How to choose Your brand’s Perfect Colour Palette

color palette

Branding and it’s relation with Colour Palette

There’s no doubt that photos, typography, and icons play a vivid role in a brand’s visual identity. But when we think of some of the world’s famous companies, chances are it’s their colour scheme that strikes our mind at first- whether it’s the red and yellow arches of McDonald’s or the violet and pink gradient of Instagram. This is because they know their colour palette, and they stick to them year after year- no matter how much their product is offering changes.

By creating an effective colour scheme for your own business or personal brand, you can achieve a similarly memorable visual identity.

However, it’s not as simple as picking out a couple of pretty colours any time you design something. To keep your brand aesthetic strong and consistent, it’s important to have a go-to colour palette in your toolkit.

For the most commonly asked questions to colour tips and inspirations, read on for our ultimate guide to choose a colour palette for your brand, and to know about how to grow more audiences on your Instagram profiles, being a Graphic Designer or an Illustrator, you can read my other blog on that topic.

What is the colour palette?

A 12 spoke colour wheel
A 12 spoke colour wheel

 A colour palette is a combination of shades you use in your visual branding. While the concept likely dates back to primeval mural paintings, it’s now commonly used in digital design as a combination of HEX codes.

This is a way of specifying to the computer which colours you want to display, using hexadecimal values.

While early iterations of computers only included eight-colour digital palettes, designers can now select an endless array of shades and hues from the colour wheel.

As we will learn in the following sections, the choices you make here help solidify your foundations of a strong brand aesthetic.

How many colours should be there in the colour palette?

Much like asking “How long is a piece of string?” there’s no definitive answer to this. It all depends on your brand’s personality, audience, and needs.

However, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind when choosing how many colours to use in your palette.

Use too few and your designs can wind up looking bland, homogenous and forgettable. Use too many and it can appear cluttered and overwhelming.

For this reason, many designers start three shades and work there way up from there. If this combination is appealing and engaging enough to hold its own, there’s no need to add more colours, however looking through portfolio examples on the internet, you’ll find most designers land on four to five.

This is generally enough to make their palette versatile enough to use across a range of visual assets, such as their website, logo, and social media posts, without being chaotic.

It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t need every colour from your palette in every design- you can pick and choose as you see fit. Nor do you need to pick a range of completely different colours.

How to choose the right colours for your brand?

Whether you’ve decided to branch out from a company and start your own business, or are launching a game-changing new startup, understanding the impact of colour on consumer behaviour will help your brand become a success.

In fact, research shows that up to 85% of consumers believe colour is the biggest motivator to choose a particular product, while 92% acknowledge visual appearance as the most persuasive marketing factor overall.

Following is the summarised results from the research,

Colour and Marketing

  • Research conducted by the secretariat of the Seoul International Colour Expo documents the following relationships between colour and marketing:

92.6% said that they put the most importance on visual factors when purchasing products. Only 5.6% said that the physical feel via the sense of touch was most important. Hearing and odour each drew 0.9%.

When asked to approximate the importance of colour when buying products, 84.7% of the total respondents think that colour accounts for more than half among the various factors important for choosing products.

Source: Secretariat of the Seoul International Colour Expo 2004

  • Research reveals people make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on colour alone.

Source: CCICOLOUR – Institute for colour research

  • Research by the Henley Centre suggests 73% of purchasing decisions are now made in-store. Consequently, catching the shopper’s eye and conveying information effectively are critical to successful sales.

Colour and Brand Identity

  • Colour increases brand recognition by up to 80%.

Source: University of Loyola, Maryland study

  • Case study: Heinz

Consider the phenomenal success Heinz EZ Squirt Blastin’ Green Ketchup has had in the marketplace. More than 10 million bottles were sold in the first seven months following its introduction, with Heinz factories working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep up with the demand. The result: $23 million in sales attributable to Heinz green ketchup [the highest sales increase in the brand’s history]. All because of a simple colour change.

  • Case study: Apple Computer

Apple brought colour into the marketplace where colour had not been seen before. By introducing the colourful iMacs, Apple was the first to say, “It doesn’t have to be beige”. The iMacs reinvigorated a brand that had suffered $1.8 billion of losses in two years. (And now we have the colourful iPods.)

Color Emotion Guide
Colour Emotion Guide

Colour Increase Memory

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture with natural colours may be worth a million, memory-wise. Psychologists have documented that “living colour” does more than appeal to the senses. It also boosts memory for scenes in the natural world.

By hanging an extra “tag” of data on visual scenes, colour helps us to process and store images more efficiently than colorless (black and white) scenes, and as a result to remember them better, too.

Source: The findings were reported in the May 2002 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Colour Engages and Increases Participation

Ads in colour are read up to 42% more often than the same ads in black and white (as shown in a study on phone directory ads).

Source: White, Jan V., Colour for Impact, Strathmoor Press, April 1997

The Power of Colour

92% believe colour presents an image of impressive quality.

90% feel colour can assist in attracting new customers.

90% believes customers remember presentations and documents better when colour is used.

83% believe colour makes them appear more successful.

81% think colour gives them a competitive edge.

76% believes that the use of colour makes their business appear larger to clients.

Source: Conducted by Xerox Corporation and International Communication Research from February 19, 2003, to March 7, 2003, margin of error +/-3.1%.

Below are five creative tips to choose a colour palette that’s relevant, memorable and inspiring for your brand.

Knowing your focus

Brands with great colour schemes didn’t come across them by accident.

Richard Branson demonstrated this direct approach when he chose Virgin’s vibrant red colour, encouraging his customers to be bold and confident, mirroring his own distinct business methods. Coca-Cola shares this approach, using red to appear energetic, vibrant, and memorable. Having a clear idea about what goals your brand possess and how you want your target audience to feel, will help you hone in on the most impressive colours to choose for your brand.

Thinking psychologically

Have you ever noticed that many tech brands’ logos are blue? Think of Facebook, IBM, Intel, HP, etc, who use this passive colours to symbolise freedom, trust, intelligence and progress.

Understanding colour psychology can help you reflect the feelings you want to evoke from your customers.

For example, if you want someone to be excited or energetic while browsing your website, consider bold colours like red, yellow or orange. Or, for a calming effect try pastels, or nature-inspired blues and greens.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

When Heinz released their ‘Squirt Blastin’ green ketchup bottle, more than 10 million bottles were sold in the first six and half months and resulted in the highest sales increase in the brand’s history of about approximately $23 million.

It’s a known truth that different colours can have different impacts on consumers. Make sure you experiment with at least three options to ensure you find a powerful colour palette that is most relevant to your brand.

Analyzing your competition

Researching the logos, websites and colour schemes of other brands in your industry can help you decide if you want to compete, or stand out.

This guide lists the hex code palettes of several well-known brands, which can be used as a reference to create your own unique combination.

Creating a mood board

Another way to experiment with different colour palettes is to create a mood board using colours extracted from images or other brand’s colour schemes. This can be done by using a Colour Palette tool and extracting the hex code of a chosen colour.

“Placing multiple colours together will give you an idea about the mood or emotions that your brand will evoke.” Many designers recommend using the 60-30-10 rule, which suggests you choose a palette of three colours using the ratio of 60%, 30%, and 10% for distribution.

Why use a colour palette?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a successful brand in history that didn’t have a predetermined colour scheme before they started creating. There are several reasons why having a strong colour scheme is so important for businesses and brands. These include:

They form the visual foundation of your brand

Designing visual assets without a colour palette would be like trying to build a house from scratch with no building plan – an absolute mess. That’s not to say that your colour palette can’t change as your brand evolves, but it’s essential to have that strong foundation in place from the very beginning. You also need to make sure these work harmoniously with your other visual elements (such as your fonts, photos, and other graphics or icons) from the get-go.

They help to maintain consistency

If your logo is red and black, but your business card is pastel pink and blue, this is going to confuse your customers and dilute your brand credibility. The same goes for smaller differences, like using maroon when you normally use bright red.

Whether or not it’s conscious awareness, even these minor inconsistencies can negatively impact brand perception. On the other hand, a consistent colour palette makes your brand more easily recognisable and memorable.

It makes life easier for you

It would be frustrating and time-consuming if every time you created a visual asset, you had to double-check exactly what HEX codes you’ve used previously or worse yet if you had to make new colour choices every single time!

By having your colour palette easily accessible to anyone making design choices in your business, you can save yourself considerable time and effort.

It’s more aesthetically pleasing

A well-considered colour scheme is always going to make your visual branding more appealing. Of course, this is going to mean different things for different brands. It could be a vibrant and contrasting colour theme, like this three-colour palette for brand Slickfish.

Or, it could mean an earthy and pared-back colour scheme with different versions of similar shades, like this brand identity for the BDB group.

Generally, there are five different types of colour combinations that are aesthetically pleasing.

Monochromatic colour palettes

Monochromatic Colour Palette

Colour palettes that are shades (darker) or tints (lighter) of one colour on the colour wheel.

Monochromatic palettes are one of the most popular colour palettes used in branding but don’t think that means you are going to look like everyone else.

Using a monochromatic palette like this makes stacking your elements slightly easier than some of the other palettes, because of how closely related the colours are to each other.

Miranda Nahmias

Miranda keeps it simple by using different tints and shades of pink for her colour palette, which creates a beautiful contrast in her visuals.

Using a monochromatic palette like this makes stacking your elements slightly easier than some of the other palettes, because of how closely related the colours are to each other.

Miranda uses her tints (the lighter colours) for her backgrounds and overlays and the shades (the darker colours) for her typography, which makes her text really pop, while still maintaining a softness.

Miranda Nahmias

Neutral with a pop of colour

Neutral with a Pop colour Palette

Neutral with a pop of colour is a colour palette that features all neutral colours with ONE colour that pops off the rest. That pop of colour can be bright and brilliant or more subtle. These types of palettes have become really popular in the last year and for good reason.

The largely neutral elements create a clean backdrop for the real star, the POP of colour, which helps create a deep connection between the brand and that particular pop of colour.

Persuasion Revolution

Bushra from Persuasion Revolution is one of those BIG personalities we just talked about, so it’s not a surprise that she chose a neutral colour palette with the pop of colour.

She’s got a neutral background of black and white, paired with her orange pop of colour. On occasion Bushra will also swap out a different pop of colour, usually red or blue, depending on the type of content she’s creating, which is a great colour assignment strategy.

Assigning a specific pop of colour for a specific type of content, let’s say your podcast, can be a great way to communicate you’ve just released a new episode (or mini-course, or video tutorial, you get the picture) in your visuals without having to spell it out.

Bushra Azhar

Analogous colour palettes

Analogous Colour Palette

This is when you use shades that are close to each other on the colour wheel. Being close to what appears in nature; this tends to be quite harmonious and pleasing to the eye- as you can see below in this example from Behance.

Analogous Colour
Minimalist colour palette with analogous colours by Ebtihaj Khan. Image re-illustration by Dipanjan Chakraborty.
Painted Summers

Allison over at Painted Summers uses an analogous palette, which is on the cooler side. You can see she’s got blue, green, purple, even some magenta. Everything that’s hanging out on the top left side of the colour wheel.

Notice that even though there’s an abundance of colour in Allison’s brand identity, it doesn’t feel distracting or haphazard.

That’s the bonus of sticking to colours so close to each other on the wheel – they gel very naturally together.

Painted Summers

Complementary colour palettes

Complementary Colour Palette

This is when you use colours that are opposite to each other on the colour wheel, creating high contrast on your designs. As you can see, this can be quite punchy and impactful when done well.

Complementary colours
Minimalist colour palette with complementary colours by Ebtihaj Khan. Image re-illustration by Dipanjan Chakraborty.
Bailey Richert

Bailey also uses this type of palette, and again she too has chosen to use the two main complementary colours, purple and green in her case, along with some tints and shades of those colours to round out her palette.

Notice how she has defined the use of each colour {which colours are used for backgrounds, overlays, typography, etc}, and how she has maintained those colour assignments across her visuals, social media profiles, and website.

Triadic colour palettes

Triadic Colour Palette

As a result, you use a colour scheme that pulls evenly from around the colour wheel. This creates a vibrant look that still feels quite balanced.

Triadic colours
Minimalist colour palette with triadic colours by Ebtihaj Khan. Image re-illustration by Dipanjan Chakraborty.
Hub and Company

Here’s a triad colour palette from my client Andrea over at Hub and Company.

Again, she’s got a dominant colour, which is her purple, then she uses the other colours in her palette as accents, in her case as backgrounds.

The purple anchors’ everything, and that’s what you want from the dominant colour in a triad palette.

Building a new brand image is an exciting time. Whether you’re a freelancer, an entrepreneur, or a new start-up, we’d love to hear about how you chose your awesome #brandcolours! Post below to share the colour that you love.

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