Choosing Colors

Building on the article Color Theory, here we take a closer examination of how to choose the colors for you company’s color scheme. 

Choosing the right colors for your design elements is a challenging task that is both highly subjective and highly scientific. The goal is to balance the complex role and impact that colors have on the attractiveness and effectiveness of your design elements. 

If you product, service, website, marketing materials and brand are not appealing, potential customers will misunderstand you message, reject your solution, and search for more desirable alternatives. 

The effect of colors upon human beings is significant. They spark ideas and emotions that directly impact a person’s perception and behavior. Any color choice a business makes should be determined by whether or not it positively impacts and strengthens the branding potential of the company. 

To facilitate your efforts, consider applying the following guide to determine the right color scheme for your business. 


Where To Start


The following eight guidelines can help inspire any person or group to discover the right color and color combinations for you brand. 


1. Personal Preference

Start with your personal preferences. Color preferences are subjective, and affinity for certain colors over others is likely the result of ingrained reactions from childhood experiences. Positive association between colors and things typically dictate personal preferences. Even if a personal color choice is wrong for your specific business, it is a good place to start. 


2. Consider The Industry

Then, look at the color schemes applied by similar companies and brands within your industry. They serve as a great guide to what colors are popular for your business and what colors customers will expect to be associated with your solution. 


3. Choose an Atmosphere & Emotion

Determine what kind of atmosphere you are attempting to create with your brand, and pick colors that are appropriate to cultivating that type of mood. Again, entrepreneurs can look to commonalities within their industry to better understand what kind of atmosphere they should cultivate. 

To build on the atmosphere you are attempting to create, examine how different colors affect the emotions of potential customers. Determine which emotions you want to match to your brand and solution, and then match the emotion to the appropriate color. 


4. Examine Trends

Specific colors and color schemes follow cyclical trends. While it is important to choose a color scheme that can be lasting, entrepreneurs should be aware of colors that are trending within their specific sector and across different industries. Picking very standard colors for your color scheme can allow for greater flexibility to adapt to trends that come and go.


5. Complement Your Message

The colors of your color theme are an integral part of your entire design process, and should not be an afterthought for your business. Color, images, motion, scale, texture, style and typography are among the essential elements that communicate to customers what your brand and solution is all about. It is vital that your colors complement the message you are marketing about your solution. 


6. Cultural Impact

For specific kinds of businesses, particularly those that operate internationally, it is important that the color you choose does not offend your audience. For instance, using the color green throughout the Middle East can be poorly received because the color is considered holy in Islam. The color blue is considered back luck in eastern cultures, while red a sign of good luck and fortune. Always study the important colors and symbols of the markets you operate in, in order to avoid possible negative reactions. 


7. Clearly Defined Colors

It is important to choose clearly identifiable colors that contrast one another well. Complementary colors are the best to use, but you can also be creative and apply different textures, tints, gradients, transparencies, and mixed ink swatches to specific colors to produce a unique pallet for your color scheme. For more on color dynamics explore Color Theory


8. Production

Lastly, be conscious of how your color scheme will look when applied to different mediums including; prints, textiles, web browsers, electronic documents and public spaces. Always consider how your design elements and/or logo look in black and white, and how the RGB or CYMK color systems impact your hues and production capabilities. 


Color Scheme Tools


To facilitate your efforts to choose an effective primary color and corresponding color scheme consider using the following online tools:


Adobe Kuler:

Adobe Kuler is an Adobe resource that provides a dynamic color wheel tool that automatically matches complementary colors with whichever base color your choose. It is an easy and effective way to create a unique color palette, which can be saved, exported/downloaded, and published to the Adobe online community. Adobe Kuler is a favorite among designers and color enthusiasts.



Paletton is another color scheme tool that provides more comprehensive color, and color combination features compared to Adobe Kuler. The variety of clearly defined options makes Paletton a more effective tool for beginners who are unfamiliar with color theory. However, the color combination features are not as intuitive or as revealing of color relationships when compared Adobe Kuler. 


Color Wheel Guide


Another great guide to help determine the right color scheme is the color wheel which illustrates the relationships between various hues of the color spectrum. 




Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel complement each other because of their strong contrasting qualities. Colors adjacent to each other have little contrast and do not necessarily work well together. For more on the dynamics of color explore Color Theory


10 Ways to Leverage Color


While determining the right primary color and corresponding color scheme may appear tedious, rest assured that the color(s) you employ will dramatically impact your audience. He we examine 10 ways in which a business and leverage color to its advantage. 


1. Color enhances the speed of visual search 

Implementing distinct colors for specific elements of your brand will allow viewers to more easily navigate and discover the information they want and need. Using colors with significant contrast, like blue and yellow, is better than colors with little contrast, like red and orange.


2. Improves object recognition

Colors allow for people to more easily identify and associate specific objects or elements within your branding materials. A black star will indicate something of luxurious value, a flashing yellow dot can indicate a new product or future. Specific type faces also help guide viewers by establishing a system for information communication. Ultimately, color helps familiarize people with the components of your branding and enhances their ability to quickly make purchasing decisions. 


3. Enhance meaning

Colors are a great way to enhance the meaning of specific design elements. Bright colors typically emphasize and represent something of value. Gold typically indicates something of value, red can indicate a product is for sale. 


4. Depict Structure

Using different colors throughout your design elements is a very effective way to produce structure that easily guides the viewer. The better or clearer the structure the more easily a viewer will understand your message and become a customer. Using a blue menu bar on a white webpage is a great way to create hierarchy and structure for your web elements. 


5. Establish identity

Colors are the first indicators that represent brands, and choosing the right color will significantly impact the way your brand is understood and accepted. It would not be wise to use the color purple for an outdoor equipment manufacturer because purple is rarely found in nature. Similarly, red would not be an effective color for a wildlife preservation society because it invokes the idea of fire. Blue, however would be an effective color for outdoor fishing charters or cruise lines because it evokes the ocean. Always choose a color that can easily or logically identify what your company does. 


6. Symbolism

The use of specific colors will evoke distinct symbolic ideas, concepts and emotions, which can have negative or positive effects on your brand, particular depending on the culture in which you operate. Red evokes passion, yellow evokes joy, orange evokes appetite, blue evokes clarity, green evokes growth, purple evokes mystery, are a few examples. Always try to match your color choices to appropriate or analogous symbols for your company. 


7. Improve Usability

The use of specific colors, typically vibrant ones, can improve how specific elements within your brand are recognized and used. This is particularly true for digital interfaces such as websites. The same logic also applies to physical products. A black zipper on a black hiking bag will be hard to discern and damage usability, however a bright red zipper on the same bag will be easily visible and improve the usability of the hiking bag. Color can inform users about specific features that can enhance experience and guide their actions.


8. Communicate Mood

As previous expressed, color evokes emotions and can be used to create a particular mood. Lighter colors provide more positive moods, while darker colors instill more negative moods. Depending on your type of business, the specific mood you aim to foster for your brand can be heavily impacted by your color choices. 


9. Association

Employing different colors throughout your brand can help separate individual components and indicate the relationship between specific design elements of your brand. Colors that contrast well will illuminate the differences and meaning of specific elements. A gold trim on a black bag can illuminate the quality of how the bag was manufactured. Similarly, a bright blue type face can indicate key words, titles, links or headlines across a website. 


10. Metaphors

Specific colors work well with designed elements that are typically associated with the same color. For instance using a dark green hue with pictures of trees for a rainforest preservation business is a great example of a color metaphorically invoking a complementary idea or object in the real world. Similarly using black as the background of a website dedicated to education people of the solar system is an effective way of metaphorically invoking the idea of outer space. 


Each of these elements when leveraged in the right way will yield a powerful color scheme that can dramatically increase the perceived value of your brand and excitement for your solution.

The goal of applying affective colors is to make it as easy as possible for customers to understand you solution, recognize how unique it is within you market, believe in it's value to them personally, and make a purchasing decision. 


Color Balance 


Choosing the right primary color and an affective color scheme not only involves identifying the right hues for your business, but of also effectively applying the colors throughout your design elements. 

Distributing your colors in an appealing way requires practicing balance throughout your  branding. Color schemes with fewer hues will be easier to balance, while color scheme with many hues will provide challenging to effectively balance. 

Balance allows for a user and/or customer experience that is easier to understand and appreciate. Plus, balance typically encourages simplicity which makes a customer's journey from product or solution discover to purchasing easier and more enjoyable. 

A simple way to produce greater color balance among your design elements is to divide your color scheme into dominant and accent colors. 


Dominant Color:

The dominant color(s) you select will be the most visible and frequently used hue(s) throughout your branding. The dominant color of your brand should provide the greatest emotional and psychological impact on potential customers. 


Accent Color:

Accent color(s) should complement your dominant hue(s) and balance the main color(s) throughout your branding and design elements. Accent colors are effective tools to visually convey different levels of importance about different design elements throughout your branding. The more your accent color contrasts your dominant color, the more effective it will be to harness attention of your customer and drive action. 


60-30-10 Rule


A common rule of thumb employed by designers to guide their color scheme choices is to apply the basic three-color palette 60-30-10 rule. 

This guide recommends choosing 3 colors for your company’s color scheme.

Your dominant hue should account for 60% of the color that frames your branding. While the remaining 2 accent colors should account for 30% and 10% respectively of the color employed throughout your brand’s design elements.

This methodology is a very effective and simple way to create color balance throughout your brand, and methodically guide your customers towards purchasing actions. 


Brand Recognition


Choosing the right colors and effectively balancing them throughout your branding elements, strengthens your company's ability to be or become an easily recognizable brand. 

The initial judgement a customer makes about a product or service is often based on color, which makes your color choices not only an artistic decision, but a business decision as well.

Examples of brands such as Coca-Cola, Facebook and Starbucks immediately invoke thoughts of their respective colors; red, blue and green, illustrating how important color decisions are towards effective marketing strategies that impact customer perception, and behavior. 

The following statistics offer some insights to the generally applied colors by global brands:


  • 33% of brands use the color Blue.

  • 29% of brands use the color Red.

  • 28% of brands use Black or a Greyscale. 

  • 13% of brands use the color Yellow. 

  • 95% of brands use 1 or 2 colors. 

  • 5% of brands use more than 2 colors.

  • 41% of brands use text only.

  • 9% of brands don’t feature their company name. 


The statistic demonstrate how important it is to not only choose the right colors, but to choose only several colors, and effectively apply them in simple and balanced ways. 

Color is important, and entrepreneurs should be vested in making the right color choices for their company. With the right color scheme, and the right business strategy employed over a period of time, brands can become widely accepted symbols of the colors they use. 


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