Learn how to use color to influence the way your clients and customers feel about your business with these simple tips and tricks.
Have you ever noticed how music is utilized in movie scores to make you feel a certain way? For example, a tender love scene is more likely to sweep you up and tug at your heartstrings when it’s combined with a particularly moving ballad. On the flipside, a horror movie makes you feel dread and anticipation by building up to frightening scenes with intense music that often contains minor chords and clashing notes.
The main goal of a movie score is to make you feel certain emotions at specific times. When applied correctly, it is extremely effective. Marketing masters have learned how to utilize certain colors to achieve the same effect and make their audience feel a certain way.
The science behind color and the emotions it evokes is a complicated blend of psychology, physics, perception and chemistry. Whether you’re a skilled marketer or a startup business owner with little to no marketing experience, you can benefit from using these 10 color inspiration tips to select the best hues for your business.
1. Use a color wheel
Remember learning about the basic color wheel in kindergarten? You might have thought it was useless information since then, but color wheels are actually useful tools for inspiration.
Just to give you a quick refresher, the basic artistic color wheel is composed of three primary colors and three secondary colors. The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. These colors can’t be made from secondary colors. Secondary colors are orange, purple, and green. They are made by mixing two primary colors together. There are even tertiary colors, which are created by mixing one primary color with one secondary color. You can create an endless array of hues by mixing different colors in varying amounts.
The color wheel can be further divided into cool and warm colors. Cool colors include blues, purples and dark greens. They’re a great choice to use in designs if you want to convey professionalism and calmness. Warm colors like yellows, oranges, and reds are a better choice if your brand reflects energy, passion and enthusiasm.
When the right colors are incorporated into your business logo, marketing materials and other branded materials, you can give your audience an accurate idea of what you’re all about.
2. Know which colors complement each other
You probably want to use more than one color in your marketing materials, so it’s important to know which colors naturally complement one another. This can be tricky since some great color combinations don’t seem very obvious at first.
One popular theory is that colors that lie opposite one another on the color wheel will look especially good together. When you use this theory, you end up with the main color combinations of yellow and purple, red and green, and orange and blue. Many interior designers, marketers and scientists stand by this theory as the most effective way to plan your complementary palette. Consider Tide, for example, which uses the complementary colors orange and blue on their product labels and throughout their marketing materials.
Not all successful businesses use the complementary color wheel theory for color inspiration when creating their own business palettes. Take Google, for example. Their logo consists of the three primary colors (red, yellow, blue), plus one secondary color (green). One thing you will notice is that their colors aren’t entirely based on the “opposite colors” theory. Blue and yellow do not lie opposite from each other, but they still look great combined with the other hues in Google’s energetic logo.
Blue Buffalo is another example of a company that strayed from the popular opposite colors theory when designing their logo. If you take a look at their website, you’ll see that they utilize a monochromatic color scheme (light blue and dark blue) in their logo and on their products. The end result is a complementary palette that looks great because it’s based on the same root color.
Complementary color theories abound, but one of the easiest ways to see what works best for your business is to look at various pigment palettes and narrow down the combinations that seem to be the best match for your business. The Shutterstock Palette tool can be very helpful when choosing the right complementary hues for your business materials.
3. Choose colors that represent your business
Did you know you can use certain hues in your business to help your audience understand what you represent? Think about how you choose your outfit every morning. If you’re feeling especially energetic and motivated, you might choose something yellow or red. If you’re feeling down, you might be drawn to muted colors like blacks and grays. Whether you realize it or not, color has a strong tie to emotions. Harness that powerful connection in your marketing materials to convey the right message to your audience.
According to a study conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia, logo color can affect the way consumers feel about your brand. Here are a few color inspiration tips about how color evokes different perceptions in viewers, as revealed by the study:
- Blue: confidence, reliability, success
- Purple: charm, glamour, royalty
- Green: toughness, environmental friendliness, sustainability
- Yellow: modernity, fun
- Red: self-assurance, expertise
Based on this information, you should consider choosing colors for your logo and brand that are associated with the specific personality traits you want your business to convey. Keep in mind that peoples’ color associations are frequently influenced and even changed based on popular culture, so it’s important to stay informed on current trends when developing your marketing palette.
4. Stick to a maximum of four colors
When offering color inspiration tips, most graphic designers recommend that you use no more than four colors in your business palette. Three colors is optimal for a clean, focused look. If you do utilize more than four colors, you can make your audience feel overwhelmed and inadvertently give the impression that your business is disorganized and chaotic.
5. Draw inspiration from everything around you
Color inspiration can be taken from anything if you just pay attention. Whether you’re enjoying a hot coffee at your local Starbuck’s or riding the subway for your daily commute to or from work, keep your eyes peeled. If you see a design or color combination that you love, snap a picture of it and use it as inspiration when creating your marketing campaign.
6. Emulate the experts
If you know of a marketer, interior designer or any other expert you respect, it’s OK to get color inspiration ideas from them. This is especially true if they represent the same things your business represents (yes, we’re talking about competitors).
It’s ok to look at successful competitors and analyze what color palettes they use in their logos, product labels and other forms of branding and advertising. Once you understand what has worked for others, you can determine what will work best for you.
7. Adopt nature’s palette
Sometimes a specific combination of colors doesn’t seem like it would go together at all – until you see it displayed beautifully in nature. One of the most rewarding color inspiration tips you can follow is to emulate natural color themes when possible.
When you look at Nature as a master painter, the possible color combinations suddenly become endless and as varied as the landscape itself. Cabela’s draws heavily on nature for marketing inspiration and displays light brown, olive green and yellow on its website. These colors are associated with stability, honesty, nature and joy – all perfect ideals for a company that specializes in outdoor gear, camping and hunting supplies.
8. Search online for themed palettes
Searching online is one of the easiest ways to gain color inspiration ideas. Again, this is where tools like Shutterstock Palette come into play. Play with tons of color palettes combinations and be inspired by the imagery the populates. You can even narrow down the search by typing in keywords to get the exact imagery you need for your marketing materials. Try keywords that reflect the personality of you company like “sophisticated,” “fun,” “energetic,” “luxurious,” “masculine,” and “confident.”
9. Cater to your audience
Know your audience and use colors that draw them in. Moms might feel more comfortable and react more favorably to pastel pinks, blues and yellows. Teens, on the other hand, would probably be turned off by pastel colors and are more likely to prefer bright, energetic colors. Before choosing hues for your marketing campaign, it’s essential to know who you’re marketing to, then select shades that are most likely to appeal to your target audience while accurately conveying what your business represents.
Craft your perfect marketing campaign
Now that you know how to get color inspiration for your logo and business materials, it’s time to finalize your entire advertising campaign. Shutterstock makes this process easier with Editor, the simple yet powerful design application that lets you select the right imagery and fully customize it for instant and effective visuals. Get inspired for the color palette of your next marketing campaign, and use Shutterstock Editor to bring it to life.
Top Image by Pressmaster