Ready to create your brand color palette … but not sure where to start?
This article shares five tools you can explore right now. Find the one you enjoy the most and use it to put together a winning color palette for your business.
The best way to harness the power of color in your marketing is to use colors that support and reinforce your brand.
And don’t go color crazy: pick two main colors, and use them consistently in everything you do.
You may not feel “artistic” enough to do this.
You haven’t studied color theory and you don’t need to know all of that anyway. You just want a nice set of colors that will work for your business.
I don’t blame you — color is an essential part of your visual brand.
In this post, I’m going to share my favorite tools for choosing your brand color palette. The right colors for your brand may be just a click away …
Related: Color Confusion Resolved: 5 Techniques for Choosing Great Business Color
Related: The Simplest Way to Choose Your Brand Colors in Just 2 Steps
The internet is full of free and easy-to-use color tools
You’re in luck. The internet is full of free tools that will help you to find colors that look great together.
I’ve listed my five favorites below and added a short review of each.
Read on for my five favorite (free!) resources to find the best brand color palette for you.
1. Before you create a brand color palette, understand the meaning of color in your culture
Before you jump in and pick colors, it’s a good idea to review the meanings different colors can evoke.
This article by Smashing magazine talks about what colors mean in cultures around the world. Plus, it shows the colors in action on real websites.
2. Use a photo to inspire your brand color palette
Using a photo as a starting point for a brand color palette is a good idea.
Sometimes it’s easier to define your brand by how you want it to “feel” (which is what my free brand personality quiz is all about).
To choose a color palette based on a photo, follow these steps:
- Find a photo that has the “feel” you’d like for your brand
- Visit coolors.co/imagepicker
- Click the “Browse an Image” button to upload your photo
- Watch as the site generates a palette of colors that are pulled directly from your image
Check out coolors.co
3. Use sophisticated color theory to choose a polished brand color palette
You don’t have to be a color theory expert to use it to pick your business colors.
Just visit paletton.com.
Select the color theory you want to apply to your palette in the upper left. Then move the selectors around until you have a palette you like.
To visualize what your color palette will look like, click on Examples to see light and dark page examples of your palette in use.
4. Craft your color palette with a streamlined tool from the pros at Adobe
Adobe makes sophisticated software like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign that is much-loved by designers — and is too confusing for the average user.
The Adobe Color CC tool must have been designed by a different team.
It’s slick, powerful, and incredibly easy to use.
Presenting Color CC from Adobe
5. Dive down the brand color rabbit hole
ColorSpace is designed for true color groupies.
It’s chock-full of palettes and gradients in lots of combinations. Highly addictive, so block out at least 30 minutes!
Bonus: experiment with free color wheels
The team at Canva has developed an interactive color tool where you can choose your palette by sliding around on a cool color wheel. Use the dropdown menu to choose the color combination you want to try, and slide the dot along the outside ring to add or remove black to the mix.
And I have a free color guide you can download and print if you want a paper reference! Grab it here.
How to take your brand color palette from the web to print
To convert your web color to print-safe colors, you need to see printed samples of your target colors and compare them to the web colors you want to emulate.
Your local printer will have Pantone and Trumatch color swatch books and (if you ask nicely) may allow you to use them to match the color you need.
These swatch books are standard tools on any graphic designer’s bookshelf, too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help matching web colors to printed versions.
Some colors are notoriously difficult to reproduce using inks, so take the time to see printed color samples before you lock in your print color palette.
And finally … show some color restraint
The most common mistake I see non-designers make with their brand colors is to use too many. That’s why I recommend you first choose two colors to represent your brand.
When you don’t have a clearly recognizable brand color palette, you can’t harness the true power of color.
Because it’s impossible for your prospects and customers to start associating your colors with your business.
So use restraint.
For the sake of your brand, choose no more than two main brand colors to represent your business.
Think about the brown and gold UPS logo. One of their brown delivery trucks is immediately recognizable because — love the color or hate it — they’ve used those two colors consistently for many years.
The same is true of the purple and orange FedEx logo. It’s an unmistakable part of their brand identity.
Related: Business Colors: You Already Know The Most Important Rule
Related: How to Choose Two Brand Colors for Your Business
Use the tools above to help find which ones work best, and use any additional hues as complements to the two main colors you choose.
This post was originally published on April 21, 2010 and is continuously updated with new information and tools.
13 thoughts on “5 Free Tools for Getting Your Brand Color Palette Right”
The topic of color kind of reminds of me of one of my favorite quotes from Confucius, “A fool with a tool is still a fool”. But then again, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a writer and not a designer. I know good (and bad) design when I see it, but I get bored before I get through all of the color choices. With all of that said, I still like Color Scheme Designer the best. Colour Lovers is very cool though, and I dare say that if I was a color-geek, I might never leave that site 🙂
I do have a basic question. What does web-safe, web-smart, and unsafe really mean?
Mike, that’s a great question. Here’s the long-winded answer:
Web-safe colors are the original 216 colors that website designers needed to stick to because of monitor color display limitations.
Monitors became more sophisticated over time, and can now display millions of colors. There’s a group of 4,096 colors that can be displayed consistently across operating systems and monitor brands. These colors are considered web-smart.
The unsafe colors go beyond the web-smart group. They may look OK on your monitor, but there’s no telling what they’ll do on a different display. It’s best to avoid them.
You can recognize the smart/safe colors by the way their names are constructed. They always have identical pairs of digits, so #33FF99 or #CC6633 are both safe colors.
Thank you Pam
I’m not a designer so I look for help wherever I can find it. I used the Color Scheme Designer to pick some new colors for my web site. I think it looks better.
Here’s a tool that will check your existing web site for proper color contrast.
Thanks another great tip, Rob!
All I can say is thank you thank you thank you! To be honest I have been away from the development field for a while, I used to have a treasure trove of nifty little tools and toys….all I am left with now is Adobe’s Web Premium CS4 that I am using for all of my development, and my skills are a bit rusty so having these pointed out in one nice location is a God send….when I am working on a site at 3am my brain likes to tell me to buzz off many times LoL…
Watching tv-commercials I noticed that alot of brands use red in their logo and/or commercial. Why is that? I understand they want to grab your attention, but in the end I feel overwhelmed by all the attention screaming ads.
Great article. Already bookmarked that Colr.org website.
A personal favorite is Adobe’s Kuler (https://kuler.adobe.com/). One can do searches based on a word description like “summer”, and find schemes uploaded, and voted on, by a lively community. If nothing else, a great place to follow color trends.
I love the Kuler site, too, Nando. It can be a little overwhelming for beginners, but the tools are high quality. Thanks for the reminder!
Thanks for another great resource Pamela.
I have been reading all the stuff on your site all day long and I was supposed to get some things done but like I told you on twitter, I am falling in love with all the information you have available here.
So thanks again and I will start to put all of this in practice!
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