Picking your brand colors is one of the most difficult tasks when it comes to brand styling. With so many possibilities to choose from you can easily get overwhelmed. Being somebody who needs 30 minutes to decide which kind of ice cream I want to buy, I totally get it. But you can simplify the process of defining your brand colors by clarifying how many colors you need upfront.
Why you need to define your brand colors
When you’re starting your business you might be unsure why the heck you have to go through the hustle of defining colors. Let me give you a couple of reasons real quick.
The number one reason is to build brand recognition. Colors are your most important design asset to do this. We can easily remember colors and bring them in relation to something. When you use the same colors consistently in your brand design you can be sure that people start to bring these colors in relation to your brand.
Which brings us to the second point. Besides a personal preferences for certain colors, colors also have a symbolic meaning. While we remember the colors of our preferred brands, at the same time, they tell us even more about this brand. Every color has a specific meaning. Red stands for passion, Blue for trust and stability. You can make use of color symbolism and influence how people perceive your brand.
Lastly, having a fixed set of colors simplifies the design process for you. It helps you to establish a cohesive style you can use throughout all your designs. This speeds up the process and helps you to make design decisions with ease.
Knowing your brand style
The number of colors you need always depends on your unique brand style. There are some general guidelines you can apply of course. But a minimal brand will need fewer colors than a bold and joyful brand. Every brand has slightly different needs.
How many colors go into a brand color palette
When defining your brand colors you need to start thinking about the usage of your colors. Where will you use your colors? Which kind of images are you going to create on a regular basis?
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There are 3 categories we can divide a color palette into. Understanding the usage of every category helps you to figure out what exactly you need yourself. And you can create your color palette knowing how many colors you need and where you will use them.
Your primary colors are the colors you pick first. These are the colors that will build brand recognition as we said above. You should always check their symbolic meaning and make sure it’s in line with your brand and what you want to stand for.
You should also be aware that you will use these colors a lot. They will be in your logo and in all your designs. Once you’ve picked them you need to stick to them. Your audience will start to recognize these colors if you use them consistently.
In general, you pick 1-2 primary colors and make sure they build a harmonious combination with lots of contrast. You can do this by combining warm and cold tones e. g..
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The next step is to pick your accent colors. As the name says, they’re used to set accents throughout your designs. But not only. You can see this category as an opportunity to create balance. If your primary colors are rather cold you can add a warm touch. If you don’t have enough contrast to make something stand out this is your chance to add a color with more pep.
The trick is to not overuse these colors in your designs. Accent colors are used for illustrations, icons, and buttons. These elements shouldn’t blend in. So you should pick colors that build a good contrast to your primary colors. And the less you use them the more they’ll stand out, the more effective they are.
Usually, you can pick between 2-3 accents colors. But this depends on your brand style. The bolder and louder your brand the more colors you can fit into your palette. With a more minimal approach, one accent color could be enough.
Furthermore, you need colors for backgrounds or patterns as well as text. That’s where neutrals come in. Even if it doesn’t seem worth to define these colors they’re very important. You want all your colors to build a cohesive image. And you’ll use neutrals a lot. Just think about all the graphics you’re going to create.
For this category, you need at least two colors. A light and a dark one. This will make you flexible in your designs. Neutrals are colors like Black, White, and Gray. But you can also use a shade or tint of your primary or accent colors.
Your accent colors and neutrals can be changed from time to time to give your brand an updated look. You do this usually during a brand refresh. Though, I recommend you don’t do this too often.
Related post: How to refresh your brand design