How do I choose good (branding) colours?

85% of customers say colour affects their behaviour. With an average of 8 seconds spent on one email from their inbox, you want to use every tool in your power to grab their attention and convey your message. Make sure to be consistent. Recognition builds trust. 

Your basics

The most important principle you need to follow is that your colours must work well together. In this article, you will read a lot about colours and surely each one stands for something great. Just as surely, you cannot use them all. You need to carefully consider how and when to use your colour in order to achieve the right effect.

Here is a good general rule you can follow:

  • 50% to 80% of your message should have neutral colours
  • 20% to 40% of your message should be in your main colours
  • 2% to 10% of your message should have your accent colours

The more intense your colours are, the less you can afford to use them. Imagine a pop art image. Colours are vivid, lines are simple, and details may be lost. You may convey a mood or a message with your image, but it will be difficult for a CTA to pop out.

The more dulled out the majority of your colours are, the more colourful you can make your message. For example, if you are using a pastel palette, you can afford to use a few more hues while at the same time not losing your accents.

Your neutrals


White is hands down one of the best neutrals you can go with. If you are aiming for simplicity, purity, and perfection, keep it simple with white. A white neutral will allow you to also use any accent colour while still being easy on the eye of the recipient.

Grey and Silver

Grey, especially in combination with white, will add the feeling of shadow, of texture, or strength. You can still keep your design looking clean and classy, while adding shape and form to your message.  


Light tan is another good example of a neutral. It will be a great choice for you if you use lots of images that show skin. It will be greatly complementary to your overall style. It is associated with nature, warmth, with home.

Light, dull colour

There can be two reasons to add a little hue to your neutral. Either you are going for a monochrome style and your neutral is a really light version of your main colour, or you are using complementary colour and you want to intensify the contrast between your main (also neutral) colour, and your accents. In these two cases you can choose to use a dulled-out version of a colour, but advisably, still close to white.

Your main colours and accents

Neutrals are of course crucial, but they are indeed quite boring. In order to stand out, you need to add some pigment.

The differences between your main colours and your accents are two:

You will use more of your main colour – 20% to 40% of your message will have those hues. Therefore, you choose the colour that brings on the mood that you feel corresponds to your brand the most. You can use your main colour for a frame in your message, for text block backgrounds, for an overlay of your images, etc.

You want to use your accent colour for links, buttons, and call to action. It can be a more intense colour and it is advisable that it is very contrasting to your main and neutral colours so that your clickables stand out.


Red is energy, passion, power, maybe even aggression. One of its most important traits is that it brings on the feeling of urgency. If you want to reinforce an impulse in your recipients, go for red.


Generally, when people are asked about their favourite colour, more often than not, the answer is ‘blue’. Credibility, peace, reliability. Contrary to red, blue gives off the feeling of calm. No rush to make decisions. You can use it to encourage your contacts to take their time.


Orange is a great CTA colour. It grabs the attention. It is excitement and action.


If you want to bring on the feeling of calm, of relaxation, to complement topics about nature, health, freshness, green is your colour.


Sunshine is yellow. It is a very underestimated spot on the colour wheel. In fact, it is associated with happiness, energy, warmth, pleasure and youthfulness. Undoubtedly, it is tricky to use. Here is a trick – use it in a combination with white and green to boost its effect.


Rarely found in nature, purple does stand out. It is the royal colour, associated with luxury, respect, spirituality and wisdom.


Pink is associated with love, romance and femininity. An easy, friendly message can benefit from pink.


A colour closely linked with nature, the environment and Mother Earth. It is black’s substitute if you are going for the organic style.


Black says ‘ authority’ and ‘power’. Used as an accent over saturated colour or over white is perceived as bold and daring.

Your palette

A very important rule is, pay attention to undertones. Nuances can bring on completely new meaning to any colour.

For example: 

  • While olive green is associated with nature and tranquillity, lime green delivers a sense of high energy and stamina.
  • While you could associate Prussian blue to stability and reliability, baby blue can be perceived as friendly, but childish.

Take a look at the colour wheel and find the specific shade that speaks to you.


Here is a colour wheel trick. To boost the effect of your selected main colour, you can create an analogue palette of three colours where your favourite is in the middle, and the other two are located equidistantly on the wheel, as close as possible, but as far enough to be distinguishable.

This strategy will leave you with a pretty monochrome look, so for your accents you can use white or black over colour.    


To find the best accent colour, look to the opposite side of your main colour. Opposite of blue you will find orange, opposite of yellow you will find purple, opposite of red you will find green.


If you cannot decide on your main colour, draw an isosceles triangle on the colour wheel. Preferably make it at sharp as possible. You will find your accent colour on the sharp angle and your two main colours on the two other sides. Spin the wheel until you like your colour combination.

You can create a similar effect with a rectangle. Make sure it has a very short and a very long side, so that two of the colours are closer, and the other two are on the opposite side of the colour wheel. Diagonally, the colours will be complementary to each other. Along the long side of the rectangle, the colours will be in contrast with each other. And along the short side they will add to each other’s effect.

Again, spin the wheel until you like your colour combination. When it clicks, you will feel it.

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