Creating a Colour Palette

26 June 2020  • 

I recently had a DM from Kirsty Leanne about creating colour palettes. This is something I do quite often with my visual identity work, so I thought I’d run through a few different tips and resources for DIYing your own colour palette!

Colour theory

Of course, there are infinite colours in the world which can seem incredibly daunting! There’s also a science behind choosing colours that work well together and complement each other.

It’s worth just reading up a little bit on colour theory. I like this article about basic colour theory because it talks about how different colours appear in context rather than just showing you a colour wheel and telling you to go for it.

In addition to finding colours that complement each other, you also want to think about tone (warm, neutral, and cool), and meaning (for example, red can be associated with power and danger in the western world, while in China it is the colour of prosperity).

Infinite colours

A good rule of thumb is to not use too many colours in one design. Typically I choose between 2 and 4, depending on the project.

Remember: choosing the colours doesn’t mean you’re restricted to just the particular shade of the colour. For example, my brand palette contains a mustard yellow, but I often use it at a lower opacity so it becomes a lighter shade, but still works within my branding.

Colour palette websites

If you’re not super confident in your ability to choose a palette, you’re in luck because there are quite a few people out there who have already done the work for you!

One of my favourite sites for pre-made colour palettes is Design Seeds. This site is all about colour. You can filter palettes by certain collections, such as by season. Personally, when I use a site like this I usually at least know which base colour I want to use, so I tend to browse by colour.

From there, you will be shown loads of existing palettes, accompanied by an image that contains those colours. It’s a really quick and easy way to see if a certain palette matches the vibe that you’re going for.

Colour palette generators

If you’re a bit more advanced at colour selection, you can play with one of the many colour palette generators online. Personally, my favourite is Coolors. You can hit the spacebar to cycle through different colour options. When you find a hue you like, lock it, then continue flipping through colours until you find a combination that you love!

They also have a function where you can select a colour palette from a photo, which is something I will talk a little bit more about next:

Using a mood board

Personally, the most common way that I choose a colour palette is by using my mood board. When I start a new project, I usually work with my client to create an inspiration board on Pinterest. My client pins images that they like and dislike so I can get an idea of their own visual preferences. Then, I take this preference, along with the research I’ve done about their brand, and create a moodboard.

This might use images from the Pinterest board and/or additional images that I find through other sources.

Once my mood board is put together, I will usually select colours from the mood board itself, then tweak them to work with the project.

It’s not quite as simple as just using the eyedropper to choose colours, but it can provide a good base for the general hue and tone, and then I can adjust accordingly!

And those are my top tips for selecting a colour palette! Let me know if this was helpful, and which method is your favourite!

Thank you for reading!

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