Kill Color Overwhelm: How to Choose Your Main Brand Color
You thought you have it all figured out. You have chosen a color palette for your brand that looked so great… until you tried to put it in action:
Where do the colors go on your website? How do you decide which of the five colors belongs where? And what about social media images?
You know you need to start again, but where do you start? A combination of random colors didn’t work, and generating a palette using a color generator tool didn’t work, either. You know you should learn more about how to combine colors, but it all seems too overwhelming.
Don’t worry. Today, we will kill the overwhelm once and for all.
☞ This is the second part of the brand colors series. Here’s the first part: How to Choose Colors for Your Brand: All You Need to Know to Get Started.
Kill color overwhelm
One of the reasons you feel overwhelmed is that you’re trying to solve too many problems at once: You’re putting together a color palette, while in fact, all you need to get started is a single color.
Choosing the main color first makes the whole process a lot easier. You don’t need to worry about secondary colors, accent colors, and neutral colors at this point. You don’t need to mess around with the color wheel (yet).
And what’s even more reassuring, once you decide on the main color, creating the color palette becomes a whole lot easier, too. When you take one step at a time, everything falls into its place eventually.
Cool. Let’s get started choosing your main brand color.
Narrow down your list of colors
In the first part of this series, we have put together a list of colors that may work based on your brand’s personality and the emotions you want to evoke, and a list of colors to avoid that are clichés in your industry.
Now, it’s time to have a look at the list of possible colors again and use your visual taste and your gut feeling to narrow down your list.
You may also want to check Canva’s Design Wiki again to help you declutter the list if you still have too many colors on it.
Your task is to narrow your list down to only a few possibilities — and then choose the best one.
Single out the best color for your brand
Coming up with one specific color takes some experimentation. You may want to play with tools like colllor.com or color-hex.com to generate different variations (tints, shades, tones) of your chosen colors and then try to use them in the places where the color is going to live, like your website (see below) and your logo, until you find the right color.
When you find it, don’t forget to jot down its hex code (such as #FF0000).
How to make sure the color knows how to do its job
As an online business owner, you’ll mainly use your brand colors:
- In your branding (logo, branded graphics, and brand elements)
- On your website
- On social media images
- On products
Now, it’s a good idea to get started with your website interface in mind, because that’s where colors need to work. The thing is, colors aren’t just decorative, they are also functional. They show people which elements are important and less important, where to look first, where to click.
When you consider how the colors look on your logo and social media images, first, you may run into problems when trying to apply the color palette on your website later (for things such as links, buttons, the navigation bar, and so on).
But not vice versa. If your colors work on your website, you’re good to go.
Why warm and cool colors have different jobs
Now, you probably know that there is such a thing as cool colors and warm colors. Check out the color wheel:
RGB Color Wheel by DanPMK at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, modified
All you need to know at this point is that warm colors are more dominant and tend to stand out from the background, while cool colors tend to recede.
What it means for you is that if your main brand color is warm, it’s a good idea to use it as a call to action color (for links and buttons), but otherwise, use it in moderation. Don’t use it for headlines (they’d look like links) and for elements that take a lot of space and aren’t supposed to call for attention (menu bar, boxes, footer, and similar).
When there’s too much of your call to action color on your website, the links don’t stand out.
If you’ve decided for a cool color, you can be more generous with it and use it for larger elements (like the navigation bar), but it’s not a good idea to use it for links and buttons as the color doesn’t stand out so much. You’ll need another color to do the job.
Once again, our only objective today is to choose your main brand color. We will go into details of choosing other colors for your website in the next part of this series.
Here’s your action plan for now:
• Take your list of possible colors (check the previous post) and use your visual taste, your gut feeling, and a color psychology chart to narrow it down to a few colors.
• Take a moment to play with the color tools listed above to try out different variations of the colors you have chosen.
• Get started with your website: If the color is warm and vibrant, try to use it (and its variations) on buttons and as links inside the body text. Does it stand out and grab attention?
• If you have a cool color in mind, try it for larger areas such as the navigation bar. How does it look? Does it set the right atmosphere?
• After you make sure the color works on your website, see how it looks on your logo or social media image templates.
After some experimentation, you should be able to come up with THE color. The color that you don’t just like, but that makes you stand out, is in line with your brand’s personality, and works within the online business context.
A word of warning
I have to warn you not to get too attached to your brand colors. It happens to all of us: When we find a color that speaks to us, we resist replacing it when we find out it doesn’t work — which may happen at any time.
Your brand is always under construction, it’s always subject to change. And that’s a good thing.
I mean, anything that you create today will sooner or later need to be changed — so it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to work for you today.
If you want to dig deeper, read (and bookmark) this resource by Canva: Color Wheel and the Color Theory.
Choosing the main brand color is just the first step, but it’s the most important one. And it can also be fun — if you stop trying to put all the pieces together at once.
I mean, we’re dealing with feelings and emotions and a little bit of magic here, so trying to “hack” the process is a missed opportunity to connect with your brand on a deeper level and show it some love.
So, I’d like to invite you to create some time for yourself to experiment with colors until you find the right one.
Next time, we’ll add another piece to the puzzle as we’ll dig into the science of color palettes and their use on your website.
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