Color is such an integral part of branding. It conveys the mood + tone of your brand, in the most visual way. But where do you start? Each color has a psychological response attached to it — whether it is warm/friendly, peaceful, or rustic. Once you have just a couple colors you are confident in for your brand, you can expand those colors into a unique palette.
Without getting into the weeds of color theory, there are a few basic color scheme concepts that are worth mentioning. These color schemes have been in use for centuries. Here are a few definitions + visual examples above to provide a bit of clarity:
Made up of various shades + tints within a specific color. These are pretty simple to create, since they derive from the same color palette.
Created using three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. This adds a bit more diversity than a monochromatic palette.
Made up of colors that are on opposing sides of the color wheel. When reduced to the simplest form, the palette contains two colors, but can easily be expanded by combining shades + tints of these hues. If you use the two exact opposites right next to each other in a composition, it can appear to vibrate and make the user feel dizzy!
Similar to complimentary, however instead of using the color exactly opposite, you select colors on either side of the hue opposite of your basic hue.
Made up of hues equally spaced around the color wheel. This makes for the most diverse color scheme.
These color schemes are a great starting point. For branding, I recommend not only having a primary palette, but also a secondary color profile at hand. The secondary palette is great to use for illustrations, accent colors, or if your brand is calling for something a bit different than the standard primary palette. When I worked at a university, we had two primary colors, and about ten secondary colors. Trust me, at some point you will an extended palette to incorporate into your branding.
I touched on how to create a dynamic color palette (inspired by Anna Bond's process she shared in a workshop) in a previous
if you want an even deeper look into color palettes.
How Many Colors?
I would recommend 3 primary colors, especially for use on your website. Following that it is really up to you or your designer. Personally, I have SO many colors in my secondary palette as you can see in my branding palette below. Some of these are tints of one another though, and I feel confident as a professional designer in how to handle this wide color palette effectively. For clients, I limit the palette a bit more, so they don’t feel overwhelmed, and I can direct them to a more cohesive look with minimal effort.
Add in a Neutral Color Palette
Though often overlooked, neutrals are just as important in developing a color palette. I have found that I am always looking for a neutral to go with my colors, so much so that I created an additional neutral color palette for my brand. These could include grays, white, cream, or even light tints of your main palette (light blush, peach, gray/green). Neutral colors help tie in your brand even more.
How to Pick a Color Palette
There are SO many ways to go about selecting a color palette. If you aren’t as familiar with working with color or design, I would recommend utilizing one of the formulas above. There are also numerous sites or apps available that either curate beautiful color palettes, or help you create them. Here are just a few:
or my color inspiration
! Overall, just have fun with exploring different palettes! Look beyond the computer — painted houses in your neighborhood, nature, your favorite outfit, etc. Possibilities are endless!
If you've been following me on
, you know that right now, I am visiting New Orleans with my husband for a little vacation! I am having so much fun here, and am constantly inspired by the color palettes sprinkled throughout this adorable city. If you appreciate design + art, you would love the New Orleans architecture! Since we are talking all about color palettes today, I couldn't help but share a few of my favorite color palettes I spotted while roaming through the streets of NOLA:
Examples of Brands With Effective Color Palettes
Just for fun, I thought I would throw in a few examples of websites that take advantage of great color palettes. Get ready to be inspired!
Do you have any insights on effectively selecting colors for branding? I would love to see examples, or methods that have worked for you!