What to consider when selecting your brand’s colour palette.

When working on building out a visual brand it is easy to fall into the trap of making a few mistakes:

  1. Not setting a colour palette and just using whatever looks nice at the time.

  2. Choosing your favorite colours whether it is a fit for your brand or not

  3. Following colour trends that may not actually be relevant to your brands message or purpose.

No one wants to be put off by their own brand and so, yes you want to choose colours that you love and are happy with. Especially because you have to stick to them for some time. However, there needs to be a significant amount of thought put into it rather than simply choosing what takes your fancy in the moment.

What you need to consider when you are selecting your brands colours.

Colour has amazing psychological effects, and if not carefully considered, can send the wrong message, and either confuse your audience, attract the wrong people or worst of all, repel your ideal audience.

1. Understand the basics of colour theory. Rather than just making a stab in the dark guess about what colours will look good together, understand the basics of the colour wheel, and colour harmony, so you know what colours work well together, and then once you have those basics in your mind, you can play around with the colours. If you need some extra help or suggestions for palette, you could try some free online tools like coolors or Adobe Color CC

2. Colour psychology and how it affects and attracts your ideal audience. Colours evoke emotions and feelings, and give perceptions about things. For example red evokes feelings of passion, energy, excitement, youthfulness, ambition, power, confidence, speed, hunger and action, and works well for Brands full of energy and passion e.g CocaCola.

You may have noticed I use the colour orange in my branding as it often calls to mind feelings of excitement, enthusiasm and warmth.

Take the time to consider who you are trying to attract, and how you want them to feel when they come into contact with your brand. What emotions you want them to feel and why they need you. e.g if they need you for motivation, what colours what motivate. If they need you to bring joy and happiness into their day what colours would make them feel this.

3. I know I said don’t pick colour just based on your tastes. But do make sure you like your colours. You need to pick something you will be happy with and willing to stick with long term for brand consistency and to become more recognizable. Think about when you go to the grocery store to buy a product, you often remember the brands you prefer to buy based on the colours on the packaging, and if they change the design it can throw you off. So be sure you like the colours enough that you won’t be tempted to change them.


4. Your brand positioning and perception. What message do you want to portray. Think about your Brands purpose and mission. Are you an eco brand, with a vision to help make a difference to the earth. While it may seem cliche, greens and browns instantly position a brand as more eco and earth friendly. While this is an obvious one, consider your own brands positioning and what colours would give that impression. Banks and financial institutions often use dark blue as this represents trust, loyalty and confidence.


5. Consider just how many colours your brand needs and what each will be used for. A generally rule is to have no more than 6 brand colours. There are always exceptions to rules, but the idea is to narrow it down, and stick to your colours. Consider what you want to use in your logo, in images and graphics, patterns and photography, and also choose a dark or neutral colour for body text. Test your colours out, and be sure they work on your graphics and if you need to cut back or add more in order to have balance and an appropriate brand colour for every need. You will likely need at least one bold or dark colour, one lighter colour and a neutral to cover all bases.


6. Be exact. Rather then just saying ‘ok my colours are red, greed and grey’. You need to have the exact colours recorded, so you always use the same shade and tone. To do this, for web you will need the HEX code. And for print you will either require the CMYK values or a pantone code. Be sure to keep these colour codes somewhere for easy reference, so whenever you create a graphic for your brand you will have colour consistency.

Lillian Gordon