Logo Colors Cheat Sheet [+ Tips to Choose Your Own]
When was the last time somebody asked you, “What’s your favorite color?”. While this simple question is often posed to young children, or reserved for first dates, understanding the reasoning behind your color preferences is quite profound.
Color is powerful and emotional, and we all have unconscious connections to specific shades. Our individual affinities to distinct hues are based on experiences and memories that over time create positive or negative associations. So when it comes to branding and choosing your logo colors, there is certainly more than meets the eye.
Whether you create your own logo or work with a professional designer, recognizing the importance of logo colors can make or break your brand. Here we will outline the influence of different colors and various combinations, plus a few things to keep in mind to choose the best possible logo colors for your brand.
Types of logo color combinations
In general, it is recommended to use no more than three colors for your logo. Paying attention to various color schemes and the way colors can work harmoniously together will help you create a logo that is both visually appealing and meaningful.
While you may have preferences of what colors look good together, understanding the nuances of how certain colors work (or don’t work) together is a crucial aspect of logo design. Known as color theory, this system of guidelines can help you choose colors that not only pair well, but evoke the right emotion related to your brand.
There are many color palette tools that can help you understand color theory, test out and visualize different color combinations. What’s more, if you use a logo maker you will have access to predefined color schemes. These ready-made color combinations take color theory into consideration to give you a quick visualization of how they look directly in your logo design.
Let’s take a look at these color schemes to have a better understanding:
Monochromatic color combinations are made up of just one color used in different variations. In order to get different shades, black or white is added to a base hue that is a primary color. For example, if white is added to red it creates pink, and if black is added it will create a muddy or maroon type of red. Together, these newly formed colors (pink, red, maroon) would make a monochromatic scheme.
Analogous color combinations are those that sit next to each other in the color wheel. For example, blue, blue-violet and violet are analogous.
Complementary color combinations are created when colors that sit on opposite sides of the color wheel are paired together. For example, blue and orange, yellow and purple or green and red are all complementary colors.
Triadic color combinations, as the name suggests, use three colors that are evenly positioned on the color wheel. For example, red, yellow and blue are triadic and also all primary colors. Purple, orange and green are also triadic colors that are secondary colors. A fun way to remember these triadic combinations is to look at this superheroes color guide.
Tetradic color combinations consist of four colors, all of which are equally situated from each other on the color wheel. You can think of it as two different sets of complementary colors, or visualize a box within the color wheel. For example, red, green, blue-violet, and yellow-orange.
Red is fire. Red is visceral. It is eye-catching and hard to miss, making it a popular choice for logo design. One of the primary colors, red is associated with energy, passion and power. Have you ever noticed that red is often used in food logos? This is because red is believed to be an appetite-stimulating color. Red can often be seen in the entertainment industry and in fashion logos as well.
On the flip side, red may also be tied to anger and danger. If you are looking for a logo color that is calm, peaceful and serene, red is likely not the color for you.
Orange is bright, warm and welcoming, and also conveys happiness and trust. Since orange is light-hearted, it can be an excellent choice for industries that are fun, yet professional. Orange is common in tech logos, food logos and sports logos.
Friendly, approachable, cheerful and uplifting, yellow is a popular logo color for industries that want to express happiness and delight. At the same time, yellow is very noticeable and hard to miss (like yellow taxis in the street), so it can be a good choice to stand out in the crowd. On the same note, yellow can also be linked to warning signs and caution, so it might not be a good fit for every industry.
Green is most commonly used by eco-friendly brands or industries related to the environment like farming, horticulture, recycling and renewable energy. Since it is associated with nature, it is also a popular choice for organic and natural brands aiming to give a clean, holistic and fresh feeling.
Green logos are also popular among food and beverage brands, tech and communications companies and the pharmaceutical industry.
A strong, dependable color that conveys trust, reliability and professionalism, blue is often used in financial, technological and medical logos. Blue is also tranquil and serene, making it a popular choice among health and wellness brands, and those who want to convey a sense of calm.
Royal, luxurious and decadent, purple is often associated with wealth and wisdom. It is also a playful and inviting color that is approachable. Purple can be seen in a myriad of industries but is common in cosmetic brands, candies and confectioneries, fashion and child-centric brands.
Pink is energetic, invigorating, playful and surprisingly versatile. It is a color that conveys youthfulness, and a sense of happiness and calm in a relevant and modern way. A color that was once stereotypically feminine by nature, pink has gained power and diversity, making it an attractive logo color choice. Pink can be seen in the fashion industry, as well as food and beverage, technology and cosmetics.
White & Black
Classic and unfettered, black and white logo design is always a timeless choice. Black exudes elegance and sophistication, and when paired with white it is minimalist and effective. In fact, when logos are first designed, it is recommended to always create them in black and white first before integrating any colors. By starting out with these simplified shades, you will focus your attention on the overall look and feel of your logo without considering color. The addition of color should enhance your logo design, not define it.
Black and white can be very versatile and lends itself well to letterforms and wordmark logos, but can be used in all shapes and sizes. Sticking to a refined black and white palette, many leading brands stand out from the crowd without any other bells and whistles, which helps shape their brand identity even further.
Made from black and white, gray is neutral and calming. Gray exudes professionalism, sophistication and modernity. It also pairs well with almost any color, making it versatile and used in many industries and logo designs.
Brown is strong, earthy and often perceived as a masculine color. It evokes dependability and trustworthiness, and a sense of wholesomeness. Often used for all-natural products, this color is organic and honest. Brown is also the color of coffee, chocolate and beer and common in these industries, which evokes the comfort of these products.
While the general rule of thumb is to stick to a maximum of three logo colors, there are obviously instances where breaking the rules has its benefits. Often used by creative, multidisciplinary or child-centric brands, multicolored logos are bold, attention grabbing and hard to forget.
The reason most designers and marketers will say not to use multiple colors is that it can become overwhelming, over-saturated and busy. If you look at the examples of successful multi-colored logos, they all use balance and refinement, often picking a focal color and playing with brightness, saturation and the combination of colors.
Things to consider while choosing logo colors
Now that we’ve explored each logo color, let’s dig a little deeper. Here are a few important factors to consider:
Have you ever told a white lie? Or done something once in a blue moon? Maybe you’ve been caught red-handed, tickled pink or found yourself green with envy. These common color idioms are just a part of our daily vocabulary, but also paint a specific picture to convey a message or idea associated with colors.
Color psychology helps to navigate this concept, stating that each color is representative of a specific behavior or emotion. Using non-verbal communication, colors are expressive and telling. For example, yellow is traditionally associated with happiness as it is uplifting and bright, while blue is linked to trustworthiness, tranquility and stability. So when choosing logo colors, it is essential to think about your brand message, and the emotion you want to evoke in potential customers.
In western cultures, red is often associated with passion, love and power. It is a bold hue filled with energy and strength. In Eastern and Asian cultures, red is often linked to happiness, luck, longevity and family prosperity. Just as languages and symbols range across cultures, so do colors. Having cultural sensitivity and awareness is incredibly important, especially for brands that work on a global market.
Color can not only trigger an emotional response, but also evoke a brand association. By clearly defining your target audience, you will have a deeper and more insightful understanding of how color can impact their decisions.
Tiffany Blue, also known as robin egg blue, is the iconic and unmistakable color associated with Tiffany & Co. According to the luxury label, “Tiffany Blue® was trademarked by Tiffany in 1998 and was standardized by the Pantone® Matching System to ensure that no matter where you were in the world, no matter the medium the color was reproduced in—whether it was on a shopping bag or in advertising—it would be instantly recognizable and always the same”.
While your logo colors may not become their own Pantone shade, having consistency and a strategic palette based on your brand identity can shape brand perception in consumers minds. According to research by Colorcom, consumers “make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone”. So, choosing strategic and meaningful colors will help prospective consumers build immediate associations.
If you’re trying to design a logo for an eco-friendly skin care line, what colors come to mind? Since green is usually associated with nature, earth and the environment, it is often a color used by sustainability-focused brands. But with so many natural products on the market, how can you make sure your logo doesn't look like everybody else?
In order to have an authentic logo that truly communicates your brand, your logo colors must fully embody that values and message of your product or service. While you may have found that green is the right color for your logo, the specific shade and saturation can make an impact.
On the same note, the additional colors you choose can also make the green pop, or communicate a specific feeling you want your products to communicate. Furthermore, the type of logo you design may dictate the inclusion of color and the way in which it is integrated into your logo identity. For example, if you design a wordmark logo, not only does the specific typography matter, but the color you choose will also influence the message your logo is trying to convey.
While being aware of competitors when designing your logo is important, it should not dictate your choices. Just because every other hairdresser logo uses a pair of scissors in their design, doesn’t mean you have to. You can think outside the box to not only differentiate from your competitors, but also completely represent your brand.
RGB vs. CMYK
RGB refers to Red, Green and Blue, the primary colors of light that are most commonly used in digital mediums such as computer monitors, mobile devices, televisions and digital cameras. Alternatively, CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, which refers instead to the primary colors of pigment and is most commonly used in print.
Depending on the specific needs of your branding efforts, you can certainly use both RGB and CMYK for your logo colors. However, when designing a logo, it is recommended to always start in CMYK color mode. Since the scope of colors is smaller, it makes it easier to transition from CMYK to RGB, rather than the reverse.
For example, if you have a logo that will be used on business cards, pamphlets and package designs that will need to later be adapted to a screen, it is much easier to convert from CMYK to RGB, and the shift in color will be undetectable.
With this in mind, it is worth choosing logo colors from the Pantone Matching System in order to prevent any printing irregularities. This guarantees your logo colors will look consistent in any setting. While it is not necessary to use Pantone colors, it can also be helpful to consolidate your visual language across all your branding assets.
Here is a pro-tip: whether you work with a designer or create your own logo, always be sure to have multiple color versions of your logo. This is important for several reasons. First, since your logo will be used in different mediums, you want to ensure that it will always look good.
For example, let’s say you design a stunning logo that is blue and yellow. Then imagine if one of your loyal customers printed something from your website using a black and white printer. Suddenly, your logo appears in grayscale and the impressive logo you designed now looks drab and almost unrecognizable on the page.
In order to avoid this, make sure that you review your logo design in several representations including grayscale, black and white, and a negative version where your logo is inverted onto a dark background.
Second, since your logo will also appear in different sizes, scalability is an essential consideration, especially when it comes to colors. By preparing various color formats of your logo, you can anticipate how your logo will appear in all scenarios. Consistency is key when it comes to branding, and by preparing each of these color formats, you can ensure that your logo will not only maintain a cohesive look for any situation, but also look great in any location.
By Kylie Goldstein
Branding Expert and Marketing Blogger