How to Choose a Colour Scheme (When You’re not a Designer)

How to Choose a Colour Scheme

Visual choices like logo creating and colour scheme are a huge part of any brand, and can have a big impact on whether it finds success. Today, many new bloggers choose to build their own visual branding and colour scheme because they don’t yet have the funds to invest in a professional. While this is a great way to customize your brand and make it exactly what you want to be, it can be difficult when you don’t have the design skills to back it up. Luckily, there are lots of resources out there to help you DIY your brand, and here I’m going to talk about how to choose your colour scheme – because a great colour scheme can springboard a brand, while a poor colour scheme can destroy one.

I’ve built a free mood board and brand board template that are available for download to get you started. You can slot your colour scheme into either after you’ve created it, or you can use the templates to help you build your scheme.

How to Choose a Colour Scheme

When I build a colour scheme I like to choose seven colours. This number varies depending on what designer you’re talking to and what your project is. For a website I like to choose seven because it is enough to support the entire site. If you choose less than seven, you will probably have to add supplementary colours at some point, and you’ll have to choose them then anyways. Instead, I like to choose enough colours so that I never have to think about adding any others. Seven is enough to support the entire site. Though some colours will be used more often than the others, they will all be there to support the brand when needed.

You not only need to love the colours together, but you need to love each one individually. Once you’ve got a scheme you think you love, make sure you look at each of the colours on their own before committing. It’s also important to remember that not all your brand colours need to be included in your logo – in fact, I’d advise against it. Having too many colours in your logo is dangerous, and can make it messy and distract from your message. I’ve even gone a bit crazy with four colours in my logo, but that’s because my site is mostly white and I’m a creative agency – not to mention I have a black and white version of my logo to fall back on.

I created a colour scheme when I launched my blog last year, and though I’ve slightly altered it since then, for the most part it’s stayed the same, and I’m still in love with it.

White Corner Creative Moodboard

So, how do you choose your colours? There are lots of things you are supposed to consider when choosing a colour scheme – like intended audience (is your scheme masculine, feminine, or neutral? Does it appeal to an older classic audience or a newer modern audience?) and colour theory (red makes people hungry, while green makes people want to save the planet). There is so much to consider. Write down a few words you want your brand and colour scheme to embody – classic or modern? colourful or subtle? sophisticated or playful? Think about who your intended audience is, and what kind of brand would appeal to appeal to them – and then keep this in mind as you choose your colours.

First, you need to think about what you’ll need the colours for. In my opinion, black and white are given and don’t need to be included in a colour scheme (unless they’re going to make up a big part of your design). It’s a given that the text on your site will most likely be black and the background will most likely be white, so only include them if they’re a big part of your design, or if you can’t decide on other colours that work well in your scheme.

First, lets think about a colour wheel. Bring one up if you’d like to. To choose your first few colours, you need to choose a section of the colour wheel to stay within. This means blues and greens, or reds and pinks. Choose a small portion that you like and want to begin with. You need atleast two dark colours other than black. You need these for things that need to be readable and bold, but that black might not work for. Things like links on your site and headings. Choose one very dark colour that sets the tone for your scheme, and then another colour of the same hue that is lighter, but still a dark, bold colour. In my colour scheme this is the dark navy and the royal blue-ish hue.

Next, choose a colour that is slightly lighter and brighter. You’ll use this colour on your website and branding when you need a pop of bold colour. It needs to be light enough that black text could be seen written on it, so that you could use it for backgrounds if need be. In my colour scheme this is the teal color.

Next you need to choose two lighter colours. These will be used for backgrounds, shading, borders, underlines, etc. These colours are colourful enough that they can add substance to a design without making it feel cluttered. They are also light enough that almost any other colour can be used to write over top. I like to choose lighter versions of the darker colours I have already chosen, but it isn’t necessary. Just make sure you stay within the same family, and the same section of the colour wheel. In my colour scheme this is the light mint colour and the light blue.

I like to include a neutral. In my schemes this is usually grey or beige, though more often grey because I’m not a fan of beige in general. This grounds the scheme and makes it more mature and cohesive. Without any neutral colours in the scheme, the colours might look too bright and colourful together and appear almost child like. One or two neutral colours fixes this problem, and is sometimes why I choose to include black in the scheme. A neutral is also useful on branding or websites when you need some relief from colour, but can’t add full on white space. In my colour scheme this is the grey.

Lastly, you need to choose a colour that is from a different area of the colour wheel than the rest of your colours. A contrasting colour that pops from the rest, but still looks cohesive among them. This is the colour you’ll use when you really need to set something apart or highlight its importance. It also adds some relief from the colours that are all somewhat similar.

In my opinion, you need to travel across the colour wheel, but not directly across. If you went right from red to green or from blue to orange, that would be the complimentary colour. And though these colours go well together in theory, they are too directly complimentary to look good in a modern scheme, and will end up looking childish. Instead, go directly across the colour wheel from your existing colours, and then move slightly. Instead of red and green try green and pink, or purple. Instead of blue and orange try blue and pink or yellow. Moving over slightly on the wheel will give you a scheme that is a lot more modern.

I also recommend that you vary the saturation of your colours. If all the colours you have chosen so far have been very saturated, choose a less saturated colour. If you don’t know what saturation means, think of it this way. If you had a blue colour at 100% opacity, then it is fully saturated, but as you start to turn the opacity down and the white shows through more and more, the colour is getting less and less saturated. If all your colours in your scheme are at 100% then it’s going to be a very colourful scheme. Now of course I don’t mean you should choose a colour and always lower the opacity of it, I mean choose a lighter colour that mimics a less saturated one.

Saturation

If you choose all your colours and feel like that last complimentary colour is too far out on it’s own and doesn’t flow well with the others. You could try giving it a friend. Take one of your lighter colours and change it. Move it across the colour wheel, into the same family as your complimentary colour. You can see that I did this below with my old colour scheme. My old scheme is on top, and my new scheme is on the bottom. Back when I first branded I added a reddish colour to support the pink. Though it was a cohesive scheme, I ended up feeling that this scheme was a little too colourful for my taste, and got rid of the red. I also adjusted some of the other colours.

Colour Scheme

When determining what order to put your colours in, start from darkest to lightest and then just adjust them until they look good. Some of your colours will look better next to each other than others will, so just change them around until you’re happy with the order.

The last step of creating a colour scheme is always asking for opinions. I see this all in the time in the blogger Facebook groups I’m a part of. People are always posting their new mood boards or colour schemes and asking for people’s help. Sometimes they’re good, and sometimes they’re not so good, but getting other people’s opinions will really help you decide. In reality, you need to accept that the first colour scheme you create will probably not be great. But as you practice more and more, you’ll start to develop an eye for great colours. If you’re really stuck, go on pinterest and look at colour schemes there. You never want to copy one directly because you want yours to be unique, but look at them and draw inspiration. Think about what makes them work or not work, and then apply it to your own scheme.

And – if all else fails – post your scheme here! I’d love to see what you come up with and give you some feedback. Colour schemes are so important and are the jumping off point for your entire visual brand – so you need to make sure you love yours before going any further.

How did you create your colour scheme?

How to Choose a Colour Scheme

7 thoughts on “How to Choose a Colour Scheme (When You’re not a Designer)”

  1. This is seriously SO helpful :) I’ve been struggling with colours for a while and I finally have ones I love. Thank you!!

  2. Oh my gosh…I totally needed this. Thank you for making it so easy. I have trying to pick my colors for my company, Medzorb. My coach told me to get a mood board done. Interestingly, my logo has your top two dark colors. And, I love gray and peach. The thing I didn’t consider was the two light colors. I hate to say this, but my color scheme will be very similar (blues are a different shade) to yours. I hope that’s OK? Thank you, thank you!

    1. Hey Nailah! That’s okay. My colour scheme is pretty awesome ;) but I’m sure they won’t be identical and sounds like your niche is different than mine so that’s completely okay! Though you don’t have to use all the colours in all your branding materials, it’s good to have seven chosen so you have them at your disposal incase you need them. You’ll notice I use the mint and teal a LOT in my branding, and then the other colours are just supplementary to the brand. That’s a good way to go! Good luck with your moodboard and I can’t wait to see your site. Check out my post here if you need a moodboard template – https://www.whitecornercreative.com/moodboard-template/

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