At a recent Back To Work Brunch, we had a question from an attendee about how to pick and use colours for their brand and if there where any tools that could help with that.
Using brand colours helps to build brand recognition and consistency when producing content and marketing materials, and is a key part of building a brand.
There is a whole other post to be written about what colours you should choose , and plenty of content out there already to advice on how colour works and what it says about a company. The best place to start is with colour theory, which will give you an overview of what certain colours subliminally say about a company that uses them. This diagram from the Logo Company is a good starting point to give you an idea of what it is all about.
From look at that, you will start to realise that there are certain colours that won’t go well with certain types of company, and there are some colours that work as an industry go to. Colour theory is not hard and fast rules, but more guide lines, and can be broken to great effect, but act as useful starting point.
Adobe Color (No 'U')
A very useful tool for helping to find a colour palette for your business is Adobe Color. They are the guys who make Photoshop, but this is free to use. It has extra features if you have an adobe account, like saving the colours for use in other Adobe products. It’s a simple web app What it does is help you find colours that work well together. If you have decided a core colour for you branding, then you can pick it out on Adobe Color and it will then give you some options for finding other colours in that palette.
It works around a colour wheel, something you probably came across in school art classes. The basics are the same, the colours (hue) go around the circumference of the wheel, and the closer into the middle the lighter the colour gets (saturation). There is also a brightness slider to play with, which effectively adds black to the colour, and isn’t represented on the wheel, as you would need to make it a cylinder for that. The easiest way to look at it is this, brightness is like mixing the hue with black paint, and the saturation is like mixing it with white.
The idea is simple, you grab the white circle, and place it on the colour you want as your base. The app will then pick 4 other colours based on this and the ‘Colour Harmony’ you choose. These are just the relationships between the colours.
The different colour harmonies are:
Analogous – Uses colours that are found next to each other on the colour wheel, creating a calm and harmonious colour scheme
Monochromatic – Uses different saturations of the same hue, gradually getting lighter
Triad- 3 colours evenly spaced around the colour wheel.
Complementary- uses colours that are opposite each other on the wheel for a high contrast palette.
Compound- Combines the complementary and Analogous rules, giving you 2 complimentary colours, with a few close matching similar colours for accents.
Shades- Uses the same hue but varies the brightness value to make darker shades.
Custom- enter your own custom values
Once you have done that, and your happy with it, that is essentially it. You get 5 suggested colours to use in your marketing and branding materials. You can save the colours and come back to the later to change, and then download a ASE file, which you can send to anyone who is working on materials for you so they know what colours to use. If you use Photoshop of Illustrator you can save the colours to a library and access them directly in your software. Your can also publish the palette to allow others to have access to it if needs be.
If you need to use the colours yourself, then its useful to know what the different codes are to replicate them in what ever software you are using. Adobe colour will give you 5 different codes for each colour to help you recreate them accurately.
CMYK – (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key) this is for reproducing the colour in print.
RGB – (Red, Green, Blue) for reproducing colour on screens, e,g for websites, social media and so on.
LAB- a more colour accurate colour system that a professional designer or printer may ask you for, as it is meant to better represent the colour a human eye sees.
HSB- use the Hue, Saturation and Brightness values of the colour.
HEX- is the closest colour to the chosen one that has been assigned a 6 digit hex number. Used a lot in web design as the are supported by all browsers.
For the most part the RGB code will probably be enough for things like email signatures, letters, and social graphics, but it is good that know what the other things are in case you need them.
A picture worth a thousand colours
There is, however, another nifty feature that is worth knowing about. In the top left-hand corner, there is the option to upload an image. This will take any image and tell you what the 5 key colours are in it. This is useful for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if you have a photo that you like the look of you can take the colours directly from that. Secondly, if you already have materials like a logo or flyers, but don’t know the proper colours, then this with give you them. You can also use a neat trick, if you pick up some of the colour guides you get for paint at DIY stores, then you can select your favorite colour from them, take a photo on your phone and use this tool to build your colour palette around it.
Adobe makes a whole raft of supporting apps and tools for pcs and mac and mobile. We will be talking more about these in the future. If you have any specific questions about marketing tools or branding your business, why not come along to one of our Marketing Clinics or Back to Work Brunches and grill our experts for tips and tricks to grow your business.