Working with Color PalettesGraphic Design Wilmington NC // b.Branded Creative

Working with Color Palettes

Lindsay Waltz

You’ve probably heard about color psychology, and how different colors can convey and elicit emotions. When working with color palettes in design, these same principles should be kept in mind.

According to color psychology research, red is associated with excitement, passion and even hunger. That’s why many fast-food restaurants use the color red in their branding and signage. Green, on the other hand, brings thoughts of health and prosperity. Grocery stores often use green in their branding. So do financial institutions. Blue can communicate tranquility or stability and is often used in branding for businesses that want to portray trust.

The colors in the examples above are dominant colors, the ones you notice first in those businesses’ branding and advertising. But they also use supporting colors. Together with the dominant colors, the supporting colors add nuances of meaning and create a brand color palette. During our design process, we consider the meaning of colors, but also how each supporting color works together as a full color palette.

Here are the four main types of color palettes, and why we like them:

A monochromatic color palette uses shades and tones of a single color. Together, they create a soothing palate that conveys elegance and harmony.


An analogous color palette is made up of colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. They work well together and create a comfortable, natural feeling. If chosen correctly, the depth and tone of the colors provide a bit of contrast so the emotional value of each color registers.


This color palette uses complementary colors to create drama. It feels vibrant and exciting. This palette works best when using both warm and cool colors for a high level of contrast.


A triad color palette includes colors that are equal distance from each other on the color wheel. It can be tough to balance, but with the right selection of tones it can be very effective and memorable.

As designers, we choose and work with color palettes every day. A well-balanced palette can create contrast, interest or even an appealing amount of tension. An unbalanced palette can feel aggressive or jarring. And depending on the messaging, it can make or break a brand’s image.

With any palette we use, our goal is to clearly and effectively communicate a brand’s values and uniqueness. Below are some real life examples of color palettes we’ve created for our clients:


Want us to choose a great color palette for you? Send us an email or give us a call today.