your brand mood board.
I recommend having a good mix of dark and light colors (I’ll explain why in the next step). I also recommend having a minimum of 4 colors, but ideally, you’ll want between 6-8, so repeat the above steps again to find more colors if you need to. If you find more than 8 colors don’t worry, you can narrow them down in the next step.
Step 4 // Putting It All Together- Your Mood Board
By now should have a good mix of colors and photos that represent the brand identity you’re looking for. So it’s time to put it all together and create a brand identity mood board.
Your mood board will be a great way to make sure your brand aesthetic is always being represented. When planning out your visual content you can reference your mood board and make sure your content is cohesive and consistent across all your platforms.
When creating mood boards for clients I usually work in Illustrator. However, if you don’t have Illustrator you can use Canva or an open source software like Inkscape.
I always start any mood boards by placing the inspiration photos on my blank document. Next, I start adding in colors from the color palette.
Remember when I said you wanted to have a good mix of both light and dark colors? Well, it’s because varying the shades will add interest to your branding. It will also give you versatility in your visual content.
Here is a mood board for one of my clients. Looking at the photos you can see that the photos include a lot of flowers and darker colors. All the inspiration photos are slightly moody. To counterbalance all the dark colors we incorporated several lighter shades. The overall effect is one of elegant feminism with an old world charm.
If you follow these 4 steps you’ll have a unique and impactful color palette that resonated with your audience and helps you stand out from the competition.. Plus, you’ll have to tools you need to keep your visual content consistent and on brand.
WHAT'S YOUR BRAND PERSONALITY?