The Importance of a Good Color Palette
Emotion and color are often interconnected in the marketing world. Have you ever seen a discount poster that felt loud, like the colors are shouting at you to hurry and buy now? Or maybe you've seen a home magazine full of soft colors that gave a feeling of a cozy room you don't want to leave. In both of these instances color palettes were used to make consumers feel a certain way. Not all colors work well together. So whether you are a designer yourself, or plan to hire one for your branding, you’ll need to know how to use the colors together and the basics of choosing a good color palette.
1. Color Meanings
There are often universal values linked to colors. Taking these meanings into consideration can help your color palette attract the right customers. To help out, I’ve created a color meanings chart below. Color meanings are not written in stone and can mean something different in other cultures. All colors have positive and negative meanings associated with them as well. So don’t let this list restrain your creativity.
Red - Passion, Health, or Aggression
Orange - Energy, Joy, or Insincere
Yellow - Happiness, Remembrance, or Deceit
Green - Nature, Abundance, or Greed
Blue - Loyalty, Calm, or Sadness
Purple - Luxury, Creativity, or Mourning
Black - Mystery, Elegance, or Death
White - Perfection, Spiritual, or Hollow
Brown - Outdoors, Comfort, or Rubbish
Gray - Timeless, Sophistication, or Loss
2. Color Theory
Colors are divided into three classifications: primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary colors. You can use these as a handy guide when creating a palette for yourself, following the “rules” of each category. I use that term loosely, however. There is always room for creativity in art. You’re only limited by your imagination and tools. That being said, people have been proven to respond in positive or negative ways to particular color combinations. If your goal is to gather positive attention for your website, logo design, brochure, etc. then you’ll want to know what works, what doesn’t, and more importantly, why.
Colors Codes & Profiles
HTML - Website Color Codes
RGB - Screen Color Profile
The color profile for devices is RGB which stands for Red, Green, and Blue. Most people who learned primary colors in school know red, yellow, and blue as primary colors. However, screens emit light which is subtractive. This allows red and green light to "mix" into yellow light. Consequently printing in RGB does not work. If you mix red and green ink, you do not get yellow. Make sure you use your RGB logo files on your website, social media, and emails. For print, we'll talk a bit about CMYK.
CMYK - Print Color Profile
A primary color is defined as a color that cannot be made by mixing two colors. the true additive primary colors are Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. It's been proven that Red can be made when mixing Magenta and Yellow, while Blue can be made by mixing Cyan and Magenta. This is why printers often require CMYK color profiles to get the true color of a design. (I'll make a more indepth post about this topic later).
The good news is, your brand colors can look great on websites, on screens, and in print as long as you have the right codes and color profiles. I send my clients brand color cards as well as brand manuals which include all the HTML, RGB, and CMYK versions of their brand colors.
Using the Color Wheel
Using a color wheel to define your color scheme is a great way to choose your brand colors. Color schemes are colors paired using the color wheel with combinations that include Complementary, Analogous, Triadic, Split-Complementary, and Tetradic color pairings.
Complementary colors are two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red and green. This color combination is great for making an image stand out since the two colors contrast each other in just the right way. These are highly recommended for small designs that have limited detail.
Analogous colors are three colors that are directly next to each other on the color wheel, such as blue, green, and purple. The idea behind this palette is to use one dominant color out of the selected three, and allow the other two colors to act support and an accent. These color schemes are ideal for website design.
Triadic colors three colors that are equally spaced around the color wheel, such as orange, purple, and green. Triadics create bold combinations of color while still remaining cohesive and visually appealing. Logos tend to benefit from this color scheme.
Split-Complementary colors are two colors with one color between them while opposite one other color, such as green, violet, and red-orange. This color scheme is an easy pairing with very little tension while creating nice contrast.
Tetradic colors are four colors arranged into two complementary pairs on the color wheel such as red, green, blue, and orange. This color scheme is very rich and offers a lot of color combinations.
3. Building a Color Palette
Now that you know the meaning behind colors and why different colors work together, it's time to build your color palette. Because every brand is unique, you might need more or less colors to match your brand goals. However, there is a standard set of 4 categories your color palette should include.
Bold. This color category grabs the customer’s attention. It can be your signature color or a color you use sparingly to add visual importance to the subject.
Complementary. After your bold color is chosen you need a color (or two) that adds contrast or compliments it. Color wheels are a great way to pick the perfect complementary color.
Dark. Having a dark color in your palette is important for legibility. This color is typically used for paragraph text and show be visible on most of your complementary colors.
Light. Neutral or complementary, this color (or two colors) should anchor your main colors without competing for attention. This color category is best for backgrounds and supporting visual elements.
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