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Choosing a colour palette

Picking colours in a design can be very alchemistic. There is a significant amount of play involved with choosing a colour pallet, we must see and feel while at the same time utilizing the science behind colour and keeping in mind why certain colours work or don't work together.


Colour palettes create an energy and feeling for the observer. There is extensive psychology regarding how we perceive colour. Red is associated with courage, strength, warmth. It is the longest wavelength. It's used in traffic lights as the most important signal (STOP) for a reason, it appears closer than it really is and therefore we see it first. Blue is intellectual, it represents communication, calmness, coolness, serenity. It is opposing to red in that it has more of a mental effect. Yellow is emotional, Green represents harmony, balance, rest, restoration among other things.

Colour and reaction

Colour can determine human behaviour, we have innate reactions to different wavelengths. As with most things– this is due to a long history of evolutionary biology. These reactions have over time given us advantages over our environment to allow us to survive. Colour has even been shown to affect the palatability of food, not only the colour of the food itself but the colours surrounding us when we eat can influence our perception of taste!

Colour is personal

How people are affected by various colour stimulation can vary from person to person, but colours do generally hold these basic attributes that give off certain general feelings. Therefore it is extremely important to pick a colour scheme when conveying your product or services to the public. It should be a thoughtful process with a bit of research and bounce ideas off of other people doesn't ever hurt.

Colour theory

A basic understanding of colour theory is a good place to start. Know your primary, secondary and tertiary colours. Examine the colour wheel. Know that every colour has an opposite, every colour has a complimentary colour (across each other on the wheel). Complimentary colours bring out the best in each other. Understand analogous colours (colours adjacent to each other on the wheel) and Triad relationships (three hues equally spaced apart from on the wheel). Using a physical colour wheel is a great help, and there are many online tools made to assist you in this process as well.

Things to remember

Keep in mind the mood your palette is creating, never clash unless it's for a specific reason. Keep in mind also the level of contrast you use with your palette. For example: yellow text on a white background may be hard to read! When designing for the web, we don't have to worry so much about light sources as the light comes from the screen itself. However, when designing for print or any physical application we should keep in mind how things will look under low light or bright light.

Always keep your target audience in mind when considering colours. The colours will be one of the first instant connections with your audience and will affect them on a visceral human level based on factors such as gender, age, race, religion and past experience. Let's work together to find your brand's perfect colour palette. Drop us a line to learn how rebranding can revitalize your company. 

Abbey Hills

AUTHOR: Abbey Hills

Marketing Assistant

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