color systems

4 tips for choosing colors for your brand

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Do you ever struggle with choosing just the right combination of colors for your brand, a client’s brand or an individual design project? There are literally countless colors that exist, in different shades and tints. Even just increasing the darkness or lightness of a particular color can change how it looks within a design, entirely.

How many should you even use? 2? 6? How do you piece together what works and what doesn’t? What do certain colors mean?

There is a ton of psychology involved with colors — and they alone play a huge role in your branding or any design project — because a palette is one of the aspects that someone remembers the most. It hits on certain heartstrings, can alter a mood and evoke a specific emotion, like happiness or anger. It can really set the overall tone for a design — like a logo, a website or a poster.  

Today, I want to break down how to even begin in general when it comes to pairing a collection of colors together, to create a palette that looks really professional, attractive and timeless. It’s important to note that I’ve even seen lovely and successful brands that just use black and white. The secret is in simplicity, using colors that are visually-pleasing and therefore, memorable — along with considering emotions associated with individual colors.

  1. Decide on 2-4 colors — It’s easy to get very overwhelmed when looking at all of the different colors that the world offers us. If you’re just starting out, stick with planning to choose a minimum of 2 or a maximum of 4 colors. For example, I’m sure that Target uses other colors within their official brand standards, but I (as a consumer) only think of two specific ones — red and white. And remember, you can always add more to your palette later, or if it’s for a brand, you can create a secondary palette that can be used in special circumstances. Extra pops of accent colors can always enhance a brand.

  2. Consider your audience — Different people may feel differently about certain colors, but overall, there is a general science behind most colors. Keep in mind who you are communicating to or trying to reach. If it’s an entirely male-dominated demographic, you might not want to use pink and purple, as they tend to give off more of a “feminine” vibe, but you might try using a mix of blues, greens and greys. If your audience is something related to children (like a school program) you could play with colors that are more youthful and exude a fun, bright and youthful flair. If your audience is professionals in the wedding industry or brides, you could consider colors that are softer or more pastel-based — over ones that are bolder and harsher. These are just general tips to follow — of course, men can like pink and some brides use darker and moodier colors for their weddings. To each their own!

  3. Consider emotion. On the other side of that same psychology coin, it’s important to think about how certain colors will evoke emotions, within a particular group of people. Colors have universal and basic associations to specific feelings, moods, thoughts and are big stimulants. The below descriptions might seem simple enough, but they’re crucial to remember. Again, think about not only WHO you are trying to attract, but also HOW your brand or design might make them feel, when they respond to seeing colors. Below is just a quick breakdown of a few, to illustrate what I mean:   

    • Red: excitement, anger, energy, heat, loud, meant to grab attention.

    • Blue: corporate, professional, cool, peaceful, serenity, calmness.

    • Green: health, fresh, nature, environmental, growth.

    • Purple: bold, unique, royal, power.

    • Orange: similar to red, but on less of an “alert” or “anger” scale. More bright, fun, hopeful and positive.

    • Yellow: similar to orange. Youthful, happy, positive, cheerful.

  4. Use online resources — I personally like finding inspiration in everyday things or out in nature. I even like going “old school” and taking a look at the Color Wheel to consider colors that are analogous, complementary, monochromatic and more. However, in the essence of time, it can also be quicker and easier to use a few handy websites that will automatically generate palettes for you. These are important when creating a few, so that you can compare them all and see what colors you like together and which ones that you don’t. Here are a few of my favorite online tools to use:

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6 color palettes for spring

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It’s sure been chilly and muddy here in southern Indiana for the last month, but the sun has finally decided to come out and show its shiny face the last few days. Alas, spring is just around the corner — I can feel it!

To celebrate bluer skies and warmer temps, I’ve been inspired to create a few go-to color palettes that are perfect for some fun designs, with the help of Coolers. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s a great website that allows you to quickly generate palettes. Whether you’re a bolder/brighter kind of person, you like the fresh and clean look and feel, or you prefer the traditional “Easter egg” pastels, there is a collection of swatches below, just for you.

Feel free to use any (or a mix) of these for your own branding (if you like any of these color combos year round) or for a special spring project! Share this post with your fellow small business bosses and friends. And, be sure to tag @untethereddesign on Instagram so that I can see your designs using my color palette(s)!

Whether you’re using these for print or digital platforms, or a website/blog, I’ve provided the specific Hex codes for easy and quick references to start. If you like a particular color, enter the Hex code (#xxxxxx) at Color-Hex, a website that will generate the other color codes (CMYK, RGB, etc.) for you. Just type in the code at the top and click “Get Info.” Voila! And, in case you need to remember the differences between each color system and when/where you need to properly use them, refer back to one of my latest posts that gives the exact breakdown!

Happy Designing (& Spring!)

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SPRING PALETTE 1

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SPRING PALETTE 2

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SPRING PALETTE 3

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SPRING PALETTE 4

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SPRING PALETTE 5

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SPRING PALETTE 6

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Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more! 

4 color systems that every brand should use

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If you’re a small business owner DIY-ing your visual branding (your logo, website, business cards, social media graphics and more) or if you’re working with (or have worked) with a professional designer, it’s important to be familiar with some “designer lingo” from time to time. Have you ever heard someone reference “RGB” or “Hexadecimal” before and wondered, “what the heck is that?” You’re not alone. When it comes to design, understanding how colors work and effect a design in many ways is crucial. And, understanding that you need to design within specific color modes within specific platforms, in order for your design to be of the best quality and setup professionally, is even more crucial.

The short and sweet of it is this — you must design using a different color system for print than you do for digital. If you’re preparing files to send to a printer (let’s say, your business cards, a brochure, or a banner) they will need to be “CMYK-compatible” for best results. Or, if you’re developing your website or designing a graphic for your blog or Instagram (images that will only be viewed on a screen, digitally) you’ll need to use the “RGB” format or even a “hexadecimal” code.

Are you still confused?

That’s OK. Let me break it down for you! After all, I’m all about keeping things as simple as possible. Keep this information handy the next time that you’re creating on-brand graphics or working with your designer. (They will appreciate you knowing these things!)

RGB stands for red, green, and blue, which are the three additive primary colors. We use this system when designing something to be displayed digitally (think websites and social media graphics), but not to be printed.

CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. This system is used in 4-color print processing, as these four are the standard inks for producing colors. When a file is sent to print, it must be setup in CMYK mode.

PMS: The Pantone Matching System is a universal color matching system, also used in printing. Pantone colors are specific swatches that are already pre-mixed. So, if you use these colors in your design, they’ll print the same every time. This is important when you’re dealing with brand colors that need to be exact. A CMYK-based blue might print lighter or darker depending on the printer, but a Pantone-based blue should print the same from one printer to the next.

Hexadecimal: I’ve never been a math whiz, so this one can be a little tricky. Although I don’t even (always) understand how the numbers work, this is a color code that you can use when developing a website and when you’re utilizing HTML or CSS code. Within this color system, digits (in pairs) indicate the red, green and blue components in the RGB system, mentioned above. The code uses sixteen distinct symbols and when working within CSS, the symbols “0–9” represent values zero to nine, while “A, B, C, D, E, F” represent values ten to fifteen.

So, you can represent 16 values with one hexadecimal. And, with two hexadecimals, you can represent 16x16 values (which = 256 values.)

RBG looks like this: R=0-255,G=0-255,B=0-255

So, 3 pairs of Hexadecimal symbols are used.

For example: Hexadecimal code: #fefafd is RGB: 254,250,253.

Why? Because: fe=254 (which is red), fa=250 (which is green) and fd=253 (which is blue.)

(Again, don’t stress too much about this one. It’s handy when working with a web developer, but I think it’s important to understand RGB first. If you’re formatting a DIY website, you can often enter the RGB code for one of your colors and it will also display the Hexadecimal code, so you can just copy/paste it to use it elsewhere, if need be. That’s what I do!)

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Now that you have a little better understanding of when and why to use RGB, CMYK, PMS and Hexadecimal color systems within print + digital platforms, you might be wondering HOW to make sure that you have the systems “turned on” and correctly in use. I’m going to breakdown how to set this up in Adobe InDesign + Photoshop (the programs that you should be using to either design materials for print or digital platforms.)

Adobe InDesign: First, use this program for anything that you need to lay out and that will be printed (again, business cards, postcards, annual reports, booklets + more). Secondly, remember that you need to design these soon-to-be-printed materials in CMYK mode. To do this, open your “Swatches” palette. Click on the upper right-hand drop-down menu and select “Ink Manager.” If you’re using CMYK colors, the four of them should appear in a little window: “Process Cyan, Process Magenta, Process Yellow, Process Black.” You should also see CMYK values for each swatch in the palette (unless you’re using PMS spot colors, which is totally acceptable!) However, if any appear to be showing RGB values, simply double-click on the swatch, click on “Color Mode” and select “CMYK.” Before you export a PDF for printing, make sure that ALL of your swatches are setup in CMYK (or PMS options/spot colors.) Either CMYK and/or PMS (Pantone) is what you want your swatches set in before finalizing your design document.

Speaking of PMS swatches, where do you find those, you might be thinking? Simply go back to your “Swatches” palette, click again on the upper right-hand drop-down menu, select “New Color Swatch” and you’ll see multiple Pantone options to choose from. If a designer setup your brand colors via the PMS, ask them to provide you with the swatches. Then, simply add those exact ones to your swatch palette.

*Extra notes: Remember, when exporting your PDF for printing, select either the “Press Quality” or “High Quality Print” option under the “General” tab. Also, make sure that you choose “Maximum” image quality under the “Compression” tab. Finally, don’t forget any necessary bleed or crop marks if your design goes off the edges and the document is a certain size that will require trimming.

Adobe Photoshop: I create my digital brand graphics (for social media, my blog, etc.) in Photoshop. It may also be easier to use Canva. But, in Photoshop, once you create the image, simply go to “Image” (in the top menu) → then “Mode” and select “RGB Color.” In another instance, if you are formatting an image that is going to be printed for some reason (like a logo on a sign) you would choose “CMYK Color.” Are you getting the hang of it, now?

Keep in mind that if you do have a question, simply type in a keyword (like RGB or CMYK) in the search bar under the “Help” tab in the navigation menu at the top of your window (in both Photoshop and InDesign.)  


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!