How to Choose Your Palette
Branding is more than making your company look pretty. It’s about conveying your spirit and personality to people who can identify with you. Brand identity, what you say and show, is a large part of that.
Brand image, the visual composition of your brand, is also a major consideration. It’s the visual story of what you bring to your customers. It includes your logo, any trademarks, particular colors, and anything else attached to your brand from spokespeople to packaging to in-store experiences.
Brand image is a lot to cover since it includes every way that a person sees your brand. For that reason, I focus on the main components of your brand’s visual identity. This image should convey the aspects of your brand personality, especially your top brand adjectives.
Your image should get to the point where people recognize the brand even without the logo. For example, you see a baby blue box and you think of Tiffany’s. Or a bright red box with golden arches and think of a Happy Meal. These are obvious and effective signs of branding at work.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Translating an adjective into a visual appeal can be hard. Everyone may even agree on the adjective “warm” to describe a brand, but have a vastly different interpretation of the word. “Warm” could be a beach or a dark coffee shop.
These main choices are essential to the success of your brand and it should be maintained. McDonald’s is red and gold. Tiffany’s is baby blue. Brands event patent signature colors or the way they are used for this reason.
Your choices should be reflected in every place the people interact with you. This means your website, business card, social media and more need to reflect your brand personality, image, and identity.
Why is this so important?
Let’s say you’ve chosen a high-end restaurant to take you and some friends out to celebrate. Their website’s photos made you think of white tablecloths and champagne buckets. When you arrive, the white tables are actually linoleum and the champagne is only a dream. What you expected to encounter and the actual experience are nothing alike.
This incongruity between what people expect and what they experience can stop people from returning. Disappointment abounds and people decide to try somewhere else next time.
Now think of the opposite situation.
You read an online review about a pizza by the slice place that is so popular that is has a line around the block. It’s in a crowded area right next to where you like to go out with your friends. That night, you drag your friends with you and experience a wait (but not too long). You have an amazing slice of pizza at a picnic table nearby.
While this experience may not be mind-blowing, the difference between expectation and reality was positive enough to return.
Your brand image needs to show you at your best without misrepresenting you. Otherwise, your customers will end up with a negative experience instead of a positive one.
So, how do you choose your brand palette?
1. Create a mood board
I like to collect images through Pinterest that represent the brand based on the feelings they evoke and the colors they use.
When selecting colors, keep in mind:
- Warm and cool tones have different connotations. Warm colors tend to be vibrant or active while cooler colors tend to be calming
- Select images that "feel" like your brand or evoke the emotion your looking for based on the color scheme
- You can also search Pinterest for color palettes in a certain color or shade
2. Select your primary color
Choose the main color to represent your brand on Instagram. It will be your focus color that draws your Instagram images or Canva templates.
My Instagram primary color is turquoise and it appears in most of my text and background color choices.
3. Identify complementary colors
- Read more about color theory for how to pair colors together if you want to do it yourself
- If you want colors generated for you, use the Adobe Color Wheel which allows you to choose the different types of color combinations you can use
- If you have chosen a particular photo to represent your brand, you can also try the Color Palette Generator from Canva
4. Choose 5 colors to include in your palette.
Think about how you want your feed to appear: not every photo should be overpowering or too calming since your goal is to get people to stop scrolling. You want to choose:
- 1-2 base colors that will be lighter or more neutral
- 1-2 power colors that will be featured in more posts
- 1-2 complementary colors that may be less prominent but are related to your power colors
Some example palettes include:
However, depending on the type of brand you're trying to style, you may end up with a brighter color palette, or a more dominant one. My color palette looks more like the one to the right.
5. Choose a primary and secondary font
Select a font that represents your personality.
- Serif text is more formal and is easier to read for smaller text. Serif text includes the serifs, small lines at the end of characters. Serif fonts include Times Roman, Courier, New Century Schoolbook, and Palatino.
- San Serif font is great for titles and more open. San Serif means lacking serifs, the small lines at the end of characters. Popular sans serif fonts include Helvetica, Avant Garde, Arial, and Geneva.
- Script for in more personal and easier to read for titles. All script options look like cursive or handwritten.
Once you choose a primary font from the options in Canva, use the Canva font generator to find your secondary font. The font generator offers several options for fonts you could pair together.