I have never written a blog post about branding. Can you believe? It really feels like I should have written about something that makes up a third of our business before, doesn’t it? Silly Aime. Now, it would make sense to kick-off with some branding basics or getting started advice, but I’ve already made a right turd of this so I’m pressing ahead with Nailing your brand colour palette with Coolors.
Locking down your brand palette
I could go into detail about why you need to define your brand identity, but that would belong in the branding basics blog post I’ve skipped. Instead, we’re just focusing on the brand colour palette as it’s own distinct brand element.
Your colour palette is obscenely important. The use of colour is the most powerful sensory tool at your disposal, and should run through everything you do. It’s not just the button colour on your website, or which washi tapes you buy for packaging, but a visual core.
It runs through your products, your photography and probably your wardrobe too. When implemented at its best, it can make any piece of communication scream your brand – so you need to lock that pish down right now.
You cannot ensure everything in your small business is consistent if you don’t have your guidelines in place. So how do you nail down a cohesive, complementary and consistent colour palette? Coolors, of course.
Your brand ain’t black & white
Slight sidetrack before we get into the meat (or seitan) of this post, as I need to vent over one of my many business bugbears. Deep breath…
Your brand colour palette is not black and white.
Unless every one of your products is black or white, all of your photography is black and white, you only print in black and white and you only listen to Michael Jackson’s Black or White – it ain’t black and white.
I hear this all the time. All. The. Time. Stop lying to yo’selves. Sure, you might like your monochrome business cards and slick, colourless website furniture, but your brand is filled with colour. So stop denying and start defining.
Also, black on white is horrific for text readability, so at least whack a #232323 on that #ffffff.
The heck is Coolors
Coolors is a super simple website that creates complementary five-colour palettes. It’s the quickest darn way to develop a cohesive colour identity with minimal fuss. You can start with nothing, you can start with a single hue. Heck, you can even start with black & motherfluffing white if you really insist.
My favourite way to start? Uploading an image that sings to you. Coolors will automatically pick five shades, or you can drag and drop to your favourite colour spots.
Then start tap tap tapping away at that space bar. When you find a perfect colour, click the little padlock to save it, and keep tapping to get more complimentary matches.
Bonus tip: make sure your palette is practical – you’ll probably need a nearly-black shade for text, and a white or nearly-white colour for backgrounds. Or you can say “screw that” and make a stunning colourful website like typewolf.com.
Coolors can be rather addictive, and I’m sure the slot-machine-esque user interface has something to do with that. You could spend twenty minutes tapping through unlimited colour palettes until all colour becomes meaningless. So go in with a strong brief for what you want to achieve.
It could be autumnal shades, or inky blue with a dash of pizzazz. For Studio Cotton, I wanted a #plantsonpink vibe (before #plantsonpink was a thing). I’d already fallen in love with a paper stock I knew we were going to use for our printed stationery, Extract Shell from G.F Smith. So I used the image colour picker to grab the colour from a photo of the stock, and worked from there.
Sometimes life, the universe and your brand are totally in-sync, lending to a naturally literal and naturally beautiful colour palette. Our client and Nando’s bae Gemma of Lumi Consultancy is a masterful genius beauty industry expert, using her mad skillz to help cosmetic, skincare and makeup brands make it on the high street.
Gemma briefed us to create a pink-centric palette, rooted in the beauty world. A dream of a brief. We started with a blushed chestnut and silver-grey and extended the palette through cosmetic-inspired shades.
Sisters-on-the-sea, Victoria and Becky from Nineteen Alexandra Road in Clevedon, needed an extended light palette for their neutral and natural identity. These fabulous ladies are Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® mixologists, so we used the tones they mix and sell to inspire an additional range of brand colours.
Challenging your palette perception
It’s ok to let Coolors push you out of you colour comfort zone. Some of our favourite client palettes have developed from a brief with wiggle room. Take my favourite triathlete-cum-writer Janine Doggett who shared a guest blog post with Studio Cotton this week: 5 tips for first-time business bloggers.
Janine adores colour. Janine also works in an industry that can be rather, um, beige. Concerned that the usual aesthetic might alienate potential clients, we used Coolors to refine a neon palette.
This is where Coolors 5-colour restriction helps oh-so-much, as we could start with the essential neon yellow and vibrant raspberry pink to develop a colourful palette that is still Janinerific, but simplified and more restrained. Still not beige though, Janine is never beige.
We used Coolors for Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue to break as far away from the everyday rehoming charity look as possible. No sterile blues, grubby browns or look-at-us yellows, we wanted something that related to the modern prospective pet adopter – universal, warm and cosy. We started with just a simple cream, and Coolors nailed it first time.
Now this next palette is possibly my favourite of all time. I was chatting about branding with Sarah of Brave Copywriting, and we were determined to develop an identity in one freaking day. When we got to the colours, Sarah said she loves a good dusty pink and mustard yellow, but there’s no way they could work together.
I freaking love this combination. FREAKING LOVE IT. We got the dusty pink, we got the mustard, we got newspaper white and old-ink black with some freaking ochre to boot. This palette gives me life, and deserves, no, DEMANDS another JVN gif.
Defining & refining what you already have
If you own an established brand but have never nailed down your palette, that’s totes ok honey. But do it now please. Wedding shoe artist Dianne Hassall is an impeccable craftswoman, and after a year of trading had some stunning assets to work with.
We used Coolors to consolidate her products and photography into a single colour palette. Nothing is new, but now it’s defined. We have a pastel core that can carry through for years to come.
One of our very first clients, contemporary jewellery designer Matthew Calvin, has evolved massively over the past couple of years, and now the palette has evolved to match. Utilising ultra-light shades to allow the minimalist jewellery to pop, we use touches of pink, peach, snow and eucalyptus for a fresh, and floral feel.
When five isn’t enough
Sometimes five colours isn’t enough, especially when your palette is focused on a tone or feeling rather than individual hues. Coolors can help there too, just start with the most used colours and work out from there.
This eight-colour palette for fashion retailer Pair of Peaches channels 80’s colour icons with a muted 90’s grunge. It’s a palette made for clashing, providing endless lazy days and effortless style vibes.
And here’s one more for the road. The brand identity project for children’s lifestyle retailer Pop & Punch has been an office favourite this year. Brand owner Laura Warren is a skilled interior designer, so it’s no surprise that she’d have a clear idea of how her new business would use colour to be seen.
Combining vibrant shades with muted nearly-pastels has created a bold and playful identity. We designed this palette to be used with lots of crisp white, but also to be played with, pulled apart and put back together.
The layout of the colour swatches is no accident either, with each blob triangle creating its own mini palette, perfect for pattern making. You can see these in play through the Pop & Punch Instagram account which you absolutely must follow.
Campaign colour palettes
If you’re currently a free spirit when it comes to your brand palette, and reluctant to make a longterm commitment, we’re not asking you to do that. Choosing five, six or nine colours doesn’t mean that for the rest of time, you can only use thosefive, six or nine colours.
Oh honey no thank you.
This is just your core, a base that runs through your small creative business. You can push and pull your palette in different directions for different business needs. Have a summer sale coming up? Open Coolors, grab your palette and unlock your least summery shade. Tap tap tap that spacebar et voilà!
So girl (or fella), go get your colour on! Pop over to Coolors.co and start playing with that spacebar, nail down your brand colour palette and then reward yourself with a cup of fancy-ass camomile tea.