three color generalities

Dec 31, 2010 | Branding, Business, Color

I normally work in three color generalities as a design professional.

1. Projects where clients already have branded colors – As a graphic designer you may work with clients who have already established their visual identity. It is important as a graphic designer to stay consistent with your clients’ already determined colors just like you would be consistent with design elements that make up their overall brand.They may even give you very specific pantone colors, cmyk or rgb numbers, or better yet a style guide. Sometimes you may even have to get dirty and use the eyedropper tool! ha!


2. Projects where clients already have branded colors, but need additional colors – I explained above how important it is to keep clients branded colors present on new designs, but depending on the design piece they may need some additions to their color palette. I enjoy style guides that specify the main branded colors and show additional color options. If you are not working with a style guide that has specified the additional colors to use think about these three things: audience, problem/design piece at hand, and the client.

I would add colors based on the three things just mentioned and current colors along with complementary/contrasting color if I need to draw attention. Often times in web design you want your main call to action buttons to be the most contrasting element on the design so that it stands out.


If I was simply adding some new interest to the clients piece I would use intermediate colors that arrive by mixing the the clients current branded colors.

If the design needed more depth I would add analogous colors that have a common hue. Many times I will simply pull out each current branded color then create lighter and darker shades of each color to create the new color palette.


I sometimes use Color Scheme Designer when working with clients who already have branded colors, but need additional colors. This site is great for web designers since you can easily grab color codes!

3. Projects where clients do not have branded colors – Most projects that require a designer to create the color palette from scratch are logo designs. Like most designers, I deliver logos to clients first in black and white so that they focus on the form of the design, but once the form is establish the color design begins! When choosing colors designers want to think about the audience, the design usage, and the client. Here are some color summaries for your use:



  • blood
  • increases pulse rate
  • infants and children like red
  • outspoken
  • optimistic
  • energetic
  • passionate



  • egg yolk
  • lemons
  • idealist
  • intellectuals love yellow
  • anxious
  • angry
  • warm
  • caution
  • bright



  • sky
  • introspective
  • responsibility
  • trustworthiness
  • compassion
  • cool
  • honest
  • sad
  • glum
  • downcast
  • quality



  • sunset
  • social
  • fun loving
  • confident
  • creative

8green 8green


  • grass
  • nature
  • money
  • health
  • new
  • fresh
  • simple
  • organic



  • eggplant
  • ornament
  • fantasy
  • royalty
  • intelligence
  • wealth
  • beauty
  • sophistication
  • shocking
  • sexy



  • cement
  • good color for offices
  • stimulates creativity
  • neutral
  • ambiguous
  • intermediate
  • dull
  • drab
  • sober
  • smoky
  • open minded



  • ink
  • solidarity
  • authority
  • power
  • dark
  • night
  • sad
  • disastrous
  • harmful
  • dismal
  • false
  • hard



  • milk
  • innocence
  • pure
  • virginal
  • frost
  • blank
  • empty
  • harmless
  • spacious



  • yogurt
  • calming
  • sweet
  • prime
  • femininity



  • chocolate
  • solid
  • wood
  • earth
  • nature
  • dirty
  • coffee
  • full

When I need color inspiration I love to use Kuler to get my color mojo going! Do you have any favorite sites you use for color inspiration? Do you find yourself working in these three generalities?


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