To be intentional when choosing a color palette for your brand, you must understand the psychology of colors, color harmonies, and how colors can be classified. We’re discussing all of that today, plus methods that you can use to find your perfect color palette that align properly with your brand. Color choices can set a brand apart between being professional and unprofessional.
before we get started
Before we get into talking about all the colors, we want you to know that before you choose your brand colors, you need to know what your brand values are and who your target audience is. We have a free download HERE that allows you to establish all of this before you start choosing colors. Download that workbook, fill it out, and then come back here.
We also want you to keep in mind the amount of colors you are going to need for your brand. We recommend starting off with 1-2 foundational colors that will be the dominant colors of your brand. Then we recommend 2-4 secondary colors that help support those colors. The secondary colors can be used for things such as patterns and backgrounds. One of your brand colors should be predominantly used as your call to action button throughout all of your branding. Keep that information in mind when we start breaking down what the colors mean.
color theory – meaning behind colors
When you think of a stop sign, what color do you think of? When you see a bus, what color do you think about? When you think of the McDonalds arches, what color do you picture? All of these objects were created with these colors for specific reasons. Our brains process and associate color with specific emotions and feelings. We put a chart together that shows how colors are associated with emotions. Some are positive and some are negative feelings depending on the context they are used in. We included the negative emotions just so that you are aware of both sides.
Pros – Energy, Fearlessness, Power, Passion | Cons – Aggression, Anger, Danger, Warning
Pros – Energetic, Fun, Friendly, Warmth | Cons – Frustration, Immaturity, Ignorance, Deprivation
Pros – Optimistic, Youthful, Attention-Grabbing, Happiness | Cons – Irrational, Anxiety, Frustration, Caution
Pros – Natural, Fresh, Health, Growth | Cons – Boredom, Envy, Stagnation, Sickness
Pros – Trust, Security, Tranquility, Intelligence | Cons – Coldness, Aloofness, Emotionless, Unfriendliness
Pros – Wisdom, Luxury, Wealth, Royalty | Cons – Decadence, Suppression, Moodiness, Introversion
Pros – Imaginative, Passion, Creative, Feminine | Cons – Flippancy, Impulsiveness, Eccentricity, Nonconformity
Pros – Clean, Purity, Simplicity, Clarity | Cons – Sterility. Coldness, Unfriendly, Isolation
Pros – Sophistication, Security, Power, Authority | Cons – Oppression, Coldness, Evil, Mourning
Pros – Unconfident, Dampness, Lack of energy, Blandness | Cons – Neutrality, Reliability, Balance, Intelligence
Pros – Friendly, Warmth, Seriousness. Reliability | Cons – Heaviness, Sadness, Dirtiness, Unsophisticated
Something that you want to keep in mind is sometimes culture depicts the associations people have with colors. For example, in America, our paper money is the color green. This means that when we talk about wealth we can associate with the color green. However, if you’re in another country where your money is a different color, you might have a different association. If you have an international brand, it is important to be aware of this.
Once you find the primary colors that align with your values and your target audience, then you can start selecting secondary colors as well. This is when understanding the color harmonies will help you choose a cohesive color palette. Color harmonies that you need to be aware of are monochrome, analogous, complementary, triadic, and split complementary. If you decide on a primary color you need to make sure that your secondary colors all harmonize well together and look like they were meant to go together.
Here are definitions of diagrams of color harmonies so you can understand how the color wheel works and what you’re looking for when creating a cohesive color palette.
MONOCHROME – varying tones of one color. Example: Different shades of blue.
ANALOGOUS – three colors that are side by side on the color wheel
COMPLEMENTARY – two colors that are across from each other on the wheel that cause the greatest contrast such as red and green.
TRIADIC – Three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel that form a triangular shape.
SPLIT COMPLEMENTARY – A base color is chosen, and then the colors that surround the opposite color on the color wheel are used as its complement.
You might be thinking that you don’t need to know this information, but if you want to be intentional with your brand colors, it is important to see how colors work together with each other.
Colors can also have special classifications that will also help your audience understand your brand. For example, some colors can be seen as masculine vs feminine. That is why most baby rooms are pink for girls and blue for boys and then there are gender neutral colors such as yellow.
There are many other ways colors can be classified including:
Feminine vs Masculine
Playful vs Serious
Luxurious vs Affordable
Modern vs Classic
Youthful vs Mature
Loud vs Subdued
Understanding these classifications are important because these colors need to align with the rest of your brand. If your brand is playful then the shades and colors of your brand should be playful too. It is also possible to have a playful yellow vs a serious yellow depending on the tones of the yellow or depending on the other colors the yellow is paired with.
how to choose the colors for your brand
Now that you know the meanings and associations behind colors and understanding how they work together you can start choosing intentional colors for your brand.
There are three ways that we are going to walk you through finding your brand colors.
Use Colors from your Mood Board
Use Color Generators
Use Palettes that have already been created.
method 01. | using your mood board
If you haven’t created a mood board for your brand yet – read this blog post or watch this video and then come back here. We are going to use the same mood board that we used in that tutorial to grab our colors.
There are plenty of options here but we’re going to give 3 recommendations: use Adobe Color , use Photoshop/Illustrator and use their eye dropper tool to create your palette, or you can use Canva’s color palette tool.
Adobe Color Method: This online tool is my go to online tool to find color palettes. You can upload an image and it will select colors but it ALSO lets you fine tune the colors and lets you select other colors until you get a palette you like. It’s like what designers do in Photoshop without having to use Photoshop. This website also lets you create palettes from scratch, or use palettes that other people created, it also lets you change color harmonies and more.
Photoshop Method: The Photoshop method is my preferred method because I can really fine tune and be very detailed with my color selections. However, I know that most people don’t have access to Illustrator or Photoshop.
For this tutorial we’ll be using Adobe Color
Like we said, we’re going to use the mood board from our mood board tutorial. All you do is upload the image and the Adobe color generator creates 5 colors and gives you the hex codes which you will use throughout your branding..
Go to Adobe Color and upload the image of your mood board.
Adobe will give color selections
On the left side, is a drop down that gives you options for colors, for example: bright, deeps, muted and so on. It’s so awesome to see all the color palettes that you can use for your brand.
Once you decide on a color palette, you will click on “Save Color Theme” and it will bring you to another screen with your final palette.
Click on “Edit Copy” and it will bring you to another screen. On that screen you will be able to write down all of the hex codes for your brand.
method 02. | use an online color generator software.
We have a few favorite online tools for finding color palettes that we like.
Adobe Color – As we already mentioned, Adobe color is our favorite tool for color palettes. You don’t have to start with an image of a mood board You can start from scratch and build your color palette. Instead of clicking on “upload image” you will use the “Color Wheel” Option. You can also use the dropdown to change color harmonies and play with the color wheel until you find a palette you like.
Paletton – This one is my favorite tool because you can use color harmonies and relationships. If you don’t like the palette that Canva created, copy one of the hex codes of the color that you do like and place it into the Paletton generator. Paletton lets you choose different harmonies and gives you different tones.
3. Coolors.co – This website is really fun to play with. This will generate a palette and you can change the palette just by clicking on the space bar. If you decide you like a color you can lock it down and all the colors that are not “locked” will continue to change. Make sure you click on Start Generator and watch the tutorial.
method .03 | use already generated color palettes
Adobe Color has an explore option that you can browse color palettes that have already been made. You can explore recently added color palettes or you can find the ones that are the most popular or the most liked.
Pinterest – There are a ton of color palettes that have already been created on Pinterest. All you have to search is color palettes and you will find a wide range of options.
We created “The Little Book of Color Palettes” that are tailored toward creative entrepreneur occupations. Download our little book of color palettes here!