How to build a unique color palette for your brand

By June 6, 2019 September 4th, 2019 Branding, Design

Last week I showed you the effects and psychology of each main color group. If you haven’t read that article, you can find it here. 

TodayI go a step further: in this article, you’ll learn how to create your brand color palette. 

This post comes with an inspiring freebie: 50 beautiful color palettes for feminine brands. These color palettes can give you a head-start in the process: copy them entirely or build your palette on them. The pdf document gives you all the color codes you need. 

The 4 steps of creating a distinct color palette for your brand

WHAT TO CONSIDER FOR A GOOD BRAND COLOR PALETTE? 

There are many elements that you have to consider when creating your color palette. Take your time to go through them. You want to come up with a palette that suits your brand for years – so don’t just follow trends blindly. 

YOUR OWN PREFERENCES 

It’s important that you feel comfortable in your own business and this is true for the look of your business, too. List the colors that you love and would like to try in the color palette. List those that you dislike and want to exclude. 

However, stay open: just because you love a color it might not work for your business. Your brand colors must help deliver your brand message to your potential customers. If the color doesn’t match the message, you might have to try something else. 

For example: no matter how much you love red, the reserved and calming message of your yoga and meditation business might not work with this passionate and intense color.  

YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMER’S NEEDS 

How do you want your ideal customer to feel when coming in contact with your brand? List these feelings. Some colors can trigger and support these feelings while others can tune them down. Use what you learnt in color psychology to find the right colors and inspiration. 

COLOR PSYCHOLOGY 

I wrote about color psychology in the last Brand Colors blog post, but here’s a quick recap in pictures: 

The impact and psychology of color in branding
The impact and psychology of color in branding
The impact and psychology of color in branding
The impact and psychology of color in branding
The impact and psychology of color in branding
The impact and psychology of color in branding
The impact and psychology of color in branding
The impact and psychology of color in branding
The impact and psychology of color in branding
The impact and psychology of color in branding
The impact and psychology of color in branding

TONES, TINTS AND SHADES 

Last but not least, tones, tints and shades also have an effect on how we perceive each color. But what do these mean? 

We talk about tints of a color, when we add white to the pure color. This makes the color lighter and more delicate, more peaceful. These mixtures look less energetic than the pure color. They are also considered more feminine. 

Shades of a color is when we mix black to the pure color. This darkens the color and results in a more masculine, mysterious look. 

Tones of a color is when we add both black and white to the pure color. This “tones down” the pure color. It loses vibrance and gets closer to black, white or gray (depending on how much black and white you mix in). 

In Illustrator and Photoshop, when you open the color picker window, it’s easy to see how this mixing happens. In the upper right corner you have the pure color. Go left, that adds more white (tints), go down, that adds more black (shades). Go diagonally left and down and you get all the tones. 

THE 4 STEPS OF CREATING YOUR BRAND COLOR PALETTE 

Now it’s time to create your color palette.  

After going through your and your ideal customer’s color preferences, the effects of these colors, you’ll have at least 1-2 colors in mind to start with.  

STEP 1 – GATHER INSPIRATION 

Open up a Pinterest secret board and start collecting images from Pinterest and all around the internet. Pin those images where the color combination catches your eye: it must align with your message and the feel you want to communicate. 

Be patient, this process might take some time. After a few days or a week of pinning, you’ll start to notice a pattern in the images you collected. What are these patterns? Do they all have gold in them? Are they all delicate and pastel colored? Make note of these findings. 

Here’s a board I made for a cosmetic company. In this project I wanted to achieve a clean, laboratory look with hints of beach and ocean. You can see that natural tones, white and blue are the repeating pattern here. 

After you have enough inspiration, you can pull 5-6 initial colors from them. These are not the final colors, you’ll finetune them in the next steps. 

How do I pull colors from my collected images? I like to make thin in Illustrator. I build a mood board and use the eyedropper tool to get my initial colors. 

If you don’t have Illustrator, you can use the Adobe Color we​​bsite. 

  1. Click on “Extract from an Image” in the upper left corner. 
  1. Upload your image or montage of images. 
  1. Pick from the pre-set moods or just move around the little dots to pick the colors from your images 
  1. Click on save (this adds the colors to your Adobe Account) or click back to the “Color Wheel” to see the color codes. 

STEP 2 – DEFINE HOW YOU WANT TO COMBINE YOUR COLORS 

It’s time for refining your initial colors. First, you define the type of color combination you want to use. 

  • Monochromatic combination 

  • Analogous combination 

  • Complementary combination 

Monochromatic color palettes use different shades, tints and tones of the same main color. These combinations result in a soft and subtle end result. They can also look washed out because they lack contrast. 

Analogous color palettes have colors that sit right next to each other on the color wheel. For example: pink, red, orange and yellow (warm colors) or purple, blue, turquoise and green (cool colors). This combination creates a relaxed, pleasing palette. 

Complementary color palettes include colors from the opposing sides of the color wheel. They often include both cool and warm colors, creating an interesting contrast and more dimension.  

Consider how your initial colors relate to each other. Do you want to change this connection? 

If you have a monochromatic palette that feels too washed out, consider adding a new color next on the color wheel to make it a relaxed analogous palette. Or add a color from the opposite side of the color wheel, to create a vibrant, complimentary palette. 

If you have a vibrant complimentary palette and you desire something more muted, take colors out or change them to colors from the same side of the color wheel. 

STEP 3 – YOU NEED BOTH DARK & LIGHT COLORS 

You color palette now needs contrast. You need both dark and light colors to create balance no matter which combination you chose in step 2. 

Dark colors will be perfect for text and eye-catching details. Lighter colors can add softness and work well as a background. 

Modify your palette so it has both dark and light colors. 

STEP 4 – PRIMARY AND SECONDARY COLORS 

Most of the time, you won’t use all 5-6 colors you picked for your brand color palette. This is why it’s important to define your 1-3 primary colors and 3-5 secondary colors.  

The primary colors take more role in your visual branding. They are present in your logo, website and most of your marketing collateral. The secondary colors add detail to your visuals, and you don’t always have to use them all. 

Do you need all 6 colors? Not at all. 6 is a good limit for the number of colors you define for your brand. I usually work with 5 colors. You can even be fine with just 3. 

STILL NEED INSPIRATION? 

These fundamental steps will help you define a unique and versatile brand color palette.  

Fill stuck or can’t find inspiration? As an extra help, you can download the 50 beautiful color palettes for feminine brands. 

  • It provides 50 palettes in all 3 combination modes: monochromatic, analogous and complementary.  

  • It includes cool, warm and neutral palettes 

  • It lists all the color codes you’ll need 

The 4 steps of creating a distinct color palette for your brand
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