It’s already hard to decide on a color for your brand. You want to be sure the color you pick can represent your brand and attract your audience. But with one color it’s not even done. You then have to find out which colors combine well. Create a full color palette for your brand. There are several steps you’ll have to go through to find your primary brand colors. The colors you use to set accents and some neutrals to round up your color palette.
Colors and why they are important
Your brand colors are the most important element of your brand design. They’re even more important than your logo. Colors trigger emotions and influence our decision making.
Every color has a specific symbolic meaning. Red stands for energy and passion. Blue is the color of trust. When you know what your brand colors stand for you can influence how people perceive your brand.
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Secondly, colors are easy to remember. If you want to build brand recognition through your design your colors are your marking asset. You might not remember which font IKEA uses in their logo but when you see yellow and blue you know it’s IKEA.
Start with your brand words
Before you can think about any color for your brand you first have to be very clear on what your brand is about and how you want to be perceived. The best way to do so is by defining your brand in words.
These words should include your brand values as well as the characteristics of your brand. If you think about your brand as a person it’s easy to come up with words which describe it.
Once you’ve written down your brand words you can already pick a color direction for your brand. Take your list of words and run them through the list of color meanings. Which color is most in line with your brand?
Gather inspiration and create a mood board
That’s the fun part. Gathering inspiration helps you to set the scene. Not only to make the color choice easy but also to refine your brand style. A mood board is the starting point for every brand design project.
Start by searching for inspiration. Save everything you think relates to your brand. A great place to do this is Pinterest. But you can also use stock photo sites like Unsplash, Instagram, and even magazines if you want to create a physical mood board.
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In the beginning, I recommend making your search widespread. Look for photos, patterns, textures, and graphics. And don’t limit yourself only to your niche. Fashion and home decor are always a good place to find colors.
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Then it’s time to sort your images and reduce them to around 5 to 10 which go on your final mood board. Go through every image to see which ones can represent your brand best. Also, make sure your images look good together.
Choose your main brand color
With your finished mood board, you can easily find the basic color for your brand. I bet you can already see a color stand out when you look at your board. This color can be different from your original idea or it could be a different shade or tone. Because once you see your color in relation (inside a photo e. g.) you get a better idea of what it’ll look like in your brand design. That’s why you need to create a mood board.
Now, to pick the first color for your color palette you pick the most prominent color on your mood board. A color picker tool can help you to extract a specific color from a photo. If you created your board in Photoshop or Illustrator you can use the color picker right inside the software to get the hex code or RGB values from your color.
Now it’s time to look for colors which match your main brand color and start adding colors to your color palette. For most people, this is the hardest part. If you don’t work with colors often it can be difficult to know which colors harmonize well.
Color palette categories
Going one step further you want to find even more colors to expand this into a full-blown color palette. It’s easier to know which color you want to add if you know what you will use them for.
In general, there are 3 categories in each color palette. Of course, this always depends on the brand style you want to create. A bold and playful brand will use lots of bright colors. In contrast to that approach, a minimal brand will focus on a few colors and stay in one range of color at times. It all depends on your brand and how you use your colors. To make this clearer let’s look at the three categories and how to use them.
You’ll use your primary brand colors most often. In general, you have 1 or two primary colors. These colors can be found in all your graphics as well as in your logo. They build brand recognition and once you started to use them you should make sure to stick to them.
The second category is used to set accents throughout your designs. Depending on your brand style you could use them for headlines and titles, illustrations, icons, buttons and more. They should not only harmonize well with your primary colors but also create contrast. This helps you to make important elements stand out in your images. You can pick between 1 and 3 accent colors. Contrary to your primary brand colors, your accent colors can be changed if you want to do a brand refresh after a couple of years.
Related post: How to refresh your brand design
Neutrals are the colors which are often forgotten but are essential in a color palette. You will use these colors often so it’s important to define your neutrals. They can be used for backgrounds and patterns but also for text. That’s why you mostly need at least two neutrals. One light color and dark. These can easily be shades or tints of your primary colors or some form of black, white, and gray.
Once you know what to use your colors for you can start to search for harmonious combinations. There are a couple of strategies which can help you to pick the right combination to your first and main brand color.
To create a complementary harmony you pick two colors which are opposite of each other on the color wheel. This results in the greatest contrast you can achieve.
The analogous strategy combines three colors which are next to each other on the color wheel. A combination which feels very natural because we often find different tones of one color in flowers or leaves e. g..
For this strategy, you pick three colors from the wheel to form a triangular shape between them. All colors have the same distance between each other which results in a very harmonious combination.
A monochrome combination uses several tones of one color. To create a monochrome color palette you use different shades and tints of your color. It’s a combination which is often found in minimal design because it’s subtle and not distracting.
Expand your color palette
You can use these strategies to find your perfect color palette. There are several tools which can help you to use the strategies. Adobe Color CC lets you enter your color (the color you’ve picked from your mood board) and then pick your harmony of choice e. g. complementary. Adobe will tell you which color to use and you can even export your colors directly to your Photoshop library.
Once your primary colors are fixed you can start to look for accents and neutrals. The best tool for this is Coolors. You enter your primary colors in the color generator and lock them. When you hit “space” on your keyboard Coolors will show fitting colors. You can do this until you find the right colors. Keep in mind which colors you need (accent colors and neutrals) and where you want to use them.
That’s all. Okay, I know it’s a lot. But it’s definitely worth creating a color palette for your brand. Let me know if you’re going to create one in the comments.