Building a colour palette that fits with my clients’ messaging is without a doubt one of my very favourite things about being a designer.
Sometimes though, this is a completely overwhelming process because the options truly are endless and too many choices can feel overwhelming.
Some thoughts that may be racing through your busy mind:
Let’s dive into this post on all things colour-related. I’ll go over the basics of colour-psychology, some dos and don’ts of colour-palette selection, a few basic colour and design principles, as well as my personal process for helping my website clients nail down branding colours that feel authentic to them and their business.
One of the first things you might consider when deciding on your personal colour scheme (or working with an amazing designer to craft one), is the psychology behind what each colour typically represents.
Now, I’ll jump in with the quick caveat that I very rarely actually think about the ‘meaning’ behind a colour when selecting a palette for a brand. I tend to work more with my intuition. If a palette needs a warm coral tone for balance, but the brand’s mission doesn’t fully align with with pink’s connotations of ‘youth and femininity,’ I’m not necessarily fussed. These are not hard and fast rules and you should ultimately go with your gut and select colours that feel authentic to you.
All that said, if you’re starting from scratch and are looking for a small guidance or to better understand what emotions or behaviours each colour generally represents, here’s a quick breakdown:
Take a look at the branding materials used by some of your favourite artists or companies. Do they have any colours in common? Do you feel drawn to certain colours? Make observations and tuck them away for when it’s time for you to pick your own website colour palette!
1. DO think about having a mix of dark and light colours.
These will serve totally different purposes on your website (and all of your marketing materials). Dark colours like charcoal, black, or navy are great for text or providing a stark contrast to a light colour scheme when you need to draw extra attention to something. Light colours are important for text or page backgrounds, for ease of reading and to make your photos stand out.
A quick tip: it’s significantly easier to read text (especially longer form like paragraphs or blog posts) that is in a DARK colour on a LIGHT background. Choose black or dark grey text on a soft white background instead of white text on a black background. Your site visitor’s eyes will thank you.
2. DON’T only choose one colour.
Variety is the spice of life, my friends. Build yourself a full palette, give yourself options, and get creative. Websites and print materials lacking in an array of colours look flat and one-dimensional. Of course, your taste may be very clean and modern – Scandinavian style. That’s lovely! You can still pull together 5-6 colours, even if those are mostly variations on different shades of brown and beige.
3. DO limit yourself to a palette.
Make sure you don’t get too crazy. Consistency is KEY to creating a cohesive brand! With your photos, your text, and your design asset colours, we are working to create an overall feeling for your client. We don’t want that feeling to be complete overwhelm. Choose 5-6 colours. Make sure you include your mix of lights and at least one darker colour and don’t forget about tints and shades!
Tints are the amount of white mixed into a colour, which increases lightness. Shades are the amount of black mixed into a colour, which increases darkness. Using different shades of a single colour is a great trick for creating cohesion, while also making sure you have variety and dimension within your palette.
4. DON’T be a copycat.
You should absolutely look at other websites, artists, creatives, brands, and designers for inspiration. You should not, however, head over to their website with your handy Google Color Picker chrome extension and steal their exact combo of branding colours for your own business.
No, no. Not cool.
Instead, notice what you like about the colour choices they make in their photos, logos, and branding materials. What attracts you to their palette? What do they do really well? Do you love how they use different shades and tints of turquoise? Do you like how all of their colours are pastel? Do you like the calm feeling that their website gives off?
Take notes, and then go back to reflect on YOUR website goals and refer back to the things they did well. Always make it your own.
5. DO start with a mood board or visual inspiration.
This is a step I will never skip over! Whether you are DIY-ing a site or working with a fabulous designer, go through the process of gathering photo inspiration. You can do this the old-fashioned way with scissors and magazines, but my favourite method is through Pinterest. Start pinning images that you feel represent your identity and that you think speak to the ideal customer you are trying to connect with. The images can be textures, artwork, nature-inspired, lifestyle, or graphic design elements. There are no rules!
Use the images you collect as a starting place. Look for common colours. If you mostly pinned images of beaches in Hawaii because you’re a writer for a travel magazine, then maybe the first colour on your palette is a beautiful sand.
6. DON’T forget about contrast
Last but not least, contrast will be your friend. Remember that we want to create your website and marketing materials to carefully direct the visitor precisely to your offering (your artwork, your photography services, your music lesson booking form, etc). Having pops of colour that are contrasting from the majority of your brand palette will help the visitor’s eye to go directly to your calls to action.