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5 Free Tools for Getting Your Brand Color Palette Right

5 free tools for getting your brand color palette right

Do you break out in a sweat just thinking about choosing brand colors?

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

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

You may not feel “artistic” enough to do this.

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.

I don’t blame you — color is an essential part of your visual brand.

In this post, I’m going to share my favorite tools for choosing your brand color palette. The right colors for your brand may be just a click away …

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:

Read on for my favorite resources to find the best brand color palette for you.


1. First, understand the meaning of color in your culture

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 in cultures around the world. Plus, it shows the colors in action on real websites.

color and culture


2. Use a photo to inspire your color palette

Using a photo as a starting point for a color palette is a good idea.

Sometimes it’s easier to define your brand by how you want it to “feel” (which is what my free brand personality quiz is all about).

To choose a color palette based on a photo, follow these steps:

  1. Find a photo that has the “feel” you’d like for your brand
  2. Visit Colr.org
  3. Click the “Load Your Own” button to upload your photo
  4. Watch as the site generates a palette of colors that are pulled directly from your image

It’s a very pared-down site. For more on how to use it, read this page.

Check out Colr.org

 how-to-use-colr


3. Use sophisticated color theory to choose your brand colors

You don’t have to be a color theory expert to use it to pick your business colors.

Just visit Paletton.com.

Select the color theory you want to apply to your palette in the upper left. Then move the selectors around until you have a palette you like.

To visualize what your color palette will look like, click on Examples to see light and dark page examples of your palette in use.

Check out Paletton

how to use paletton


4. Craft your palette with a streamlined tool from the pros at Adobe

Adobe makes sophisticated software like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign that is much-loved by designers — and is too confusing for the average user.

The Adobe Color CC tool must have been designed by a different team.

It’s slick, powerful, and incredibly easy to use.

Presenting Color CC from Adobe

how to use adobe color cc


5. Dive down this color rabbit hole

ColourLovers.com is designed for true color groupies.

It’s chock-full of palettes, patterns, and inspiring color combinations. Highly addictive, so block out at least 30 minutes!

Here’s ColourLovers.com

how to use colourlovers

How to take your brand colors from the 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.

Some colors are notoriously difficult to reproduce using inks, so take the time to see printed color samples before you lock in your print color palette.

And finally … show some color restraint

The most common mistake I see non-designers make with their brand colors is to use too many.

When you don’t have a clearly recognizable color palette, you’re missing out on the power of color.

Why? Because it’s impossible for your prospects and customers to start associating your colors with your business.

So use restraint.

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.

Put your brand colors to good use starting today

There’s a lot you can do with your brand colors once you choose them.

Register for my free on-demand branding workshop to discover how to use your brand colors to create stunning visuals you can use on your website, in ads, on social media, and in your email marketing … even if you’re not a designer. 🙂

This post was originally published on April 21, 2010 and has been updated with new information and tools.

Looking for just the right color palette to express your brand? Click through for five designer-approved (free!) tools that will inspire you to choose the best brand colors for your business. #branding #personalbrand #colorpalette #visualmarketing

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13 thoughts on “5 Free Tools for Getting Your Brand Color Palette Right”

  1. 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?

    • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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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