Brand Colors: How to Choose The Right Ones for Your Brand

Written by:
Orana Velarde

A wide illustration of a man tweaking the colors of his design on his screen.

Choosing the perfect brand colors for your company is as important as creating a logo and font pairing.  All these together make up the face of your brand.

That said, we know how hard it can be to settle on a color scheme for your brand. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you out.

Below are some topics we’ll cover. You can click on any of them to jump ahead to that section.

Before you dive in, check out our video where we analyze color psychology in marketing and how it can affect the outcome of your brand colors.

 

Why Choosing the Right Brand Colors Matters

Think about the brands you see regularly. Let’s say, LinkedIn. Can you name the color of the LinkedIn brand? Blue.

How about Netflix? Red and Black. And Mastercard? Red and Orange.

That was an exercise in memory to show you how brand colors can make an impression on your brain. We associate brands with colors to help us remember them.

Choosing the right brand colors for your company is essential for becoming a memorable brand. These colors in your logo and other visual marketing materials are the face of your brand in front of customers and clients.

You can even think of brand colors as a company uniform or a celebrity’s signature makeup look.

Once your colors have made an impact on your clients and followers, consider branding that color for your company. For example, Netflix Red, Adobe Red and  Coca-Cola Red are all different from each other but extremely specific to each brand.

You won’t be able to take ownership of the color with copyright but you might be able to trademark it. For example, Tiffany Blue is trademarked but only for their boxes.

A collage of two ads by Tiffany & Co. One is black and white, and the other is Tiffany Blue with gold and silver rings on top.

Are you ready to get started with choosing your brand colors?

Let’s get started with the 6-step formula.

 

How to Choose the Right Brand Colors: A 6-Step Formula

Before we get started with the 6-step formula to choose the right brand colors for your company, let’s get something out of the way first.

Try not to start the brand color discovery process in a bubble. What I mean is, don’t try and choose your brand colors by yourself.

Have brainstorm meetings with your team to talk about it. If you don’t have a team yet, work through the steps and show friends and colleagues your process to get their opinion.

Facebook groups are great for this type of market research. Simply post a visual with your brand color process, explain your brand story and ask for feedback. Be conscientious of the opinions you receive, and try and understand where they’re coming from.

Remember, the colors you choose are meant to appeal to your customers. If many people say the color you chose isn't relevant to your business, you might need to try another one.

Bookmark our article on color perceptions to read as you go through this process. It will help you understand how colors can be misinterpreted if you choose the wrong one.

Now, let’s get started!

A blue and pink infographic made in Visme that illustrates six steps to choosing the right brand colors.

Create your own infographic in minutes!Browse Templates

 

Step #1: Pinpoint your brand identity and core values.

Before you can do any type of visual brand strategy work, such as choosing fonts, colors or logos, you need to do some preliminary work.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the story behind your brand?
  • Why did you start this company?
  • What do you solve for your customers?
  • Who are our ideal customers?
  • How does your brand make your customers feel?
  • How would you like them to feel when interacting with your brand?
  • In what instances and spaces does your brand exist?

The answers to these questions will lay the foundation for knowing how you can use color to spread your message and your purpose.

Colors are tied to emotions, memories and associations. Using this knowledge to choose the right brand colors is essential to your success.

Make a list of descriptive words that are representative of your business and brand. Aim for at least 3-5 and no more than 10. Keep these words close by — you’ll be using them in step 3.

 

Step #2: Consider color psychology and color meanings.

With all the knowledge you recorded in Step 1, it’s time to start looking at possible brand colors. Part of the process of choosing the right colors is analyzing their cultural and associative meanings.

There are few things to consider in terms of color association, culture and perception.

  • Is your brand local, national or international?
  • Are there any colors in your culture that already mean something?
  • Do you sell products or services to a specific gender or are they gender-neutral?
  • Does your brand need to impress, comfort, create urgency, inspire or something else entirely?
  • In what niche does your brand fit? Tech, environment, corporate, education, etc?

It’s important to remember that colors have both good and bad connotations. Most of the time this can be altered through the tonality of the color while other times it’s controlled by the accompanying visual assets like logos, slogans and other colors in the brand palette.

Yellow, for example, has different connotations depending on the tonality. Bright yellows are associated with happiness — the color of the sun, rubber duckies and spring flowers.

But if the hue of the yellow is a bit dark or pale it can inspire feelings of sickness, jaundice and fear. Especially if it’s paired with dull greens or browns.

That’s why it’s important to not only take into account how each color looks on its own but also how they look next to one another.  A pale yellow might look sickly on its own but can be a good complement to a bright purple.

An image that shows common positive and negative connotations of the color yellow, as well as the different shades of yellow and their hex codes.

The image above was taken from our article on Color Psychology in Marketing, where you’ll find an in-depth analysis for every single color.

Some colors are already associated to certain things, like green to nature and the environment, black to luxury, and pink to either feminine products or the Japanese cherry blossom.

We suggest you also look at our article about the role of colors in gender-specific products.

 

Step #3: Create a mood board.

With a few preliminary colors in mind, it’s time to create a mood board or two. If you’re undecided about the first color choice you can create as many mood boards as you like until you feel like you’ve finally captured the essence of your brand.

A mood board is a loose composition of visual assets that represent your brand. They help visualize the idea of your brand values, message and story. You could say that the mood board visually answers the questions you asked yourself in steps 1 and 2.

Start with a Visme mood board template to save time. First, add your preliminary brand colors to the canvas. Then search through the image library using the color name. Add images that you feel resonate with your brand.

Now search the image library with the descriptive words in the list you put together in step 1. Select the images that visualize what your brand represents and add them to the mood board. You can also add the words as text boxes in the mood board.

This is the perfect time to share your process with someone if you hadn’t already.

A collage of mood board templates by Visme.

Customize these mood board templates now!Browse Templates

 

Step #4: Select a primary color and a secondary color.

Every brand, no matter the color palette, needs to have a dark color and a light color for balance. These can be pure black and white, but can also be hues like slate grey and eggshell white. It depends on what visual representation you want to achieve.

Your brand might only need one primary color plus the balance colors. Netflix, for example, uses only red, black and white. IBM’s main color is blue but they have numerous complimentary palettes as well.

To choose the main or primary brand color, tap into all the work you did to pinpoint your brand identity. Use the mood boards to try different tonalities and analyze whether they work with your brand story or not.

The number of colors your brand uses depends on what story you want to tell.

A blue call to action by Visme that introduces its color picker, color themes and related features.

Some brands, like IBM, go as far as having a third and fourth color palette. This gives them deep and granular control over their brand assets. From graphic design to photography.

Other brands, like Mastercard, have only two colors but leverage them to a higher level.

At this stage, you need to only choose one color, or at most, two. These will be the base for the rest of your brand colors. For now, they will just be colors in a visual sense.

In the next step, we’ll get a little technical and start taking note of HEX codes and RGB numbers that you can use for your brand colors.

 

Step #5: Use a palette generator to create variations.

Once you have the primary and secondary colors, it’s time to create some palettes. Remember that you’ll always need black and white or a close variation of them that match your brand colors. Keep that in mind as you create the palettes in the generator.

We like using an Adobe tool called Adobe Color. You can generate a color palette from one of your mood boards and adjust it according to industry-standard harmonies.

An animated gif screenshot that shows the Adobe Color tool in action.

Color harmonies are specially designed to create balanced color combinations. Stay as close as you can to them and you’ll get better results.

 

Step #6: Choose a primary color palette.

While you’re inside Adobe Color creating color palettes, save your favorite palettes in your library. Name them easily so you can find them when you’re done. This is another opportunity to share your brand color process with your peers or team members.

When the primary palette is ready, take note of all the HEX codes so you can add them to your Visme Brand Kit. Have these on hand for whenever you need to use them again.

 

Optional Step: Choose a secondary color palette.

Choosing a secondary brand color palette is completely up to you. You might need it or you might not. To create a secondary palette, use one of the colors in the primary palette to get you started.

You might want to use one of the mood boards you created originally as well. Follow the same process as in Step #6 to choose a secondary color palette.

 

8 Color Combinations by Popular Brands

When a brand becomes recognized over time, its color becomes as iconic as its logo.  That’s why some brands label their colors with the company name. Especially widely used brand colors like red and blue.

 

Brand #1:  Mastercard

Mastercard has two brand colors and they take center stage at every instance. In this visual ad from the brand, designers used the concentric red and orange circles of the Mastercard as a composition project.

The photographers had fun with the objects chosen for the photos, but the colors were surely edited in Photoshop to match Mastercard colors exactly.

The Mastercard colors have been red and orange for years and their brand specifications outline the HEX numbers and also the Pantone color that must be used when using the logo in print.

Their brand guidelines for the use of Mastercard, Red, Orange and Yellow are quite extensive and detailed for any use of the logo.

A screenshot of Mastercard's brand color guidelines.

 

Brand #2: LinkedIn

The main color at LinkedIn is blue. In their latest brand guideline, they show a color palette where the blue is a complement of the other colors instead of dominating the group.

A screenshot of LinkedIn's brand guidelines.

This solidifies the brand as a personable yet professional entity that is both welcoming and strong.

 

Brand #3:  IBM

Another historically blue company is IBM.  The color blue is so important that in their brand guidelines, it says,  “Blue at the Core”. From this primary brand color, they’ve created several secondary monochromatic colors in different hues of blue and grey.

Furthermore, they created some supporting color palettes to be used in all aspects of visual identity for the brand.

A screenshot of IBM's brand color guidelines.

The palettes are so detailed that you can be sure that creative directors ask for brand photography to follow the palettes as closely as possible and then optimized in Photoshop.

 

Brand #4: Adobe

Adobe is another company that personalized their red color. In this case, the supporting color is white. The logo is a red square with a white detail in the center. The secondary logo is a tab shape in the same two colors.

The primary red is also part of the rainbow background in the Creative Cloud logo. The colors inside the rainbow appear subtly in the logos for the Adobe products.

 

Brand #5: IKEA

The blue and yellow IKEA logo is iconic and easy to recognize. The contrast between the two is strong and impactful. Recently, the IKEA logo underwent a rebrand but not to the color, just the composition of the letters.

The blue and yellow IKEA logo.

The IKEA Blue and some of the yellow are used for the infamous reusable IKEA bags. The blue and yellow combination is easily recognizable as IKEA but might not be so much on their own.

 

Brand #6: Netflix

Netflix is another brand with red at the head of the brand color palette. In this instance, the supporting color is black. The color red is used throughout the website in buttons and forms. Technically, the brand colors for Netflix are Netflix Red and black.

The Netflix logo and the HEX, RGB, CMYK and PMS codes of Netflix Red.

 

Brand #7: PayPal

Here we have another blue brand, PayPal. The main complementary palette for blue is a collection of grays. As a third brand color palette, there’s a combination of rich contrasting colors.

A screenshot of PayPal's brand color guidelines.

 

Brand #8: Coca Cola

Coca Cola is the ubiquitous red black and white brand. Even though others have used the same brand color combination, Coca-Cola is one of the originals. This red is, of course, called Coca-Cola red, and their black isn’t pure black, but just a tiny bit less than black.

When most people think of the color red as a brand color, they think of Coca-Cola. Maybe a few might think of Netflix or Target.

A screenshot of Coca Cola's brand color guidelines.

 

Tools to Help You Maintain a Solid Brand Presence

Having brand colors is only the beginning. With this valuable information, it’s time to create your logo, brand guidelines, visual assets, templates, website and even a design system.

Thankfully, there are plenty of tools to help you build a brand from your brand color strategy, and others to maintain a solid brand presence.

 

Tool #1: Visme

The first tool on the list is Visme.

So, what can you do for your visual brand with Visme?

Take note:

  • Create mood boards
  • Design a logo
  • Upload your brand fonts
  • Organize your brand colors
  • Create your comprehensive Brand Kit
  • Put together a branding guide
  • Design reusable Brand Templates
  • Collaborate with your team to create branded content together
A collage of logo templates by Visme.

Customize these logo templates now!Sign up. It's free.

 

Tool #2: TailorBrands

Create a logo and brand guidelines with some AI help. The TailorBrands AI asks you a bunch of questions and then creates a logo for you.

A screenshot of TailorBrand's AI logo maker.

Then, after you’ve customized the logo to match your vision, the platform creates merchandise mockups and brand guideline documents to match.

 

Tool #3: InVision

InVision goes beyond a regular brand guideline document. They offer Design Systems to maintain a solid brand presence on visual assets as well as websites and apps.

With InVision, you can maintain a visual identity from the correct use of brand colors to the placing of your logo, sizes of your fonts and the size and style of the buttons on your website.

You can use your InVision design system guidelines to create a Brand Kit in Visme and create all sorts of visual assets while staying on brand.

 

Tool #4: RelayThat

Create social media graphics for every size at one time. Input your brand assets, the information for your graphic and your preferred style, and let the AI do the rest.

A screenshot of RelayThat's homepage.

You’ll instantly have a set of branded social media visuals at different sizes and compositions. RelayThat is a great tool for creating social media content fast.

 

Level Up Your Brand Identity

Creating a brand and staying true to it, is easy with Visme. From creating a mood board to help solidify brand colors, to designing a logo and then using a Brand Kit with collaboration features. With the Visme suite of branding and design tools, your team can level up your brand identity together.

Visme offers lots of professionally designed templates in many sizes and for different industries. Additionally, you can create your own branded templates in many different sizes to reuse with your team as many times as you like.

The Visme Brand Kit includes your brand colors, logo and fonts. All ready to be used in a project inside your Visme editor.

With the collaboration tools, you can leave each other messages about the design of the assets. This makes it easier to create content as a team. Check out this video to find out more about Visme’s collaboration features.

Get on track with your brand with Visme. Browse our logo templates and customize one to take a look at how the Brand Kit works.

In no time, you and your team will be on the way to having successful brand colors and a memorable brand.

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About the Author

Orana is a multi-faceted creative. She is a content writer, artist, and designer. She travels the world with her family and is currently in Istanbul. Find out more about her work at oranavelarde.com

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