How to Choose a Color Palette
When starting a graphic design project, having the whole color wheel for inspiration can be exhilarating. However, colors and color palettes are more than just pleasing to the eye — they can influence how viewers perceive and understand information and art.
Favorite colors or color aversions might be just personal — but it could be cultural. Certain colors have different meanings and implications in different parts of the world, which may influence how your project is perceived by your audience.
In consumer-driven industries, choosing colors that will advance your marketing or audience goals is especially important. Color theorists have identified that along with conveying meaning, colors also trigger an emotional response or association. Make sure that the colors you choose will resonate with your audience in either their meaning or their emotional pull.
Color Palettes and Their Effects
Choosing specific color combinations for your marketing campaigns is a great way to combine brand associations with color theory. Using a defined color palette that corresponds with your brand will create viewer recognition that can compel a viewer to action. Both color palettes and their applications influence reader response. Consider how a muted or pale color palette creates a sense of calm, whereas bright or bold colors can be full of energy. Alternatively, a project that uses many colors throughout will keep the eye jumping around. A piece with occasional color accents, however, will create specific emphasis on certain points. Keeping all of these details in mind will increase your project’s impact, giving your marketing efforts higher results.
To learn more about the choices behind developing a color palette, we sat down with Jess Eith, Graphic Designer, to take a look at her color practices.
Q: We live in color, but not everyone is a design expert. How do you interact with color palettes outside of the office?
A: Sometimes if I’m walking around, I’ll see a color or a color combination that catches my eye, so I’ll take a picture. There’s a cool Adobe app that can find Hex codes, so if I have photos saved I can pull from them later.
Q: When setting out to design a color palette, what’s the first thing you consider? How do you start refining your color options?
A: Brand guidelines! It’s always key to meet those for clients. But I also like to think about what the project’s context is. Depending on where it’s going to be used and who’s going to be using it can change interpretations of certain colors, especially if they have cultural implications. For example, one of the reasons so many fast food companies use yellow is because it’s an alert color and it keeps people awake. For me, intended purpose and tone influence color choices.
Once I have a color or two to start with, I’ll figure out if I need any others or whether I should work with shades of the main colors — that mostly depends on the client’s goals as well as the time I have to design it.
Q: How do you know what kind of color palette will resonate with a particular audience?
A: A lot of projects for professional audiences (business, medical, etc.) often will use a more neutral palette. However, many color choices depend on expectation and trend. For example, green is common to signify innovation or ecology, since there’s a visual connection to the world and nature. Projects about cutting-edge technology often use palettes that reflect current trends. Color combos often draw from the unconscious and inspiration from things we see in the world.
Q: What kinds of impact does a color palette with only two or three choices have vs. a color palette with many options?
A: As far as design goes, when you’re designing, you’re often creating a brand. So, a poster design with limited colors will provide a higher impact. This is tied to the idea of how long your audience will have to see a design. If they have less time, fewer colors will convey meaning more efficiently. To be iconic, it needs to be digestible quickly.
Q: When working with a color palette, how do you know when to incorporate your primary color or your secondary colors?
A: The primary color is what you want your focus to be on and should be associated with the object with the most emphasis. Secondary colors are best used for smaller parts or details — things lower on the hierarchy. No matter what, each color choice has to contribute to the ultimate goal and design.
What are the colors or color palettes that captivate you? Tell us here.