How to choose your brand colors

Color, just like music, makes the world a better place. We pick out clothes based on their color as our first decision of the day. We can be swayed by color when choosing a meal, a fruit, a drink, etc. A world in black and white would be unbearable, and one of the most wonderful things in nature is the way colors can blend together and make new ones.

What are brand colors?

It is well documented that the human eye distinguishes up to 16 million colors, although variations between certain tones are only noticeable if we view them on physical media and compare them. That’s why it’s so important to use color catalogs such as Pantone when searching for different colors or color variations.

If color is so important in our day-to-day life, why would it not be a crucial aspect when defining your brand? Colorimetry is as important as your actual logo, your storefront, or your chosen font. That’s why, in this context, you have to take your time to make the right decisions.

Using the right color for your brand is not based solely on esthetic criteria; you also have to take into account other variables such as how the color can help identify your brand, reflect its philosophy and make it stand out from the competition. Furthermore, it must evoke certain feelings or expectations in the customer or spectator, so that they identify with your products or services and are drawn to them.

The criteria that must be taken into account when choosing corporate colors include

How to choose your brand colors

1) Differentiation. A competitive analysis or benchmarking strategy is basic during the investigation phase in order to study the competition individually and collectively. At this point, we must decide whether to stand out from the competition by using a different color palette, or by using a similar color palette, associated with our specific sector.

2) Needs. We have to evaluate whether we need a broad graphic palette, in the case of businesses that offer a wide range of services, or different verticals, or if we want to transmit simplicity by using a central color.

3) Expressiveness. Colors transmit different feelings, but attention must be paid to versatility. For example, if we choose red color, we know that we can transmit joy and energy, but also danger. What’s more, if the brand intends to venture out internationally, the cultural factor must be taken into account, as certain colors have different meanings, depending on the part of the world.

4) Practicality. We must be careful and avoid taking hasty decisions. We have to consider where the brand will be used, the necessary applications and materials, etc. For example, certain tones may look great in a digital environment but printing them is complicated and expensive. If we are going to stick within a digital environment, we don’t have to worry about certain factors. However, if by contrast, we need a hybrid model, this is something that we must take into account.

5) Esthetics. While we have to consider all the previous factors, we can’t forget about esthetic and harmonious criteria when choosing our colors. Although we know that the esthetic aspect is not the only thing to bear in mind, as we must draw on our visual identity to communicate in accordance with the brand values that we want to transmit and express.

Even though rules are always there to be broken, we recommend that each brand selects at least 5 colors. A dominant main color that represents the brand; a secondary supporting color that is in harmony with the first or that complements it; a light color, for dark applications; a neutral color and a dark color for light applications. Furthermore, almost all brands establish negative colors and create a brand design in a single color of ink and in grayscale to give it versatility.

What is brand color psychology?

Psychology of color for brands

It is important to be familiar with and apply color psychology, a science that studies how we perceive and react to different colors and their combinations, how they affect our behavior and/or mood, and the cultural differences in their perception, among other things.

Within color psychology, we can observe which feelings are evoked by the main colors. So, let’s take a look at some examples:

Yellow: This is the color of happiness. Brands such as Ikea, Mcdonald’s, Mailchimp, and Snapchat have chosen it to represent their values. It transmits optimism, trust, originality, and creativity. In contrast, it is also associated with anxiety, depression, and fear.

Green: This is the color of nature, ecology, and the environment. It also symbolizes growth, prosperity, and fertility. It can also reflect materialism, possession, or envy. Brands that want to be associated with the environment or ecological awareness tend to pick this color. This is the case of Greenpeace, BP, and Starbucks, but also other technological companies such as Evernote and Android.

Red: This color is associated with strength, passion, desire, and energy. But also with war, aggression, speed, danger, and prohibitions. It is used by many motor racing and motorcycling brands due to its connection with speed, such as Honda, Ducati, and Ferrari, and others such as Red Bull, Nintendo, Netflix, and Coca-Cola.

Blue: This is the top cold color, transmitting seriousness, trust, relaxation, and cleanliness. It is widely used in banking, in particular, and in business in general. It is also a predictable, sad, cold, and unfriendly color. Brands such as Unilever, Pfizer, Paypal, Intel, SAP, and technological companies such as Facebook and Twitter believe it is the color that best aligns with their values.

Black: This is the color of elegance, mystery, and sophistication. In fact, black is not color, but rather the absence of color. It is a mysterious and strong color. It should be used with moderation because it is also associated with sorrow, violence, and death. Many fashion brands use it, such as Ray-Ban, Chanel, Hugo Boss, and Zara, as well as others such as Apple, Tesla, and Mercedes.

White: The color associated with cleanliness, purity, and perfection. This color is the sum of all the colors, although it is also associated with loneliness or emptiness, and in certain cultures, it is associated with mourning. Very few brands choose white as the main color because it limits possibilities in different applications and forces us to use dark formats, but all brands have or, at least, should have, a version in white. Brands such as Apple use white in their brand-building strategy, packaging, website, etc.

Certain tools, such as Emotive Feels, can be used to help brands, entrepreneurs and designers explore the meaning of emotions. Furthermore, Freepik offers some extremely useful infographics so that you can take color management into account.

Types of color combinations for you brand

Combinations of color for your brand

After having chosen our brand colors, it’s important to look at color combinations to put together our palette. And this combination has 3 recurring formulas.

Monochromatic: When it is necessary to highlight a particular personality trait, a monochromatic color scheme will emphasize the meaning of the brand color. This is ideal for minimalist brands. It is all about taking a color and using its different tones.

Analogous or harmonious: This combination entails the use of colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. They have similar emotional connotations. Therefore, they are not overly contrasting or rich.

Complementary: Complementary colors are those that are found on the opposite end of the color wheel. They offer dynamic visual effects and are so popular that many brands choose them as their color combination, meaning that we run the risk of using the same colors as them.

Triad: This combination extracts three different sections from the color wheel in the form of a triangle. They provide visual richness, but it is difficult for the three colors to all represent the colors of your brand.

Tetradic: This is a combination of four colors spaced out evenly in the shape of a cross on the color wheel. Tetradic color schemes are bold and work better if one dominant color is used and the other three as complementary colors. Just like the triad combination, it is more difficult to find balance given the number of colors.

Additional: We can add neutral colors to these formulas, colors that are not included in the color wheel but that can help to build your brand. Neutral colors are whites, blacks, gray scales, beiges, and browns.

There are several resources on the web to define and search for these color combination formulas, but it is particularly worth checking out Adobe Color, which offers different color codes, depending on the chosen formula. Furthermore, the “Color Guide” tool (Caps+F3) in the Adobe Illustrator design software offers the different combinations of a particular color following the aforementioned combinations.

Best tools to create brand colors

Inspiration to create your brand color

Within the creative process, there is an investigation and an inspiration phase. During this phase, any resource from which you can draw inspiration is good, from looking at different competing brands on the Internet, examining natural color palettes while out for a stroll, to following different social media accounts specializing in colors, palettes, and combinations. As we delve into this phase, the pastel color blog post we’ve crafted becomes an invaluable resource.

Out of the many social media accounts, it is worth looking at Palette Maniac, where they use different images and deconstruct their color palette, and Picular, the Google of colors as they call themselves. It is also interesting to use the social networks Pinterest or Behance to search for palettes and trends by different creators, and even Twitter, with accounts such as that of ColorSchemez. You can also use the trends tool on Adobe Color, which shows trends from different creative communities.

As we delve into this phase, the pastel color blog post we’ve crafted becomes an invaluable resource.

Besides those already mentioned above, here are some other useful tools for drawing inspiration:

Different tools to achieve color palettes This website shows a series of palettes classified by a large community of users. It allows you to define your key color, selecting the palette based on this color.

Colorhunt: This website shows color palettes based on keywords, popular palettes, random palettes and allows you to create collections with them.

Color Tool: A useful tool, particularly for interface projects. It allows you to analyze the UX experience based on the selected colors.

Color Dot: A palette generator by simply moving the mouse from right to left for the shade, from top to bottom for the intensity, and the scroll for the saturation.

Random Palette: This website generates random palettes while moving the mouse over the interface.

Coolors: A user-friendly palette generator. You can generate your own palettes or explore and edit those already created previously.

While we have tried to give you some tips and tools to choose the best color for your brand in this post, the fact of the matter is that there are no set rules. This is simply a guide, a learning resource to help you make the right decisions for your brand.

Our final tip is to follow your instincts, listen to your feelings and think about the sensations evoked by the colors chosen for your brand. This way, you’ll be sure that you’ve chosen the right color.

If you need inspiration before you start designing, browse Freepik for all the logos that our designers have created for you and observe the use of colors. Which one will you pick?