How to Craft Your Own Color Palette
Updated: Jul 6
Color is a vital element to take into consideration in the world we live in. We are surrounded by images and everything that exists has been trying to attract our attention since the moment we were born.
Johannes Itten said that “[c]olor is life, for a world without color appears to us as dead. Colors are primordial ideas, the children of light.”
Generally speaking, our eyes are drawn to specific shapes and color schemes that appear somehow harmonious, organic, and balanced. This allows us to have a common background to build rules on, and then play with creativity to reach the best result. In fact, color theory dictates how colors can be combined for optimal use and allure, but we have to add our experience and imagination to be original.
Here’s a short list of terms and definitions so that we’re all on the same page when it comes to essential knowledge. A ‘color’ consists of three factors, mixed in nearly endless combinations:
HUE is the color itself, at its pure state.
SATURATION is the strength, or weakness, of a hue and it depends on the quantity of grey.
VALUE is like brightness, so how much of color is light or dark - depending on the quantity of white and black in its composition.
The role of color is extremely important when talking about communication because its meaning stems from the perception of the human mind: colors create ideas, express messages, spark interest, and generate emotions.
THE POWER OF COLOR
The power of color is both emotional and practical. Let’s think about the same illustration with different shades: colors can totally influence and change our perception of the character’s feelings. For example, if the character has a wide-open mouth and the background is light we can say that the scene conveys surprise. On the other hand, if the atmosphere has dark hues and shades, the emotion we perceive is fear.
From a marketing perspective, one of the most effective examples is packaging. Color is the most likely character to be remembered by a customer. At the supermarket, we can identify our favorite body cream at a glance and the same goes for coffee, deodorant, chips, detergents, and literally every product you purchase regularly.
It is proven that color influences 85% of shoppers' purchase decisions - and not only at the supermarket! The user interface of a website is as important as packaging because that’s where customers make their first impression. When talking about branding, for example, different combinations of hues can convey different values.
THE MEANINGS OF HUES
Color theory assigns some specific meanings to hues.
Although these meanings can be true for the pure hue, different interpretations can be made based on saturation and brightness. Pink is a great example because even if the ‘pure’ meaning is playful, vibrant, and eccentric color, in its lighter version it is associated with intimacy, elegance, and simplicity.
Color Schemes are arrangements or combinations of colors. The wheel is THE tool to create color palettes, with the help of lines and geometric shapes. There are four main types of schemes: Monochromatic, Analogous, Complementary, and Triadic. We can play with the H value, but also add white, grey, and black.
Design has few but effective rules and one of them is called the 60/30/10 Formula. It means that by using your colors in a 60% + 30% + 10% proportion (dominant + secondary + accent) you can be sure you are giving balance to your colors. In other words, this formula allows the eye to move comfortably from one focal point to the next, without feeling overwhelmed or lost. This rule applies to interior design, UI, makeup, and also clothes. In a website interface, for example, accents are really good for CTAs and buttons as well as in an outfit they are perfect for accessories.
Another piece of advice that it is always useful to keep in mind is that nature is an endless source of inspiration and its color schemes look awesome! Animals, sunsets, flowers, leaves, skies, oceans...each landscape is unique and has a particular palette that our brain recognizes as balanced and spontaneous.
I like to transform rules into metaphors so that I can imagine a situation and understand it better. All these concepts become a quote: “see colors as voices in a room”. If everyone speaks loudly, you can’t understand a word of what they are saying, even if they are the most beautiful sentences in the world.
Conversely, if they are all whispering, you have to struggle in order to hear and you get frustrated. The balance is found when just one person is speaking aloud, two are supporting the main speaker and you can hear very few individuals whispering in the background.
We always need inspiration, and we are grateful that the web offers so many hints.
Here are our favorite tools:
COLOR HUNT Scroll through an endless feed of color palettes
COOLORS.CO Generate color schemes or browse the feed
PICKER Pick colors from an image and find schemes