Easy Guide To Choose A Color Palette For Your Design
Color communicates by itself, and, at the end of the day, first impressions matter. But let me ask you a quick question: how much time do you spend choosing the color palette for your designs?
As designers, we sometimes forget the importance of color. Choosing the right color palette is essential but not easy. Especially if you’re starting out.
So, what does it take to master color palette choices? The answer is practice. Although understanding how color works is vital to succeed.
In this article, we share with Freepik contributors a quick and easy guide to learn the basics of color theory and how to apply these concepts in your creations. Here’s what we’ll be covering:
- Understanding the basics of colors
- Choosing a color palette suitable for your design
- Get your own color palette
1.Understanding the basics of colors
The color wheel
The starting point of the color theory is the color wheel, which is mainly formed by 12 pure colors. The color circle helps to understand how colors combine and relate. The rest of the colors are created by combining and adding variations to these twelve hues.
Photo by studioworkstock
The 12 basic colors are at the same time divided into three categories:
- Primary colors (red, blue, and yellow -depending on the color system): these are the “purest ones” and can’t be formed by adding variations.
- Secondary colors (orange, green, and purple): they are created by combining two primary colors.
- Tertiary colors: they appear by combining adjacent primary and secondary colors. For example, blue-green.
By mixing the 12 colors of the wheel, we can get a lot of variations. To understand them, here are some basic concepts:
- Hue: it’s the color itself. Green hue, red hue, blue hue, etc.
- Chrome: it refers to the purity of a color without adding any white, black, or gray to it.
- Saturation: how bold or pale color is.
- Value: it determines the lightness, that is, how dark or light a color is.
- Tint: it’s formed by adding white to a pure hue.
- Shade: formed by adding black to a pure hue.
- Tone: formed by adding gray to a pure hue.
Warm colors vs. cool colors
Another distinction within the color wheel is warm and cool colors. They are used to differentiate the blue-green area of the color wheel from the yellow-red one.
Cool colors are blue and green, which are associated with cool feelings, while warm colors, like red or orange, bring us warmer feelings.
Example of a palette with cool colors
Example of a palette with warm colors
Colors communicate by themselves, which means that they are a powerful tool when used correctly. Behind every color, there’s a meaning. In fact, color psychology has become an exciting topic, not only for researchers but also for marketers.
Color sell (both literally and figuratively). So, choosing a color palette for your design is decisive and will have a direct impact on the user’s perception. Here are some of the most common meanings associated with colors:
- Red: love, fire, energy, strength
- Purple: power, wealth, ambition, royalty
- Blue: calm, stability, trust, depth
- Green: freshness, nature, growth, safety
- Yellow: joy, energy, positivism, brightness
- Orange: warmth, creativity, happiness, success
It’s very important, though, to bear in mind that colors meaning are closely related to the culture, the individual’s environment, and their perception. What one color means to me, it may mean something different to you.
Color psychology is, indeed, a broad topic, and we can’t cover it in this article. However, we invite you to reflect, taking into account the above: would you use the same colors in the template of a restaurant menu as in a landing page offering beauty and wellness services?
If you’re a beginner, you can use color relationships as a starting point for creating your color palette. To understand how colors combine and relate to each other, it’s essential to have the color wheel in mind. Below are some of the basic color schemes:
- Monochromatic: this color scheme is formed by just one hue and its variations. Normally, monochromatic color palettes are a winning choice, no risks, colors combine perfectly. However, they may sometimes be boring.
- Analogous: it refers to colors next to each other on the color wheel.
- Complementary: opposite colors on the color wheel. This color scheme is great for adding contrast and create an attractive color palette.
- Split complementary: this scheme uses a base hue and matches it with the two colors next to its complementary.
- Triadic: it’s formed by three colors equally apart on the color wheel.
2. Choosing a color palette suitable for your design
As designers, we’re continually working with different designs and projects. Whenever you start a new design, it’s essential to think of the intended audience. In this case, contributors’ content is available to millions of users around the world. So, versatility is a must.
It’s not the same to design a banner with discounts for Back Friday as a birthday invitation for an 8-year-old. Right? Okay, the difference, in this case, may seem logical to you. But sometimes it’s not that simple.
That’s why, before starting, take your time to think of the design you’re developing. It will make it easier to choose a suitable color palette. These are a few tips that will help you:
- Think of the concept, theme, and style
Some colors are traditionally associated with some topics. For example, Black Friday is all about black, often combined with red or yellow. St. Patrick’s Day is all green; red and green play a leading role in Christmas scenes… If the concept is clear, then you’ll come up with the main color straight forward.
But, if there isn’t a specific color associated with the concept (or it accepts different possibilities), then you’ll have to think about what you want to communicate with the design and which color is most suitable for it.
Also, the style is crucial. It will determine the color palette, so don’t forget it!
In the example above, green is a predominant color. This hue is traditionally related to nature.
- Who is the target audience?
In other words: what is your design intended for? Imagine you’re designing a business card. The color choice will vary depending on who you address the card to.
Do you want it to be more elegant or prefer a joyful and fun look? Colors make a difference.
- Take risks
Especially if you’re an experienced designer, the best way to stand out is to be original. Avoid clichés and experiment with colors; perhaps you’ll come up with something cool and different.
Wedding invitations don’t have to be pink or blue. Go beyond the rule!
3. Get your own color palette
Think of this process as a recipe. We already have all the ingredients, so now the funniest part begins: it’s time to create a color palette! Here are some tips to start creating your palette:
- Get inspired
We all need some inspiration to come up with fresh ideas. Have a look around you. Use sites like Dribble, Pinterest, or even Instagram to find color palette ideas. It’s always a good idea to see how your favorite artists combine colors and get inspiration from them.
Designers get so used to working indoors that we sometimes forget the real world. Need inspiration? Go outside, look through your window…cities are filled with colors, and nature is a sacred place for every artist to look for inspiration.
→Tip: Wallpapers and landscape photos are also valid if you can’t go out .
- Use color palette generators
This one is really useful for beginners. If you’re starting and don’t know how to pick a color palette, don’t worry. There’s a whole universe of color generators on the Internet that will help you with that.
Here are some of our designers’ favorite color generators: Colourlovers, Coolors, Paletton, or Adobe. The Adobe generator is quite useful, as you can explore trends and save your color palettes. Apart from these, Instagram is filled with interesting accounts focused on color combinations.
Another option is to extract a color palette from a picture (which, by the way, we love). Sites like Palette generator allow you to upload any image and get the color palette.
- Your turn
There are so many colors that we sometimes get frustrated and fail to choose a color palette. Most color palettes are formed by five colors, and we also agree with this number (ever fewer is fine). To start with, make sure your color palette includes the following:
Main color: choose a color as a base hue and build your palette from it.
Neutral colors: including neutral colors (gray, beige, etc.) will help you keep a balance in your palette.
Accent color: adding an accent color is great, especially for simple or neutral color palettes. It will stand out and add a different touch to your design.
Once you master color combinations, play around with colors, take risks, and see what happens. Practice makes perfect, so it’ll get easier with time.
There is a whole world behind color theory. In this quick guide, we just go through the basics of color relationships in order to understand how they work. If you just became a Freepik contributor or still struggle to choose a color palette, these tips will guide you.
Picking a color palette isn’t a random process. It requires practice and some knowledge. The advantage is that we’re all surrounded by colors. Anywhere you look, there’s a color palette.
What do you think? Is there any tip you use for creating a palette? Another tool? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with us!