How to Choose Your Color Palette - Part 1: The Theory
Understanding colors is like learning magic spells at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Or Illvermorny if you prefer). Every color has very specific properties that can be used to generate a physical and mental response in people. Think of it as part of your Charms lessons.
Or if you’re not a potterhead, think of it as aroma therapy. Instead of using “essential oils, and other aroma compounds for improving psychological or physical well-being” (source), you’ll use colors to elicit an emotional reaction from your readers and customers.
In brand design adding color to your logo and brand elements is usually the moment when the brand magic happens – everything comes together and all of a sudden you get from having a few black graphics on a white screen to a soul-stirring visual fairy tale.
The magical properties of colors
It is impossible to encompass the meaning of ALL colours under the sun, but there are a couple of more commonly used, I'd like to talk about. Blue, green, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, black, gold, and silver - these are the colours I work with most often. Here we go:
Clear, focused, calm, logical, cool, trustworthy, intelligent, serene
In its many hues, blue is a very popular color. Darker blues are used for communicating trustworthiness and strength – mainly by businesses handling finances or information. Lighter shades are serene and dreamy and are ideal for health and beauty brands.
Harmonious, abundant, calming, balanced, organic, fresh, earthy, restorative
With its lushness, green communicates abundance and freshness. It is the go-to color of many organic and sustainable businesses. The more olive and subdued hues are great for wedding stationery.
Happy, optimistic, energetic, confident, positive, shiny
From the palest shade to the richest mustard hue, yellow is a happy-go-lucky color for brands in need of a bright and happy mood. This color is rather difficult to work with, especially on screen, so it’s better used as an additional highlighting color.
Creative, passionate, happy, playful, fiery, comforting, friendly
Orange isn’t the easiest color to work with, but the soft peach hues are simply irresistible, especially for wedding and baby shower invites, Play with tangerine and pumpkin hues for a tasty, optimistic and warming effect.
Strong, warm, energetic, motivated, passionate, hot, loving, intense
If you don’t want to be missed, red is a great color to use. It draws the attention and it’s great for instant impact with a pinch of drama. It is a bold and passionate color. Lighter hues are great for food brands – darker ones for businesses or institutions with traditions.
Intuitive, romantic, beauty, girly, intimate, soft, cute, tranquil
Combined with black and gold, gentle nudes are often seen on fashion blogs. Bold neon pink is a great signature color and it can be easily put together with other strong colors to make for a amazing brand color scheme for the bold girl boss.
Mystical, vibrant, yogic, spiritual, royal, creative, powerful, serene
Purple is a color associated with royalty and the church, but in its lighter shades this color is often used for yoga or meditation brands. Dark eggplant hues are great for a luxury products, where black would be too heavy.
Powerful, luxurious, sophisticated, dramatic, mysterious, elegant
Black might seem as a safe choice for a color palette, but it’s not. This color is hard to combine in a harmonious way. It is often used with gold or neon colors for luxury and fashion brands.
Calming, wealthy, prestigious, dignified, responsible, wise
Silver can be beautifully combined with dark colors. It doesn’t print well, so it’s best used as an accent. Silver calligraphy ink on dark paper is often used for wedding invitations.
Warm, successful, rich, wealthy, loving, powerful, luxurious, feminine
Just like silver, gold is best used for accents here and there. It works well with black for luxury brands. Combined with peachy pink, or nudes it’ll give an extra feminine touch to any brand color scheme.
This is the simplest color palette of all. Pick one color and select several shades of it. That's it!
This palette is created by picking any three colors that are next to each other on the colour wheel. It almost looks like the monochromatic palette, but has more depth and you can easily create a specific (warm, cool, earthy, etc.) mood with it.
To create a complementary palette, pick two colors directly across each other on the color wheel. You can add more pairs of colors, but unless you need your color palette super colorful, it's best to just pick shades of the two colors you already have.
This palette is similar to the complementary, but you'll be picking three colours instead of two. Select one colour and look for the second and the third on either side of the hue directly across of the first colour on the colour wheel.
Pick three colours equally spaced from each other on the colour wheel and you'll have the most colourful of all colour schemes! Add shades and you're ready go!
Now I'd like to hear from you:
What is your business communicating through your brand colors right now? Are you happy with your color scheme? What color change can you make right now to improve your brand message?