Inside: a step-by-step process to help you create a mood board for your brand, with examples

If you’ve been in the online space for a hot minute, you’ve heard about mood boards. Maybe you’ve even seen a few. And if you’re wondering how to create your very own brand mood board, keep reading because that’s exactly what I’m covering in this blog post.

What’s a brand mood board, and why you need one

At its core, a mood board is simply a collection of images. It’s not specific to business – you can just as easily make one (or a whole bunch) for your favorite hobbies. 

I remember cutting out pictures of outfits and shoes from glossy magazines and catalogs to create a mood board back when I was sewing almost all my clothes. That mood board served to guide my choices of fabrics, colors, and embellishments for years.

Your dream kitchen Pinterest board? Yep, you could call that a mood board too, albeit an evolving one where you continue to add new ideas for when you finally get around to the reno.

A brand mood board is a collection of images that represent the look and feel the business is aiming for – the client experience it wants to provide, if you will.

It’s like that saying, a picture is worth a thousand words. A brand mood board expresses visually the thousands of words in the brand’s strategy and messaging. It guides the creative direction for the rest of the brand’s visuals – from logos to graphics and even the website.

And it’s super valuable in collaborations and outsourcing situations because it helps everyone quickly get on the same page visually.

Mood board examples

Mood boards come in all shapes and sizes, from simple to complex, from tidy to messy. There’s no right or wrong here, only what feels correct based on the inputs.

For example, I like to give my images a lot of space, as in the mood board below. This allows you to take in the whole mood board as one, without losing sight of each individual image.

Mood board with a lot of whitespace.

Others prefer overlapping images, and added embellishments such as dried flowers, washi tape, or grommets. The decorative elements contribute to the look and feel just as much as the photos do.

Oceanic mood board template from Canva with overlapping images, color chips, and tape

So, now that you know what a brand mood board is and why you should have one, let’s talk about how you can create one for your own business.

Step 1 – Get clear on your brand 

Because the mood board is essentially a visual expression of your brand, you need to know exactly what your brand stands for. 

Too many people think it’s about “what’s your why?” but that’s way too simplistic. Beyond your brand’s purpose, vision, mission, and values, you need to think in terms of your:

  • position in the market, 
  • brand persona (driven in part by your own archetype, and
  • messaging.

Don’t have these things figured out and documented? Grab my Brand Clarity Workbook to get a head start on it.

Once you’re clear on all the important aspects of your brand, it’s time for the colorful part.

Step 2 – Collect your images

Think of this as a brainstorming session of sorts. You’ll want to look at several sources for your images, especially if you’re having trouble finding the right photos or enough of them: 

  • free – like Unsplash, Pexels, or Pixabay
  • free/paid – as in the Canva integration with certain image services
  • paid stock photo memberships – I like and recommend She Bold Stock, Haute Stock, and Ivory Mix
  • other paid stock photo libraries, like Depositphotos or Adobe Stock

In my work with clients, I like to start the search with words that came up most often during our brand strategy intensive. Fleshing out the brand personality always yields another treasure trove of searchable terms. 

Then, to round it all out, I use Wordhippo (thesaurus) to give me a ton of synonyms or near-synonyms. 

Complex mood boards with photo manipulation require Photoshop or a similarly powerful software. But for simple mood boards, I love working in Canva.

With the Pro subscription, you can have a ton of different folders, a feature I love because it allows you to save all these images into one folder so you can quickly see them all together. 

How to find your images

As you search for each word or phrase, you’ll get hundreds or thousands of results. You’d sit there forever if you had to study them all and decide “yes or no” on each one.

Instead, here’s what I do: I scan the images quickly, really feeling into the search word so I can recognize the right photo when I come across it. 

Depending on where you’re searching, either favorite the photo, add it to your mood board collection or folder, or download it, and keep going.

You want at least 20-30 images that feel like they could be “it.”

Step 3 – Bring in some texture

Not quite done yet. Now we’re going to add a bit of texture – for me, this almost always comes from the brand persona description.

When searching, go beyond the obvious: smooth may be satin, sensuous may be velvet, rough could be a rock

Patterns are another excellent addition here. Think tile, wallpaper, etc. If you see something that works, add it to your collection.

Found a typeface that you think is perfect for your brand? Add it in. 

Step 4 – Get selective

Now that you have a good collection of images, it’s time to start getting choosy. 

At this point, I like to look at all the pictures together and see which ones jump out as not right, not belonging in the same group. Those get removed from the collection.

With the rest of the pictures looking pretty cohesive, start mentally picking which ones are the most representative of the whole. Which ones represent a single dimension? 

Is there an image that could serve as the feature, the largest picture on your mood board with everything else supporting it? Or should all images be fairly equally weighted?

Ideally, narrow down your choices to 5-10 images so they can fit easily on your mood board.

Step 5 – Lay it out 

Yay, exciting time! Now you get to pull it all together in a mood board. 

If you’re working in Canva, you have access to a bazillion beautiful mood board templates. The easiest way to find them is to open a square Instagram design and search for “mood board” under Templates.

For Photoshop templates, you can’t beat Creative Market. Or you can try Adobe Spark with free templates from Adobe.

Not a fan of templates? No problem. Start with a fresh canvas and arrange your images to your heart’s content.

Resize, crop, and flip your images every which way, until you get them to look the way you want. 

Add coordinating color chips, bits of tape, splotches of paint, or any other elements you feel are needed to round out your brand mood board. And voila! Your mood board is done.

The next step is to create your brand color palette based on the mood board.

And there you have it, my step-by-step process for creating your brand mood board. 

Want to get started with your own? Start with my Brand Clarity Workbook – 5 questions to answer before you change your brand colors (yet again)

Don't waste time in Canva! Click this image to get your copy of the Brand Clarity Workbook.

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