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  • Writer's pictureAnja@createwerx

Have colour choices left you feeling blue?

Starting a new project is both exciting and daunting at the same time. All these endless opportunities waiting to be explored, the start of something new – the world is your oyster. But where to start? With so many choices – endless really - how can one make sure to choose the right elements for a design?

Two of the critical areas to consider at the start of a new creative project are typeface and colour. Think about branding, for example, and how much is being communicated simply by the typeface and colour choices. So let’s talk colour in this blog and have a look at typeface another time.

Take the Google logo for instance. It only uses primary colours (red, blue, yellow) except for the letter ‘l’ which stands for ‘leader’ and is shown in green, a secondary colour made up of yellow and blue.

Photo by Shiwa ID on Unsplash

Another well-known logo is the supermarket logo for Tesco. The red and blue colours symbolise prosperity and are also colours that can be found on the British flag, where the company is headquartered.

Photo by Simone Hutsch on Unsplash

It is really interesting reading about famous logos and the functions of the different design elements. One thing becomes clear quite quickly: Nothing is left to chance and choosing the right colour matters a great deal.

If you would like to learn more about the creative process towards creating a logo, check-out the case study of the createwerx logo.

But for now, let’s talk colour.

Creating a colour palette

Creating colour palettes from scratch can be a little daunting as there are many aspects to consider. Are the colours communicating the right message? Do the colours work together? Will colours look good on print and digital assets? The list goes on.

There are a number of articles freely available that explain colour theory and lay the foundation of how colours will work together. A good resource is Colour Matters:

Colour psychology is another important topic and determines how certain colours will make us feel and what emotions they might trigger, like we saw above in the example of the Tesco logo. Red, for instance, can stand for a long list of feelings and emotions ranging from love, heat or passion to anger, danger and rage. Depending on what needs to be communicated, it is important to pick colours that communicate the right emotions.

But this article is less about theory and more about every-day tools that can help us to create effective colour palettes easily and quickly.

Follow nature’s example

Nature seldomly gets it wrong, so sampling colours from a natural scene can be a great idea. The below image displays a purple flower with green leaves in the background. So at first glance it seems like there are only two colours here but when sampling different parts of the flower and the leaves, we end up with a wide colour palette of different purples, greens and dark greys. This is a very easy and quick way to arrange a colour palette that works together in harmony.

By selecting the colours, we can then easily read the colour values and note them in the brand specifications. The CMYK colour space is mainly used for printing whilst RGB colour is used for digital assets. Hex colours (#) are commonly used in web design.

If you are looking to create a logo using this colour palette, it is a good idea to match it to Pantone colours. Read on and find out why.

The Adobe Colour Wheel

This is a great tool that I use on a daily basis:

Perhaps your client has defined one colour they would like to use, and now the task is to create a colour palette from there. In these cases, the Adobe Colour Wheel is incredibly helpful and will help you create colour pallets that perfectly harmonise.

Start by defining your colour space (we’ll chat more about colour spaces further down the article) and type or copy/paste the one colour spec you already have in the first field.

You can then choose from different colour harmony profiles to find a colour palette that works for your project.

Once you’re happy with your pallet, you can either note down the colours or save them in you Adobe profile. It’s a good idea to define the same colour palette in both RBG and CMYK. Read on and find out why.

How do the colour spaces differ?

The two main colour spaces are CMYK for print (C = Cyon, M = Magenta, Y = Yello, K = Key (Black)) and RGB for digital (R = Red, G = Green, B= Blue). Out of the visible colour spectrum, CMYK is the smallest spectrum and can sometimes appear less vibrant than RGB, which occupies a larger colour space. This is important to remember as assets created in RGB will not look the same in CMYK.


To complicate matters a little further, there are also Pantone colours that are often used for logos. CMYK is an additive colour scheme meaning that colours are layered over each other to create a colour, think of it like drawing with water colours. When a document goes to print, the printer will mix colours to create the specified CMYK colours used in the print file. Pantone colours on the other hand, are pre-mixed spot colours that will always look the same and will ensure maximum consistency. That’s why they are often used for logos to make sure the brand colours appear identical on all printed assets.

What colour space to use?

At the outset of a creative project, it is important to determine what the marketing asset should be created for:

  • Print: Print assets should always be created in CMYK colour space and a resolution of 300ppi (pixels per inch). If you are using images in your document, you might find that they are usually created in RGB colour profile and will also need to be converted to CMYK. For more guidance on how to get a document set-up and ready for print, here is an excellent article that will answer most questions:

  • Web: For designs that are going on the web, it is best to use RGB as this is a larger and more vibrant colour space that will allow you to maximise the visual impact of graphics and images. The resolution of the files needs to be 72ppi as this is the standard screen resolution that computers use. You could create RGB files in a greater resolution but because computer screens cannot show resolutions higher than 72ppi, one would not see any difference.

  • Logos: The use of Pantone colours is ideal for logos to ensure maximum visual consistency.

You can see that all the colour profiles are equally important and they simply serve different functions. If you had a logo, packaging or any other creative asset designed by a graphic designer, make sure you know what colours were used and keep this information as part of your brand guidelines. Having this information available, can save valuable time when creating new marketing assets and working with more or different designers.

So don’t let colour leave you feeling blue. Once you have created a colour palette that fits your brand, it’s just a matter of getting organised, keeping record of your colour profiles and consistently applying them across all your assets.

Other sources:

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