Effective branding often hinges on proper logo colors. But how to choose logo colors, and how many colors should be in a logo? Here are the dos and don’ts.
Logos are the cornerstones of creating a brand. A logo is the first thing that comes to mind when people think of a brand. Colors have been vital in branding since the beginning of color print.
While some logo designs, like Chanel, are most recognizable in their simplicity and monochrome palettes, most brands need to incorporate color in some way or another. After all, logo colors can even become critical elements of a brand’s identity. Just think about Milka chocolate and the iconic violet of their packaging.
But with so many options, how can you narrow it down to the perfect color palette for your brand? Let’s go step-by-step.
What is a color palette?
Since a logo has wide use and is the first thing people remember about your brand, your brand logo colors need to be carefully defined. That doesn’t just mean picking two or three colors that you think go well together. Since you need your logo to look exactly the same no matter where it’s presented, the logo colors need to have set color codes.
For this purpose, designers use three main colors systems:
- RGB (red-green-blue): the three primary colors are mixed to create different colors; this system is usually used for digital designs.
- CMYK (cyan-magenta-yellow-key): with the key actually meaning black, this color mode uses the 4 colors to create different shades; it’s used for print designs mostly.
- Pantone Matching System (PMS): unlike the other two, Pantone uses exact formulas to create different colors; it’s also mostly used for print designs.
How to create a logo color palette
Creating a brand’s visual identity is a strenuous process. With so many different styles to choose from, it can get overwhelming. But at the end of the day, the cornerstone of your brand identity is your logo: it’s the first thing people remember about your brand and the design element that they remember the longest.
So, always start building your visual identity with the logo design: the type of imagery you want in it, typography, and, of course, logo color schemes.
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Colors are powerful, and they can influence our feelings even on a subconscious level. For example, numerous studies have shown that colors such as blue and green usually have a calming effect. At the same time, red makes us alert, excited, or hungry.
Selecting good colors for a logo is a process that requires insight and vision. A good logo is an engine that drives a brand. It represents your mission and vision, is created to appeal to your target audience, and distinguishes you from your competitors. Sounds like a tall order? It is.
So what colors are best for a logo? Tricky question. Feelings towards colors can be subjective, and naturally, not all people will like a particular color. That’s why it’s vital for a logo color scheme to help you get the brand identity across clearly. And how can you do that?
Following these 5 steps is a useful way to start.
Know your audience
When choosing logo colors, there’s nothing more important than knowing your audience.
Brands with children as their target demographic tend to gravitate to bright and playful logo color schemes with complementary colors. Pastels can also be perfect colors for a logo if your primary customer base are children or parents with children. In more “serious” industries such as financial or banking, blues, grays, and neutrals are always a safe choice.
How about an example to illustrate the point?
A few years ago, Spotify changed its logo color scheme, and although quite subtle, the change was transformative. The music streaming platform got rid of the old lime green and replaced it with a trendy, minty green that’s a perfect fit for the overwhelmingly young and trendy audience.
Don’t use the same colors are your competitors
While it’s essential for a logo color scheme to appeal to your target audience, you should avoid overused logo color schemes. For example, blue is somewhat overused in social media logos; it’s the most popular color for banking logos; fast food restaurants are known for yellow and red combinations.
There’s no way you’d miss Taco Bell’s purple and blue in a sea of red, yellow, and orange logo color schemes used by virtually all other major fast food chains.
If you can find a way to choose a color scheme that’s out of the ordinary but still fits your brand identity, your logo is on the right track!
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Use colors to achieve the desired effect
Want to draw attention to specific elements of your logo? Colors are your best friends. Bold and bright colors are always noticeable, and stark contrasts have the same effect.
How many colors should be in a logo depends on its complexity. If the design itself is simple, you may think about adding several colors to make it pop. On the other hand, intricate logo designs only need one or two colors. A colorful logo should be eye-catching without being jarring.
Play with tints, tones, and shades
Remember that every color has loads of varieties. A tone is a color mixed with gray; shade is a color mixed with black, and tints are colors mixed with white.
So, if you’re worried about using too many colors but want variety, playing around with a different hue of the same color is a terrific idea.
Consider the medium
Where do you plan to use your logo? What types of mediums, and backgrounds? You must be clear on these issues to choose the best logo color schemes.
Remember that logo colors can look very different on screen and printed on paper. This happens because print tints reflect light, while screens produce light. And designing for print and digital is done in two different color modes. So, you might need to define the precise color codes in both modes.
When it comes to backgrounds, this is also something that should be defined in your brand guide. Usually, it’s preferred to use logos against a neutral background, such as black or white. Still, sometimes your logo will be shown on a different background in sponsorships and other types of media campaigns.
If you opt for a monochrome palette, make sure you have versions for both light and dark backgrounds. If you don’t want alternative versions, think about framing your logo so it always has the background you envisioned.
Mistakes to avoid when choosing a color palette
As we’ve said, the importance of a logo can’t be overstated. To create a perfect logo, all elements must work together, most notably the color palette.
When choosing colors for a logo, there are several pitfalls that you should avoid.
- Inconsistency: Differences in shades and hues are noticeable in a colorful logo, no matter what anyone says. Inconsistency can damage the brand and make the company seem unprofessional. The best way to avoid this is to have the numerical values of the colors you choose written down.
- Lack of compatibility: Another mistake people make when choosing good colors for a logo is forgetting that a logo sets the tone for the entire brand. The colors you choose will appear in every branding piece, so be sure they are compatible with other brand elements. A luxurious gold and black logo might not be the ideal choice if you want to use trendy and playful illustrations.
- Ignoring color theory: It pays to give a little attention to color theory (the study of how colors are mixed and interact with each other). This will help you avoid clashing colors, which can really throw off a design. Be mindful whenever you combine colors. It’s best if you start from the same color family (cold, warm, complementary, analogous, etc.) and slowly add contrasts until you get a better sense of the logo color scheme.
- No hierarchy: The most crucial element of a logo design has to be instantly apparent. . Colors and logos often go hand in hand with the brand’s name. Therefore it’s vital to make some visual hierarchy within the design. Any additional lettering should be unobtrusive if you want the graphic elements to be front and center. The same applies when the written name is the star of the show.
What are the best colors for a logo is not a question that has a simple answer. Market and customer research will go a long way. Still, in the end, logo colors must be something that represents the idea and vision behind your brand. This means they have to be closely tied to your company’s values.
Whether you opt for a monochrome or colorful logo, the colors you settle on aren’t just going to be your logo colors. Instead, they will be the foundation of your brand’s visual identity.
While your personal taste is relevant, the design of your logo is always better left to a professional.