How to choose colours for a brand

Branding, Design

The right colours for a brand support communication and without words show what the audience can expect. However, many entrepreneurs have a big problem with choosing the right colours. We are often guided by our own taste and emotions. But it’s important to remember that your preferences may change over time. What you liked a few months ago may seem boring and clichéd in the near future.

Therefore, when choosing colours for a brand, it’s worth following their universal meaning rather than your own preferences, so they actually help you to be remembered and stand out.

In this article, you will learn, how you can influence the audience using the colour palette, how it helps you strengthen the message and how to choose them to form a harmonious identity.

Why colours for a brand are important

Colours are an information carrier. They have many meanings and are associated with certain emotions. What does this mean for you?

When you create a brand identity and you need to quickly communicate who you are and what to expect from the brand, simple and intuitive signals help.

Usually, you don’t have much time to describe everything in words. The recipient makes decisions in the blink of an eye, so time literally equals money for your business. The right use of photos, symbols and colours convey more than a thousand words.

The meanings we assign to colours are conditioned by evolution and culture. Many of us do not think about their meaning on a daily basis, because they work mostly subconsciously. The alarm, calm you down, increase appetite.

Choosing them skillfully will allow your recipients to read the message in the blink of an eye and assign it to the appropriate category. Colours can suggest luxury, naturalness and trust on the subconscious level.

The strength that lies in them has always been used in business. And not just in logotype projects. Colours are important in creating a working environment, business relationships and building visibility.

The right colour for the brand is based on understanding its meaning and impact on mood. It is also important to look into the future and determine in what situations you will use them.

Colour psychology in branding

When we talk about creating a brand identity, it’s worth remembering how our brain processes information. A lot of things happen subconsciously. Whether you like it or not, you don’t always have full control over how you make decisions.

Similarly happens with the colours. How we perceive them is connected with cognitive and cultural conditions that often occur in our subconscious mind.

It’s a mechanism that evolution has developed over time to help us survive. Animals use colours to alert, attract the opposite sex, hide from predators. And we similarly use them in everyday life.

Colours cause specific brain responses. For example, blue makes us calm. However, it should be remembered that our reaction depends not only on the colour itself but also on its saturation, its brightness and way of use. Although the blue colour can have a beneficial effect on our nerves, at the same time, improperly used, it can cause depression.

Another thing you need to remember when choosing a colour for a brand is a context. How we perceive it in our culture may be different from how others understand it in different parts of the world.

Yellow in many places is the colour of happiness, while in some South American countries may mean mourning and sadness.

Some useful elements of colour theory

The human eye can recognize 10 million colours. This is quite a large number. For many, however, the palette is limited to a few basic ones.

We have 11-12 basic colours names that we learn in early childhood. However, if the world were built with only of them, we would live in a rather flat and bland reality.

Saturation and brightness come to the rescue, which can give it the right character.

Saturation (saturation) is responsible for perceiving the colour as more or less vivid. The more saturated the colour, it is colloquially called more joyful. When saturation decreases, we have an impression that it becomes greyer and calmer.

Another factor that affects how we perceive colour is its brightness. This is a colloquial term that is difficult to define. The perception of brightness is intuitive and always applies to the same colour.

These three elements help us choose the right colour for the brand, not limited to a simple cliché palette that is easy to copy.

Read more: Why does your company needs identity

How to choose colours for a brand

There are several ways to choose colours. However, it should be remembered that their task is to signal the character of the brand, and not to reflect our own preferences. Treat the colour as a language that helps you quickly communicate what to expect from your brand.

The choice of colours for a brand based on the color wheel

The wheel is often used by all kinds of professionals. This is one of the easiest ways to choose colours that will match your brand.

The wheel contains primary colours – yellow, red, blue. By mixing them we create secondary colours (orange, green, purple). To make sure that the colours look good together, you can choose those that are opposite each other (2 colours – complimentary), colours that are located on the vertices of the triangle (three colours – the triad) those that are on the vertices of the rectangle (four colours – tetradic) or three next too each other (analogues).

It should be remembered that the circle is also divided into two halves, where on one side is warmer (yellow, red, orange) and the other is cold (blue, green purple). This knowledge will be useful if you want to evoke certain emotions.

Cold colours most often bring calmness and balance. However, they can cause depression. Warm colours are associated with dynamics, life, joy, but they can be overwhelming and cause problems with focus.

When choosing colours from the wheel, it may happen that our palette will still be unbalanced or too intense. This happens especially when we have more than two colours. In this case, it is worth choosing one dominant colour, and treat the rest as an addition. It is also good to determine in what situations and for what elements each one will be used.

Tip: Try using colours following the 60% + 30% + 10% rule, where the following percentages correspond to the dominant colour and the two additional colours, accordingly.

When you choose a colour, you must predict how you going to use it in the future. Remember that intense hues can be problematic. If your colours are intense, it is good to choose two additional neutral colours that will balance the whole identity.

Use archetype theory to create colours for a brand:

Archetypes correspond to some of the features that can be found in real people or fictional characters. Looking closely at them, you can track how film artists, for example, have chosen the colours and find a pattern in them. Because colours subconsciously evoke certain emotions, the film artists often use them to communicate the intentions or personality of the character.

innocent archetype colour palette
innocent archetype

Create a mood board: inspirational boards are useful in various projects and are often used by professionals in fashion, interior design and graphics. You choose pictures that reflect the archetype of your brand.

explorer archetype colour branding
explorer archetype

Follow fashion brands: Clothing brands are a good source of inspiration. If you know your archetype, check which clothing brand falls under the same category. Look at their corporate identity, ads, collections. This can be a hint in which direction to go.

Useful tools to create a colour scheme for a brand



BeFunky mood board

Colour wheel

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Hi, I'm Magdalena

Hi, I'm Magdalena

Brand Specialist

I am on a mission to empower small entrepreneurs in reaching their brand’s goals, connect with the right audience and stand out from the crowd. I use strategy and design to show their brand’s true potential.

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