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Build Your Business Color Palette One Baby Step at a Time

A cute baby holding onto the wall while learning to walk

There aren’t too many people I know who would intentionally have three children at once. Let’s face it: every time a baby enters a family, there’s an adjustment period. Existing family members need to get used to the new addition. Everyone has to adapt.

It’s easier when children are added one at a time. The new baby comes along, and family members settle into their new routines.

Why not approach your business color palette the same way?

If you’re afraid to use color for your branding, and you’re not sure where to start, this approach will make it easy to dip your toe in the water.

Black and white and ___ all over

You remember the old riddle: What’s black and white and red all over?

It’s a newspaper, and it could also be your brand.

Start your palette with basic black text and a white background, whether you’re putting together a printed piece or a website.

Then pick one color — only one — to use with your pared-down palette.

Invite this one color into your business. Try it out in small doses at first, then apply it to more prominent areas.

Live with it, and see how you adapt to it. If needed, tweak it a little, then use it some more.

You may find that one isn’t enough. For the most versatility, add a second hue to your family of business colors.

How to add color number two

Choose a second color that complements your first one. Make sure they look related in intensity and tone.

Use this second one sparingly at first. Then, try it in combination with your first one. See how they look together. Do they get along? Do they fight each other?

These two colors — plus your basic black and white — may be all you need for your business.

But most business color palettes work best when they round out their brand with a third color that serves a very specific purpose.

Adding your accent color

Your third color can serve as an accent to your two main colors. Its job is to draw attention to whatever area of your website or printed piece you want to be sure your reader sees.

Do you have a call to action at the end of a blog post? A coupon in a printed piece? An email list on your website you’d like your visitors to sign up for?

That’s the place for your accent color. Bring it out and apply it wherever you’d like people to direct their attention.

Build your palette over time

Building a palette one-by-one over time takes some of the stress away from the process. You can slowly add to your family of colors and count on having time to adapt to each one as you add it to the mix.

Question of the week

What’s your favorite way to pick colors for your business? Do you have a tip to share? Tell me about it in the comments!

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is the Chief Marketing Officer at DCS. She’s the creator of the Offer Accelerator Program. Learn more about Pamela’s content marketing books, and read reviews of the tools used to run this site.
Pamela Wilson coaches people in midlife to build profitable online businesses
I’m Pamela Wilson

In 2010, at the age of 45, I started this site and grew it into a business that offers freedom, flexibility — and consistent revenue.


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13 thoughts on “Build Your Business Color Palette One Baby Step at a Time”

  1. Hi Pamela! That’s a great idea to start with black and white and add a color. It’s sort of what I did with one of my sites with red (wonder where I got the idea…hmmm :). Still haven’t picked an accent yet.

    As for your question about picking colors–I’m thinking of different sites I’ve set up–I get inspiration from color combos I see that I think are fabulous.

    On one site, the inspiration was a center spread in a Lowe’s idea magazine: yellow, black, gray (on black and white of course). An earlier site (you may remember) was originally based on the colors in a French tapestry I have (red, blue, yellow) though I ended with more green than yellow. My most recent project was a lightbulb moment I got from…well, I wonder if there’s a copyright on website color combos? Anyway, I fell in love with a certain color combo and just decided on it: orange, green, and blue in various shades. I think I’ll do my living room with it, too.

    My latest crush is a really bright blue and bright green because of seeing…something, somewhere. A gorgeous outfit in a store window I think. I love color 🙂

  2. Hi Pamela,

    Great tips! As I’m reading this post, I realize I have not paid enough attention to my colors beyond, black, white and green. I have a Sign-Up form at the bottom of each post highlighted in bright pink and recently added a workshop announcement in burnt orange which will be staying as I hope to add more workshops, and want this to be part of my brand. I’m leaning towards the burnt orange, rather than the pink, but any suggestions on good combos for green? Thank you – very helpful as I am not as confident with picking colors that work together.

  3. love your articles. I use them for branding my jewelery products – farmers’ market and consignment shop displays, business cards, item cards, packaging, etsy banner, etc. I don’t have my own web page, but the info is still very relevant. I have black and ivory (close enough to white but a little classier) and hot pink for pop. I think it works well for me – eye catching without distracting from the jewelery. Thanks for making your info work for more than just web design 🙂

  4. Here’s something different:

    In the last few months, I’ve become acquainted with “Dressing Your Truth” by Carol Tuttle; she has hundreds of videos on YouTube that you can see as she explains aspects of her system. It boils down to dressing (your body, your website, your home)… to match who you are… ENERGETICALLY.

    When I was not dressing my truth, I was dressing very neutral and drab; people would often flinch as I expressed myself in conversation because they weren’t expecting the high energy. They were expecting “still” energy based on how I dressed. I shocked them.

    It makes sense to express your website in a way that communicates with your audience at an energetic level… before they ever read a word of print. Carol’s system is not a COLOR-matching system; it’s a color-ENERGY matching system.

    For a website, this is an excellent starting point, because you can immediately rule out colors that do not match what your business is all about, energetically. Don’t want to shock (or disappoint) your poor readers! LOL!

    I’m not affiliated with Dressing Your Truth or Carol Tuttle in any way other than as a very happy paid customer.

    I, too, agree that we can find color inspiration everywhere.

    • That’s a very cool system, Kathryn, and I can see how you can take what you learn there and carry it through to your brand. It seems especially helpful if you have a personal brand that revolves around you and your personal traits. Thanks so much for sharing it!

  5. I always enjoy your posts on different aspects of branding. We’ve been pondering color for a while now since my brand identity has expanded and my company has changed and branched into two main divisions under my main brand.

    Originally, I used tan and green (animal related work) but with the addition of the technology division we have been working to merge the three aspects of my business…animals, tech under my public self (author, consultant, etc).

    We have a different markets for each and at the moment are contemplating a change to clay red (similar to yours) for the public self, darker green for the animal oriented, and dark blue for the technology.

    There are a lot of psychological aspects to color selection…but I am a geek grrrl so get into a lot of considerations.

    Finally, my logo is going to get a bit of a revamp to match the new direction and audience we want to attract.

    Not sure if you have blogged about morphing into something else but after 30+ years in a particular business we need to highlight the change but also remain recognized. If I missed an article about that, please share, but if you have not, it might be an interesting topic for businesses who are active online.

    • Hi Diana,

      My recommendation in these cases is to try to retain some element of your current brand and carry it over to the new one. That could be a color, symbol, font, or overall shape.

      If you can think about making incremental changes rather than changing all aspects of your current design, your audience will see the link between the old and the new.

      Thanks for the comment (and sorry for the delay in responding!).

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