Design process: Selecting colours

When creating a new look and feel for anything, the necessary building blocks will be difficult at first.

How are they going to all blend together to create the brand you desire.

As time progresses and you have the fundamentals in place, it becomes easier and easier.

So, where to start? I tend to start with the colour palette. You can’t really feel a design in black and white, so colour is integral.

You may want to do some competitor analysis to align or differentiate.

Check out this article by Digital Synopsis where they assess typical colours of brands

I find that the best approach is to use your surroundings to influence your decisions. When we refreshed the branding of PRS for Music in 2017, we took the inspiration from the live events that were held at our office. The lighting used for those events were translated into the colour palette that’s used today.

For this rebrand, I’m using inspiration from my new bike. I didn’t design it, but I’ve taken the colours there as the inspiration for my new colour palette.

The three colours are

  • Black
  • Yellow
  • Pink

How to create a colour palette

The main tool I use to create a colour palette is Adobe Color. This product has evolved over time since it was called Kuler (anyone remember that?).

You may need an Adobe account but you can use this for free.

Play around, select some colours or enter some colour codes if you want and then play around with the various options to create your palette. Along the way, you’ll learn about colour theory.

You may think that knitwear you bought for Christmas in 1992 goes together with those mustard cords from a charity shop but using this tool, you can find out for real

Set a base colour

By default, the middle colour is selected. You can drag this around the colour wheel to set it.

Create your own palette

Set your colour relationship

On the left hand side of the screen, you can flip between these options.

  • Analogous
  • Monochromatic
  • Triad
  • Complementary
  • Split complementary
  • Double split complementary
  • Square
  • Compound
  • Shades

Upload a photo

What if you can’t make up your mind or are out of inspiration. Use your own photos and upload them to find your ideal colours.

Extract colour from a photo

Then you can pick from:

  • Colorful
  • Bright
  • Muted
  • Deep
  • Dark

Once done, you can give it a name and marvel at the colours in your library. From there, you can download it to use in your design program or simply copy out the colour codes to pass to your designer.

Adobe Color libraries

About Andrew Smallwood

Experienced digital strategist with a foundation in web development and analytics. Leads multi-disciplinary teams in content creation and digital marketing ensuring data is at the core of decision making.

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