Choosing a color palette with color swatches

Inside: My simple process for selecting the best colors for your business so you can attract your dream clients with ease


Color is an incredibly powerful tool, especially when it comes to branding. 

You likely already know this because chances are pretty good that right around the time you picked your first logo, you also selected a color palette for your new business.

But if you didn’t, and you’re thinking, “eh, I don’t know,” then try to imagine IKEA’s logo in red and white. Or Coca-Cola’s logo in blue and yellow. Yikes, right?

There’s a ton of color advice out there – some good, some… er… interesting, and some downright confusing.

I mean, how does it help anyone to send a newbie to a color picker website where they’re faced with hundreds of color palettes, from neutral to bright and colorful and everything in between?

How are they supposed to know what to choose?

Taking a blind stab at it and hoping it works is not a strategy. It’s not even a good tactic, for crying out loud.

I always advise people to select their brand color scheme carefully because with the wrong colors, you risk turning off potential clients, and even confusing people about what your brand really stands for.

But if you pick the right colors, you can create a brand image that will help you attract your dream clients easily.

So in this post, I’m sharing the same simple process I use for client work.

How to select the best colors for your business

On the minimal end of the spectrum, your color scheme can be black, white, with shades of gray.

Moving toward the other end, you might add an accent color or two, with shades and tints that extend the palette to meet all your needs.

And if your business is all sorts of colorful, your color scheme might have five or more main colors, possibly with varying shades and tints.

So, how do you get started with these decisions?

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

1. Determine your brand’s personality

You know how you’d never confuse a Coca-Cola Christmas ad with a recruitment ad for the Army?

That’s because their brand personas are completely different.

For solopreneurs, the main factor in your brand’s persona is your own personality. So you’ll want to start with your leading archetype. 

Not sure what I’m even talking about? Read my brief explanation of brand archetypes and see which one resonates the most. 

Combine it with what your dream clients are looking for, and you have a winning formula for your business’s brand persona.

Then, start looking at colors.

2. Create a basic color palette

Ideally, these colors are coming straight from your brand mood board. Don’t have one? Follow these easy steps to create a mood board for your business

You might be able to summarize the mood of your brand in just a few adjectives. If so, good for you; keep moving through this article.

If you’re having trouble with the adjectives, or the whole “mood” thing feels like a mystery, grab my Brand Clarity Workbook and pay attention to the words you use as you answer the questions. 

So first things first, decide on your…

BLACK AND WHITE

Decide if your white is true white (#FFFFFF) or an off-white, and pick a dark color as your “black.” Rarely will you want true black (#000000) because it contrasts too much with white, so consider off-black options like dark gray or dark navy.

Often, your brand mood board will have a very dark neutral color that will work well for text in place of black.

If you’re a total minimalist, you can stick with true white and a range of grays, including one dark enough for text. Congratulations, your color selection is finished!

Minimalist color palette in black and white, with inspiration mood board.
If black and white is your idea of colorful, a simple palette with shades of gray may be all you need.

Not into stark black and white?

Let’s talk about the next important selection…

MAIN BRAND COLOR

Looking at your mood board, which color stands out? If multiple colors stand out, which ones are they? You’ll want to consider them one by one.

What you’re selecting here is the color family you’ll use most often, the one that will become recognizable to your clients and pre-clients as representing you and your business.

Ideally, try to pick a hue that’s sort of medium – not too dark and not too light

This will allow you to mix it with white (tint) and black (shade) to get a wide range of usable colors. 

You can use color-hex.com to generate the full range of potential tints and shades, and play with the ones you like to see how they look together.

Try to select two tints and two shades to go with to your main brand color.

Color palette with a range of pinks, with inspiration mood board.
A single medium pink can turn into a beautiful, visually interesting color scheme when you incorporate a few of its tints and shades.

For many brands, this provides enough color variety for everything. But if what you have doesn’t feel colorful enough, move on to the next step.

3. Extend your color palette

Look for a color that will stand out from the color scheme you already have.

Depending on the feel you’re going for, you might add a complementary color or an analogous one

Complementary means the color sits directly across the color wheel from your brand color. Analogous means the color sits next to your brand color on the color wheel.

If you’ve had a brand photoshoot, you may find a good color option in your images.

If you’re working with your mood board instead, it will often provide several alternative colors for you to consider.

And you can also use a fun tool like Paletton to help you make those decisions.

(It can be a total rabbit hole. Consider yourself warned 😄)

Chances are pretty good that if your brand color is on the bright side, the new addition will be too. If it looks garish to your eye, play with the saturation level until you’re happy with it.

And yes, you can tint and shade this new color for even more choices.

Color palette with a range of pinks and greens, with inspiration mood board.
Adding a second hue to your color scheme can make it more versatile.

If you really feel the need to add more colors to the mix, you can, but use caution as too many colors will just get confusing.

When you’re happy with the number of colors in your palette, it’s time to make sure they’ll work well together.

So in the next step, you’ll want to:

4. Check for accessibility

With all the different options in your color scheme, some combinations will work really well, some might hurt your eyes, and some may lack enough contrast.

You can use a tool like Accessible Brand Colors to quickly check for this.

Ideally, you want people to be able to read your stuff without squinting or missing chunks of information because they just can’t see it.

And I mean all people, not just those with excellent vision.

So if you have a color that just isn’t working well, substitute a lighter or darker version and see if that helps.

Now that your colors are selected, expanded, and accessible, you’re just about done. 

So before you finalize your color palette…

5. A few more tips 

Remember that color is an emotional tool, so think about the feelings your brand colors will evoke in your audience. 

You may want to read up on color psychology to get ideas about the types of emotions specific colors stir up in humans when we interact with them.

If something in the color psychology article gives you pause and makes you rethink your color selections, no problem. Better to work it out now than have to change all your colors down the road.

Take a look at others in your space. 

What color combinations do they use? What can you learn from them?

If everyone in your space is using the same colors, consider bucking the trend so you can stand out.


And there you have it – my simple process for choosing colors for your brand. No need to stare at a bunch of color palettes, wondering how the heck you’re supposed to choose.

Instead, start by identifying your brand’s personality, then create a basic color scheme to match it. If needed, expand your color palette with additional choices.

And if you’re feeling like, “OMG, this all sounds good, but I just want somebody to do it for me,” you’re in the right place. 

Because selecting gorgeous color palettes is one of the many things I do for clients. Click the button below to read about my services.

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

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