According to colourfast.com, 84.7% of consumers cite colour as their main reason for buying a particular product, so in order to make the best impact possible, it’s important to choose the right colours for your brand, but how? You might go through the branding process with a designer, in which case, this will be a great guide to help you understand the decisions your designer is making; otherwise if you’re taking on the task yourself, this will enable you to make more educated colour decisions for your brand and your business going forward.
Before you start getting too excited about what your new hex codes and Pantone swatches are going to be, there are some things we need to understand first in order to make the best decisions. To choose the right colours for you and your business, you need to know who you are, what you stand for and who your audience is.
If you have a super positive clothing brand for teenage girls with values around inclusivity, optimism and pride, your colours are going to be much different than the divorce lawyers next door who focus on middle-aged couples and believe in professionalism, trust and peaceful resolutions, so you need to clarify these things before you even think about choosing colours.
Once you understand who you are, what your values are and who your audience is, how do you then choose the colours that will best represent you and speak the most to your audience? It starts with learning the meaning and connotations associated with different colours.
Each colour has particular meanings and connotations attached to it. When you see red, you will associate different feelings, emotions, values and brands with it than you will with blue, for example. Here is a quick rundown of the basic meanings of each colour.
Red - passion, attention, anger, power, love
Orange - joy, creativity, importance, success, determination
Yellow - happiness, intellect, energy, optimism, danger
Green - nature, growth, finance, freshness, stability
Blue - security, communication, technology, loyalty, wisdom
Purple - royalty, power, luxury, ambition, magic
Pink - femininity, compassion, love, caring, youthful
Brown - earthy, retro, reliability, comfort, endurance
White - purity, balance, peace, precision, minimalism
Grey - neutrality, patience, intelligence, maturity, melancholy
Black - sophistication, elegance, power, edginess, mystery
These meanings are only some of many common associations with each colour; colour connotations can go much deeper and have much more profound impacts on emotions, purchasing decisions and brand loyalty, but these basics will give you a solid foundation to build your brand colour palette upon.
As well as emotional connotations, colours also have cultural meanings attached to them. I won’t go into detail about each colour in each culture right now, but just be aware that what red means in our culture, may be different in another. This is particularly important if you are targeting those different cultures in your audience.
Digital colours are created in a different way to colours that are printed. On screen, colours are created using a combination or red, green and blue, while in print, they are created by combining cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black.) This is important to be aware of, because colours can look extremely different on screen than they do in print, so you need to choose colours accordingly.
Try and choose colours that look as similar as possible in print and online, to ensure brand consistency and awareness.
The Pantone Colour Matching System is a world-renowned, standardized colour reproduction system. This system allows different manufacturers all across the globe to refer to the Pantone system, ensuring that colours match and standards are upheld when printing without even having to talk to each other. This means that you could get your logo printed in one country, and then take it to another to be printed there and the colour results should, in theory, be the same.
When choosing your colour palette, you may want to consider Pantone colours to future-proof your brand and ensure the quality of any future printing.
The clearest way to visualise colours and choose them is through the colour wheel. There are several different ways to choose colours this way that will help ensure that your colours work well together and will enhance your brand effectively.
Analogous colour schemes are groups of three or more colours next to each other on the colour wheel that share a common colour. These colours relate well to one another, however they can be too similar that you lose clarity & punch.
Several hues, shades, tints and tones of one colour make up a monochromatic colour scheme. These can really emphasize your brand colour and values, but if not done well, can leave your designs looking flat and minimize hierarchy.
A triadic colour scheme uses colours that are evenly spaced around the colour wheel, providing powerful contrast and giving you a great range of colours to choose from. It can be a challenge to find a triadic colour scheme that represents your values well, as the colours are so different.
Complementary colours are the most common palettes, as the colours are opposite one another on the colour wheel, and as the name suggests, complement each other perfectly. The bring out the best in one another but due to their popularity, it will likely be difficult to find a combo that isn’t already used by another brand.
Compound schemes utilise the same concepts as complementary schemes, however, instead of using colours that are direct opposites, it uses the colours on both sides of the one opposite. This can be a good solution to the oversaturation of complementary colours,
You can also create a colour palette using various shades of just one colour. Similar to monochromatic colour schemes, this can successfully emphasize your brand and values, but will be even more limiting than a monochromatic palette, as it only includes lighter & darker versions of one exact colour.
I know this is a lot, but don’t panic! There are a few great tools to help you find the perfect colour palette for your brand and take the overwhelm out of this process!
Coolors.co is a web app that allows you to generate, tweak, export and save colour palettes. It is super easy to use and a pretty simple way to find new colours.
Adobe Color CC
Adobe Color CC is another web app, similar to coolors.co but with much more functionality. You can generate, tweak, export and save colour palettes, and even choose which of the colour schemes we discussed above you’d like to use to do this. The best thing about Adobe Color CC is that you can save these colour palettes to your Adobe CC account, they sync in the cloud and you can use them immediately on all of your devices in any of your Adobe software. You can also browse and save colour palettes that have been created by others and shared through the platform.
There are plenty of other tools out there; these are just the two that I’ve seen and used the most!
Those are the basics of choosing an effective brand colour palette. There is much more to learn about colour theory, meaning and management but I hope that this gives you the foundation that you need to make more informed decisions around colour and take your brand to the next level!
If this all seems a bit much for you which I totally understand, it might be worth investing in hiring a designer to take you through the branding design process and choose these colours for or with you. They will have learnt the ins and outs of colour, understand how to use them, the processes behind them and how to manage them in the future, so it can definitely be worth investing in, even just for peace of mind knowing that you’re colours are all set and sorted in the right ways!
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