Five Free Tools for Getting Your Business Color Right

The best way to harness the power of color is to use colors that support and reinforce your message.

And don’t go crazy: pick two main hues, and use those colors consistently in everything you do.

But how should you pick colors that will look great together? You may not feel “artistic” enough. You haven’t studied color theory, and you don’t want to know all of that anyway. You just want a nice set of colors that will work for your business.

The Web is Full of Color Tools

You’re in luck. The internet is full of free tools that will help you to find colors that look great together. Here are my favorites:

Understanding the Meaning of Color by Smashing Magazine

Before you jump in and pick colors, it’s a good idea to review the meanings different colors can evoke. This article by Smashing magazine talks about what colors mean, and shows them in action on real websites.

brand strategy includes learning about and harnessing the power of color

Use a Photo to Pick your Pallete at Colr.org

Using a photo as a starting point for a color palette is a good idea. If you find a photo that has the “feel” you’d like for your business color, upload it to this site, and watch as it generates a palette of colors that are pulled directly from your image.

creating a brand palette with colr.org

Visualize Colors in Use with Color Scheme Designer

I’ve recommended this tool on these pages before: it’s a great way to use color theory to pick your palette. You can visualize what your color palette will look like by clicking on “dark page example” and “light page example” in the lower right.

creating a brand palette with Color Scheme Designer

Palette Construction at ColorPicker.com

This site uses a colored square (and color bar) you can hover over to choose your hues. It generates the web equivalent of the colors you like and builds a palette with each choice you make. The emphasis is on web-safe color, and ease of use.

ColorPicker.com

Color Fans Only: Colour Lovers

Thanks to reader Rob Shaver for recommending this site designed for true color groupies. It’s chock-full of palettes, patterns and inspiring color combinations. Highly addictive.

creating a brand palette with color inspiration from Colour Lovers

From Web to Print

To convert your web color to print-safe colors, you need to see printed samples of your target colors, and compare them to the web colors you want to emulate. Your local printer will have Pantone and Trumatch color swatch books and (if you ask nicely) may allow you to use them to match the color you need.

These swatch books are standard tools on any graphic designer’s bookshelf, too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help matching web colors to printed versions. It’s tricky, but it can be done.

Show Some Restraint

Remember, for the sake of your brand, choose no more than two main colors to represent your business. Use the tools above to help find which ones work best, and use any additional hues as complements to the two main colors you choose.

 

Comments

  1. Mike Korner says

    Pam,

    The topic of color kind of reminds of me of one of my favorite quotes from Confucius, “A fool with a tool is still a fool”. But then again, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a writer and not a designer. I know good (and bad) design when I see it, but I get bored before I get through all of the color choices. With all of that said, I still like Color Scheme Designer the best. Colour Lovers is very cool though, and I dare say that if I was a color-geek, I might never leave that site :)

    I do have a basic question. What does web-safe, web-smart, and unsafe really mean?

    • says

      Mike, that’s a great question. Here’s the long-winded answer:

      Web-safe colors are the original 216 colors that website designers needed to stick to because of monitor color display limitations.

      Monitors became more sophisticated over time, and can now display millions of colors. There’s a group of 4,096 colors that can be displayed consistently across operating systems and monitor brands. These colors are considered web-smart.

      The unsafe colors go beyond the web-smart group. They may look OK on your monitor, but there’s no telling what they’ll do on a different display. It’s best to avoid them.

      You can recognize the smart/safe colors by the way their names are constructed. They always have identical pairs of digits, so #33FF99 or #CC6633 are both safe colors.

  2. says

    All I can say is thank you thank you thank you! To be honest I have been away from the development field for a while, I used to have a treasure trove of nifty little tools and toys….all I am left with now is Adobe’s Web Premium CS4 that I am using for all of my development, and my skills are a bit rusty so having these pointed out in one nice location is a God send….when I am working on a site at 3am my brain likes to tell me to buzz off many times LoL…

  3. Kars says

    Watching tv-commercials I noticed that alot of brands use red in their logo and/or commercial. Why is that? I understand they want to grab your attention, but in the end I feel overwhelmed by all the attention screaming ads.

  4. says

    Great article. Already bookmarked that Colr.org website.

    A personal favorite is Adobe’s Kuler (http://kuler.adobe.com/). One can do searches based on a word description like “summer”, and find schemes uploaded, and voted on, by a lively community. If nothing else, a great place to follow color trends.

  5. says

    Thanks for another great resource Pamela.

    I have been reading all the stuff on your site all day long and I was supposed to get some things done but like I told you on twitter, I am falling in love with all the information you have available here.

    So thanks again and I will start to put all of this in practice!

    Sergio

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