Learn how to choose the perfect color palette for your business and stand out from your competition.

How To Choose The Perfect Color Palette For Your Brand

Branding

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 Psychology

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.

 

 

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.

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20 Comments

  1. This is so interesting because I’m working on starting my own company and i know how important branding is. Thanks for this post. I’m bookmarking it

    Reply
    • Congrats girl!! Starting your own business is a big leap but so worth it!! I’m so glad you found this post helpful. Color plays a big part in branding but it doesn’t have to be complicated. I cannot wait to see what you do with it.

      Reply
  2. These were great tips on colour branding, iinned it for better reflection later on. this is something I have always struggled with as I love strong colours personally, but realize as an audience I might have to do something different.

    Reply
    • This is where knowing your audience can play a big role in branding. But don’t be afraid of strong colors. You can still use them just use plenty of white space to give the eye a break. Putting strong colors against a white background can make them pop a lot more.

      Reply
  3. I’m obsessed with color patterns and I love your four steps. I’ve recently read How To Style Your Brand, which I think is pretty interesting and helpful too 🙂

    Reply
    • I love and admire Fiona Humberstone. Such a huge inspiration for me as a brand developer. I am obsessed with colors and fonts.

      Reply
  4. I think the colors for branding is what took me the longest to decide on. I like the lighter colors myself.

    Reply
    • I was indecisive whe it came to my brand colors. I did a lot of back and forth and testing. But I finally found a color palette I love.

      Reply
  5. EXACTLY what I needed today as I’m planning to brand my new site and was struggling with colors!! Love how you lay this out 🙂

    Reply
    • Color palettes are an obsession for me. I love pairing colors for different effect. I am glad this helped you out and I cannot wait to see what you come up with.

      Reply
  6. Thank you so much for putting this post together! This is so helpful as I am thinking about changing up somethings on my site.

    Reply
    • I am glad you enjoyed it and it was helpful. Color is really powerful at drawing out emotions. And emotional connects are what matter when running a business.

      Reply
  7. Love reading about the psychology of color — so fascinating to me! This is great info for branding!

    Reply
    • I love color psychology. Because I am a designer I am always taking note of how visuals make me feel. I do it a lot on Pinterest. But it helps me associate designs, including color, with feelings.

      Reply
  8. This is really helpful! I’ve tried to brand my Instagram as pink and airy and light, but it can be a challenge – especially when using stock photography!

    Reply
    • Instagram is a beast when it comes to color. It can hard some days to stay branded. And stock photos can be hard to find all the time. I struggle every day with IG. Some days I just want to post something yellow, and that’s not branded. So I total get the struggle.

      Reply
  9. Great advice! Mine is all clack and white because I’m having a hard time commuting to a color as I’m a designer and don’t want to distract from my imagery or have it clash. This will allow me to apply some really thought tonit!

    Reply
    • I struggled too because as designers we naturally love most colors, so narrowing down can be difficult. But a Black and white color story can the platform to have other colors really POP.

      Reply
  10. I absolutely love the role color plays in defining a brand and think the list you’ve pulled together is great, however a few of the “negative” attributes you’ve assigned the colors seem outdated in today’s branding world. Citing “womanly” and “feminine” as a negative for pink and teal and blue as “masculine” now seem arbitrary as design moves forward.

    Reply
    • Some of the color attributes may seem outdated but when looking at branding and the message being conveyed in some instances being seen as “feminine” may be considered a negative attribute, same as masculine. It’s important to know both sides of the spectrum to be accurate. One of the major roles a brand strategist and developer will play with color palettes is explaining that a baby pink will appear more feminine than a pink that has more of blue undertone. Building a color palette is about the balance of attributes as much as the colors themselves. So while they may appear outdated they are rooted in psychology that hasn’t changed much over the years.

      Reply

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