How to choose a colour palette

Looking to refresh your brand or launching a new business or product? Understanding the impact of colour on consumer behaviour will help your brand attract your target customers, employees and partners.
May 26, 2023

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 behavior will help your brand become a success.

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

1: Understand what colours mean

A lot of research has gone into colour theory. You can definitely get lost down the rabbit hole finding the story behind each colour, however, here’s a quick summary to give you an idea:

  • Red is associated with danger, excitement, passion and energy.
  • Pink is feminine, it’s sentimental and romantic.
  • Orange, like it’s namesake, is fresh and full of vitality.
  • Yellow is optimistic. It’s a colour associated with being playful and happy.
  • Green is natural, often used to demonstrate sustainability.
  • Blue is trustworthy and reliable. It’s calming or often associated with depression.
  • Purple is royalty and majesty. It can be spiritual and mysterious.
  • Brown is down-to-earth and honest, often used for organic wholesome products.
  • White is pure. It conveys simplicity and innocence, often with a minimalistic feel.
  • Black is both sophisticated and elegant. It can be formal and luxurious, but also sorrowful.
  • Multicolour is united or open to anything. It’s great for capturing the spirit of diversity.

Of course, within this spectrum, there is a raft of additional colours. Different hues, such as baby blue or navy, also contribute to the colour story. We’ll touch on this later in the article but for now, you should have a rough idea of what colours are best suited to your brand.

2: Identify your brand essence

Brand goals:

Do you want customers to be happy, to get rich, be more informed?

Target audience:

Do you want them to feel positive, confident, or intelligent?

Personality traits:

Is your brand fun, serious, or inspirational?

The way you want to be perceived by customers can help further narrow down your colour scheme. So while your product might be organic—a colour typically associated with brown—your brand essence might be about celebrating the goodness, in which case you may choose to go with optimistic yellow.

3: Look at competitor brand colours

Brand colours should stand out or at least be instantly recognizable. Since your product often appears among competitors—either online or on the shelf—you don’t want to look the same. We often see sunscreens in a sea of yellow or tech companies in a sea of blue. When every product looks the same, it’s easy to be overlooked.

Instead, think about other things your brand or product does, apart from the obvious. A sunscreen might protect from the sun but if it’s made sustainably, green could be an option. To avoid getting lost in the mix, create a mood board of your competitors to determine how you can separate yourself from the pack

4: Create a brand colour palette

Let’s face it, there are many shades of blue, so let’s look at the colors in context.

Colour Hues

This refers to variations of the primary colours: red, yellow, and blue. As you'll probably recall, these three colours can create any other colour, depending on how they’re mixed.

Colour Shade

This is when black is added to a colour, and the amount of shade refers to the amount of black added.

Colour Tint

This is the white version of shade, adding white to make the colour lighter.

Colour Saturation or tone

This is when you change a colour’s appearance by adding both black and white.

Image source: Adobe Kuler

Now that we helped you get started, we're going to let you in on a simple shortcut to creating a colour palette. Adobe Kuler and Coolors are great websites to start to get inspired. There are three quick steps to creating a colour palette:

1. Start with a Neutral Colour

Get started by choosing your base. One-to-two neutral covers will act as the canvas on which you’ll paint. Neutral colours are generally defined as black, white, ivory, silver, gray, brown, tan, gold, and beige colours.

2. Add Two “Pop” Colours

Next, we need to add some colour to the canvas. These are going to be your main colours that represent your brand. This is the colour that grabs the attention of your audience and becomes the star of your visual identity. Go for vibrant tones that play well together.

3. Choose One Call-to-Action colour

A call to action is usually a button, or a link, that tells viewers what to do. As such, this colour should stand out, but be complementary to your main brand colours, such as a contrasting colour on the opposite side of the colour wheel. If you have a cool green-blue colour scheme going, you might choose an active orange as the CTA colour.

Learn more

Learn how to use color psychology to pick the best colors for your brand personality, strategy and marketing with this video from Brand Master Academy.

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