Color Confusion Resolved: 5 Techniques for Choosing Great Business Color

brand building with great business colors“What colors should I use for my business?”

It’s one of the most common questions I hear. And I understand why it’s daunting. With millions of available choices, where should you start?

In today’s post I’m going to share five techniques for choosing color for your business, plus a free tool you can use as a reference whenever you need to create a color palette.

1. Think Two Baby Steps

I recommend choosing two main colors first. It’s easier to communicate your business brand if you use two colors consistently in all your marketing materials.

Companies and organizations have been doing this for years. Everyone from sports teams to corporations represent themselves with two colors.

When you’ve got two colors to choose from, you just have to answer the question “should I use color A or color B?” This makes setting up your web pages and print material easy-peasy.

2. Use a Color Wheel as Your Guide

The first thing to understand about color is that exists on a spectrum, and each color has a relationship with the others. To understand these relationships, let’s take a look at two color wheels.

make your brand palette by starting with a color wheel

Color wheels help you decide which colors you’d like to try experimenting with. You can use this screen image, or download the “Color Confusion Resolved” PDF I’ve created for you.

The left color wheel shows colors that move from darker in the middle to having progressively more white added to the pure color on the outside ring. The right color wheel is lighter in the middle, and the outer ring colors have more black added to them.

Use the three concepts below as a guide when you’re choosing two colors from these color wheels.

3. Opposites Attract

make your brand vibrant with opposite colorsColors that sit on opposite sides of the color wheel look great together. Because the colors are opposites, the overall effect is vibrant and high contrast.

That’s great if you’re looking for a high-energy color combination. If you want something more soothing to the eyes, choose colors using the “Next-Door Neighbors” technique below.

To tone down your opposite colors, try choosing hues from the parts of the color wheel that have added black or white. You’ll still have a high-energy combination, but it won’t be jarring to the eyes.

4. Next-Door Neighbors Get Along

make your brand harmonious with neighboring colorsFor harmonious color, choose colors that are “next-door neighbors” on the color wheel. Imagine you’re taking a slice of pie and choose colors that are within the same slice.

These colors have so much in common they look great next to each other and blend well.

Your colors are guaranteed to look balanced and well-matched when you choose color “neighbors.”

5. Compatibility Counts

make your brand palette blend with colors in the same ringI mentioned above that the colors on these wheels are arranged by lightness and darkness.

Whether you choose color “neighbors” or try color opposites, your combinations will look best if they’re located on the same “rings” of the color wheel.

Colors along the same “rings” have similar amounts of white or black added to the pure color. This will help them blend well when you use them together.

Ready to dive in and start choosing colors? Read this post for some online tools for choosing colors.

I’d love to see what you come up with. Most of the online tools will allow you to save your color palette — feel free to post a link in the comments so I can take a peek and provide feedback if you’d like it.

Want to learn more about design and marketing so you can attract the kind of customer you want? Share your email below, and I’ll send you my free Marketing Toolkit.

Comments

  1. says

    Interesting adventure with a color wheel. I have always found them rather capricious- but no- there is order in the chaos. So any way to make easy sense of things when you have hex codes rather than a color wheel- Or do I just race over to a color wheel- enter my hex code and then traipse around the wheel…

    • says

      Hi Stu,

      I recommend you use the color wheel to choose two colors you’d like to try to emulate, then go to one of the online tools and pick hex numbers from there.

      Many of the online tools let you pick from a wheel, so now that you know these techniques you’ll have a better idea about where to click on the wheel to find colors that work.

      Let me know how it goes, and feel free to share what you pick: I’d love to see it.

  2. says

    A few months ago I paid a modest sum to have a logo designed for me. I’m not sure I care for it but I love one of the colors – it is a yellowy green a6a72f. The other colors used were a red orange and a red (db5b34 & b63730).

    After reading this article, I think I should go with just 2 colors. What would you suggest with the green?

    • says

      Hi Brenda,

      I just plugged your colors into the colourlovers.com site: they’re beautiful! The red and orange are close enough to one another that I don’t think it’s a big problem to use all three.

      You might want to make either the red or the orange dominant, though. Just choose the one you think your target market will most respond to. And if you’re not sure, ask them. :-)

  3. says

    Hi Pamela,

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve been using YaFla to find the colors to use for the websites I build, but now I’m going to use your “magic” wheel. That’s fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

    Regards.

    • says

      Glad it was helpful! The wheel is a great starting point, and then you can take your ideas to the online tools like the one you mentioned to get actual HEX numbers.

  4. says

    Hi Pamela. I’m just starting out with a blog and consulting business. I’m about to work work with a design service to create a logo. My customers will be parents of teens with disabilities. I’d like a simple logo using blue for my business name “Life After IEPs” – and then a swish of green as a path (leading into the future…) I chose the blue and green shown here from a color combo site. What do you think? http://www.colorcombos.com/combotester.html?color0=8CC739&color1=085DAD&&show_text=
    I appreciate your feedback – and am enjoying the ebook evolution package I recently purchased. Thanks for any suggestions!

    • says

      Hi Mary,

      I like those colors! They’re very lively. I think they’d work great in combination with an accent color that’s on the warm side … orange, red or gold, perhaps.

      Thanks for sharing them, and good luck with your logo project.

  5. Kathryn Kistner says

    Hi, Pamela.
    Do colors become “dated”? Will a color choice TODAY, appear “old fashioned” or “from the early 2010 era”, the way I remember harvest gold and avocado from the early 1970’s?

    Is there a range that will NOT become dated? Some of the dated colors seem… too bright… but also… too muddy. Do you have any guidelines on this?

    Thank you, Kathryn Kistner

    • says

      It might, Kathryn. It’s best to avoid the color du jour when picking colors for your business, especially if you want your brand to look fresh in a few years.

      Right now, for example, I’d avoid bright yellow green. It seems like it’s all over! And cyan blue. That’s another one that’s pervasive, especially in all things tech.

      Just look around at the colors you see a lot of, and turn in a slightly different direction … and you’ll be fine.

      Thanks for your comment!

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