Abstract image showing different colors.

How to choose the perfect colors for your brand

october 24, 2023

Even if it's not something we consciously think about, there are certain colors that we associate with different brands—McDonald's yellow, Starbucks green, Coca-Cola red, and Apple white are just a few popular examples. Whether you're building a new brand or refreshing your current brand identity, choosing the perfect colors for your brand is a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly.

What is a color palette?

A color palette is an essential aspect of every brand identity, along with font and logo. A color palette is a selection of colors that is used across all company materials and communications, including in a company logo. Colors have the ability to visually communicate tone, so the colors that make up a brand color palette should represent the personality and values of the company. A brand color palette may consist of just one color plus black and white, or it might include upward of five or more colors that are used to code communications.

Logo featuring the Microsoft brand colors.
Palette showing the Microsoft brand colors.

What are brand colors used for?

Choosing the right colors for your brand is a key part of making your brand identity stand out amongst so many competitors in today's saturated market. Your brand colors contribute to the first impression a customer or client has of your organization or product, so even the brand colors should be working to communicate your company's values and personality. A brand color palette should be used across all visual and graphic materials—from the company logo to the background of the official website. Basically, any time your company is visually communicating a message, the brand colors should be used, including in the following instances:

  • Logo
  • Company website
  • Brochures
  • Advertisements and marketing materials
  • Sponsored event information and decoration
  • T-shirts and other merchandise
  • Office/workspace decoration
  • Letterhead
  • Email signatures
  • Staff uniforms

And the list goes on!

What different brand colors can convey

With so much importance placed on brand identities and choosing the perfect brand colors to send the right message, selecting your own color palette can feel daunting. Luckily, marketers and advertisers have figured out a few tips and tricks over the years to guide the selection process. Specific colors are associated with certain feelings or ideas—take a look at the list below to help you make your decision.

A color wheel showing different colors along with text describing the emotion each color conveys.
RedRed is a bold choice—shades of red are traditionally associated with love and passion, in addition to danger, energy, anger, and excitement. Using red signifies importance and can be a powerful attention-getting choice.
OrangeOrange can be playful and friendly. It's a color with high levels of energy and vitality. Orange is often associated with low costs and budget-friendliness, as well as creativity and adventure.
YellowIf you're going for optimism, yellow is a great choice. Uplifting and bright, yellow signifies playfulness, happiness, and youth. It may also be associated with affordability.
GreenThe color of money as well as environmentalism, green is associated with stability, prestige, growth, and prosperity. It's also associated with nature and sustainability and is often used to signify natural or earth-friendly products.
Light blueLight blue is an innocent color and can promote feelings of trust and openness. Light blue is calm and unintimidating.
Dark blueDark blue is trustworthy and signifies reliability. Dark blue is associated with security, professionalism, and formality. It's more mature than light blue and often evokes feelings of stability.
PurplePurple is a dynamic color historically associated with royalty. Purple can also evoke feelings of spirituality and mystery, in addition to creativity and luxury.
PinkTechnically a lighter shade of red, pink is often associated with youth, innocence, and femininity. Pink is a playful and approachable color, both modern and romantic. A brighter hot pink is youthful whereas a deeper shade can be sentimental.
BrownBrown is a reliable color that's honest and grounded. Brown evokes images of the earth and can feel vintage and rugged.
GrayGray is neutral. Depending on context, it can be serious and mature or subtle and mysterious.
BlackBlack is a formal choice—sophisticated, elegant, and luxurious. Black is also modern and associated with power and edginess.
WhiteOften associated with minimalism, white evokes feelings of purity and simplicity. White communicates health, virtue, and cleanliness.

How to make a brand color palette

The simplest way to make your brand color palette is to choose three colors: a base, an accent, and a neutral color. The base color is the main color that represents your brand and will take up the majority of space in the brand color palette—about 60 percent. Once you've selected your base, choose a complimentary accent color. An accent color should pair well with the base color but will be used sparingly, taking up about 30 percent of the color palette. Lastly, select a neutral color to fill the remaining 10 percent of your color palette—typically white or gray. This color will be used for backgrounds and other less-central features. Of course you can add or remove colors to your brand color palette, but the base-accent-neutral color approach is a great place to start.

Illustration showing the recommended proportions of base, accent and neutral color when using brand colors.
Palette of brand colors, showing base, accent, and neutral colors.

Further reading

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