How to choose a winning colour scheme

printing toronto, printing vancouver, printing ottawa, printing calgary, printing halifaxChoosing a colour scheme for a marketing or a promotional design can mean the difference between attention and distraction. A good scheme should point to the main theme of the promotion without overwhelming it. Below is a tried-and-true process for colour selection.

1. Keep the psychology of colour in mind.

Although the effects of certain colours on the human psyche are sometimes disputed, there is no doubt that certain colours do change the perception that a marketing piece gives to its public. In the Western world, green is usually associated with youth and freshness, light purple and pink with femininity, blue with calmness and safety, red with passion or danger. There is also a great deal of scientific research on the mixing of certain colours and how the feelings evoked from single colours changes when paired with others. Be sure to understand these psychological arguments on at least an intuitive level when selecting your colour palette.

2. Pick your colour scheme for your target market, not for yourself.

When considering the psychology of your colour scheme, you must also take into account the biases of your target market. For instance, in China, the colour red is representative of wealth, not danger, and white is linked to death. In the same way, consider the age, gender and other demographic and psychographic information of your target market when considering how your colour choices will be interpreted.

3. Look to your source materials for ideas.


Source materials can include anything that you take inspiration from: photographs, the ads of competitors, random logos that you like or examples that you see in books of schematics that seem to showcase the same colours that you are considering.

Many example materials have already been put together with attractive schematics that need only be modified slightly to fit your specific brand, company name and product line.

4. Limiting your colour palette can actually lead to better ideas.

Most professional colour schematics have no more than three major colours. This is because human colour vision is trichromatic; more than three primary colours tend to completely distract the eye rather than draw it towards any thematic conclusion.

5. Shades and tints are your friend.

Just because you are limiting your colour palette does not mean that you are limiting your creative. Tinting and shading, after picking your three primary colours, is a way to create depth, texture and hue in your marketing pieces without overwhelming your audience’s eyes.

6. Combine your colours in a bold and original way.

Try combining colours in a way that none of your source materials have. Perform focus groups on the psychological impact that your new colour schemes can have on your target market. Although you can draw ideas from source materials, your marketing pieces should not be limited by them. Work to establish the most effective schematics for your campaign.

7. Use technology that is built for the purpose of building colour schematics.


You don’t have to become an expert in all things colour; much of the research and many tried and true schematics have been preloaded for you into programs such as Adobe Kuler or ColoRotate. There are also websites like ColourLovers that can help get you some inspiration!

Where do you get your colour inspiration? What successful colour schemes have captured your attention?

Brittany Giles is the Social Media Specialist at The Printing House.

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