How to put together a powerful colour palette for your brand

One of my very favourite tasks! There’s an art and a science to putting together a powerful colour palette. It’s about bringing together your understanding of how you want your business to come across whilst adding a huge helping of flair and creativity.

There aren’t any hard and fast rules for doing this, but I love how working with colour psychology makes the whole thing easier. And when you work within that framework it’s easier to pull together a set of cohesive and inspiring colours.

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Firstly, start with your mood board. What sort of feeling are you hoping to evoke? Do you need just a sprinkling of shades or a whole gamut? For some brands it’s appropriate to have a dozen or so colours, for many it’ll be about stripping things back to just a few. Which feels right for your project?

Identify the brand values you want to evoke. Go back to your brief (you can download one here if you haven’t already) and identify the key brand values or feelings you’d like your colours to communicate. In this example for a new homewares brand I wanted to create a sense of the Bloomsbury. The mood board very much shows deep and moody blues, so I’ll be looking for plenty of those along with a pop of mustard and some rich reds and purples.

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The brand values are wild, abundant and natural so some greens combined with red for abundance will work well. It’s always about balancing the vision I have in mind with the colours I know will resonate. You’ll find a list of the values each colour communicates on pp134-139 of How to Style Your Brand.

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Keep the seasonal personality in mind. In this case, I’m looking for autumn hues, so I’ll be looking for my colours to have an intense, warm, mutedness about them. Even after seven years of doing this, I still find I need to pull out scores of swatches just to filter down to half a dozen or so.

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I’ll use my Pantone chips book – expensive but essential in my field (you can sometimes pick them up on auction sites for less)- to pull out chips that resonate with what I’m looking for. I pop them all down on a neutral backdrop (I like to use a blank canvas so I can see the colours against white) until I have a heap of colours that vaguely reflect what I’m looking for.

It’s essential to do this in daylight as the colours change so much under artificial lights. It does mean that at this time of year your opportunities are limited, so plan for it ahead of time – you’ll need at least an hour or two.

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Once I have pretty much what I’m looking for I start to put swatches together. It’s only when you put, say, six blues together that you can see which one has the strength and intensity you’re looking for.

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I work through each hue before starting to put together a blend that I’m happy with.

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Even at this stage there’ll be much swapping out and switching up until I get a palette together that I’m happy with. I love to name my colours, it adds a sense of playfulness and depth to the brand, but of course there’s no need to do this if you’d rather not.

And here’s the finished palette. A gorgeous, warm and moody mix for a very exciting interiors brand set to launch next year…

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9 Comments

GarrottDesigns

It can be really hard to create a great pallet even when we think we know what we want. Great post and instruction on how to think it through! I create seasonal color pallets every 2 months for brands and enjoy the process of surprise every time.

Reply
Susanne

Dear Fiona!

Great post – thanks for sharing!

Out of curiosity – can I ask which season is represented in the three colours in the lower right corner of your info graphic to this post = second image from the top (Pantone 606 – mustard, 7548 – charcoal and 5477 – dark green) ;-)?

Kind regards!

Reply
Kaire Viil

Dear Fiona,
Your articles are really inspirative. I am looking for color combinations to my knitted accessories Etsy shop.

Reply
Fiona Humberstone

Nope, Autumn. I know there’s a lot of text 😉 there’s a little more on how and why in the post. Enjoy!

Reply
Mette

Now you got me confused. I just I ‘had it’…

I thought the ‘noisy’, strong colours (like the pink, blue etc.) were winter colours.

What would have made these colours change from autumn to winter (can you give a couple of examples in the Pantone numbers maybe?)

Thanks for this wonderful post!

Reply
Fiona Humberstone

It might be the way I’ve edited the images that’s confusing you. Autumn colours are warm, intense and muted. Winter are cool, intense and clear. Close but different!

Reply

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