A successful brand is a consistent brand. And a significant part of creating a recognizable brand is to have a very clear and intentional color scheme–which is precisely when we cue your brand colors.
The 3-4 colors you choose to represent your brand will, quite literally, appear everywhere. It’ll be emphasized on your website. It’ll come out in your social accounts (yes, your Instagram feed will contain these colours). And it’ll appear in your print ads and marketing. Essentially, it will be the holy grail of your design and visual strategy.
To make this process easier for you, we’ve outlined 10 key factors you need to create a consistent and compelling branding color palette.
1) Look for Inspiration to Choose Your Brand Colors
Photos and images offer a plethora of inspiration. Most photographers are highly experienced in capturing color variations. Their eyes are accustomed to viewing complementary contrast, compelling tones, and shadow effects. In turn, professional photos are typically a jackpot for colorist and designers.
Whenever we start a new design or branding project, we ALWAYS start with colors. First, we look through stock photos (we use Envato Elements, but you can also use Shuttershock, Unsplash, or any other option you may prefer). As we’re searching, we play close attention to the color relationship and mood from the images.
Once we find a few images that reflect the industry of the brand and the mood of their mission, we build a brand palette from the shadows, midtones, highlights, and accent colors. Then, using our eyedropper tool, we extricate the colors and tones we need, and record those colors for future use.
Here’s an example from one of the brand color samples we’ve built:
If a client opted for this color combination, it would serve as the foundation of our design. The menus we build, the buttons we create, the ads we design will all include some variation of this brand palette.
2) Choose Complimentary Tones
You want to be very intentional about the tones and colors you choose. They should compliment each other, while also reducing optical strain (more on this later). When a visitor lands on your site, the colors should look like they fit together, like they are meant to exist with one another.
But, when colors clash, it can reduce necessary contrast, create eye fatigue, and negatively impact the overall design of your entire site or ad.
Here’s an example how we used complementary tones to create a compelling design:
In this design, we were very intentional about how we were working with the brand colors (click on the image to see the full site). The photo is where we want to draw attention; it’s where we want the user’s eye to go. So, in turn, we designed a complimentary, high contrast border and boxed shadow to support this action.
The rest of the site follows a similar design, making the experience cohesive and engaging. And a significant part of creating a consistent design lies in the color choices.
3) Avoid High Saturation Color Combinations
As I mentioned above, you want to avoid potential eye fatigue with your color combinations. If a visitor lands on your site or clicks on your ad, you want to take them through a pleasant experience, where they focus on the elements that are most important to your business.
Overly saturated colors often have the opposite effect. If you use bright blues with bright greens and yellows, your visitors will be overwhelmed with the colors calling for their attention. They won’t know where to look, and they will likely leave your site, sighing in relief as their eyes adjusted to normalcy.
Here’s an example of an overly saturated spreadsheet:
How do your eyes feel as you scroll through this spreadsheet? Do you have the beginnings of a headache yet?
When you choose colors, ensure that the majority of your colors have a more muted saturation. In photoshop, you can easily change the saturation percentage in the Hue/Saturation tool.
Ideally, your accent color–the color that draws the most attention–should be used for call to actions, or other areas you want to draw the user’s eye. The other tones should work as backgrounds, menus, borders, and other areas of less intense contrast.
Have a look at this brand palette:
If you return to the brand palettes in this post, you’ll notice each design has only 4 color variations. And, when you’re choosing your colors, I highly suggest not going over four.
In most designs, you don’t need more than a handful of colors. Plus, by reducing the amount of colors you use, you’ll also reduce the amount of eye strain on your visitors. This will, in turn, improve the overall experience of your interface or ad.
Have a look at this ad we designed earlier this year, you’ll notice a couple of things. First, our color scheme only consists of 3 added tones. Second, the colors work together to create an earthy, inviting mood. Third, the contrast draws your attention to where it needs to go.
You can make an attractive, compelling impact with only a few colors. So, when it comes to palettes, less is typically more.
5) Create a Moodboard Featuring Your Brand Colors
Moodboards are a great way to gain an enhanced understanding of your brand’s visual appeal. As the name suggests, it showcases the general mood of your brand and can help attach a personality to your business.
There’s a couple ways you can go about creating a moodboard.
First, you can create one from scratch using any design software, including Photoshop or Canva. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can simply represent a collection of photos and colors that represent your brand.
Second, you can purchase a moodboard mockup from Creative Market or other platforms. This shortcut will undoubtedly save you time. However, keep in mind, most designers use Photoshop or other Adobe softwares to create their mockups. So, if you are purchasing one, pay attention to what editing software is required.
Third, you can hire a designer (hello!) to create one for you. This option will save you even MORE time, and it will result in a professional, meticulously crafted moodboard you can use for years to come. If you’d like a moodboard created for you, please contact us. We have a virtual system that serves the international community. So, regardless of your location, we can build you a stunning moodboard that’s reflective of your brand.
Here’s an example of a moodboard we created for a company’s rebrand:
While you’re creating your moodboard, be intentional about the emotional impact your color and visual imagery creates. For instance, in the above example, the colors and shadows depict a more intense mood with strong emotions. It speaks of innovation and masculinity, professionalism and attention to detail. These are all aspects that we want to associate with the brand.
6) Ensure Your Design Colors Match Your Industry
Every industry is different. The design industry is completely different from the construction industry. The restaurant industry is completely different from the gas sector. In such, your colors should reflect these differences. What works for a tech-based business probably won’t work for a coffee shop.
One way to find industry-related colors for your brand palette is to scope out your competition. What colors are they using, and how do you react to their color choices? Now, make sure you don’t replicate the exact other business’ palette. Use them for a bit of inspiration and foresight before building your own set.
Remember: your business is unique for a reason. Nobody has the same vision, the same set of unique skills and offers that you possess. So, don’t be afraid to stray a bit out of the box. Just make sure your colors will make sense for people experiencing your brand.
7) Consider Color Therapy
Another effective place to start is with color therapy. Colors are more than tones and hues. They create an emotional impact. They can cause tension, alleviate stress, create intensity, or bring joy.
Think about how you want your users or visitors to feel when they land on your site or experience your brand. Do you want them to have a calm, pleasant experience? Do you want them to take immediate action by creating tension? Do you want them to feel soothed and uplifted?
Colors can help you achieve different emotional responses. Below, you’ll see a calming color palette that’s both soothing and melodic.
The calming effect generated from this palette is very intentional. It’s grounding, yet compelling. There’s enough contrast that certain elements of your designs will stand out, but not too overbearing that it causes eye fatigue. It’s gentle and reassuring.
Think about your response to this color palette. Then consider what colors you’ll need to achieve your desired effect.
8) Look for Appealing Contrast
Contrast draws the eye. It tells your users and visitors where to look. And it’s arguably one of the most important elements of design.
So, when you’re choosing a color palette, consider how your choices contrast one another. Is there enough color differentiation to actively call attention to one of your options? Alternatively, is the contrast attractive or does it cause eye fatigue? Remember, you want to make sure your color palette isn’t overly saturated and that the colors fit together in a way that’s pleasant and compelling.
Let’s take a look at another example:
Here is a sample with similar earthly tones. However, the last color provides an eye-catching contrast. It carries the focus, but also pairs well with the other tones. Plus, it doesn’t cause eye fatigue. You can easily look through the tones without feeling overwhelmed.
9) Save Your Hex Codes
If you’ve noticed, each brand palette we create contains hex codes. We do this for a couple reasons.
First, as we’re designing, we can easily pull in the hex codes without having to look up each color. This simple act will save you TONS of time. Plus, organization is always a good thing.
Second, if you’re working with designers and developers, you can send them the hex codes, so they can create designs that are consistent every time.
10) Be Consistent
Now, this is the final and most important part: be consistent with your colors. We see it all the time–businesses using random colors for graphics and design with little to no consistency. The human eye is trained to absorb color, and, by being consistent, you can drastically increase the recognition of your brand.
In fact, color improves brand recognition by up to 80%.
If you look at the landing page of our website, you may notice a couple things:
First, every color and tone you see in the image, the button, our logo, and highlight colors is 100% intentional. When we rebranded, we wanted to create a warm and inviting mood. We wanted visitors to land on our site and feel a sense of grounded calm. And, more importantly, we wanted them to know that we’ll take care of them.
Second, we used our brand palette consistently. If you flip through our pages, you’ll find the same warm colors everywhere you land. By creating a consistent flow with our web design, ads, and social accounts, our visitors will begin to connect our colors with our brand. They’ll know what to expect when they land on our content, and they’ll have a much easier time filtering through information.
You’ve gone through all the work to find your colors and create a compelling theme. Don’t waste that effort by carelessly applying colors to your designs. Stick to your palette, and use it as a constant guide.
Choosing your brand colors is an intentional process. And it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Remember, your designs across platforms and ads will consist of these colors. So, make sure you complete your research and find the right colors for your brand.
If this whole process screams overwhelm, then we’d be happy to create your very own–and highly specialized!–brand palette. Click here to request your brand colors.