Hew to Five Hues to Represent You

Hew to Five Hues to Represent You

“What can Brown do for you?”

This memorable line is used in ad campaigns by the shipping company UPS to associate their big brown trucks with fast shipping and helpful customer service. It’s a good example of how color palettes do more than fill in a fancy company logo; in some cases they come to represent the company itself.

5 Color Spectrum | Blueprint

Most brands use a color palette consisting of just five colors. Think of your favorite sports team.

Notice the color of their uniforms, the posters on the stadium walls, the team pennants you proudly display. I’ll bet that, no matter which sports team you have in mind, you won’t see more than five colors represented in the jerseys, lettering, and team paraphernalia that identifies your team’s brand. The team colors serve as a guideline by which everything else associated with the team is presented to the fans.

This five-color principle extends beyond graphic design and into other visual mediums such as video. Just as an actor’s body language and facial expressions have a part in telling a story through film, color patterns can be used by filmmakers to evoke certain emotions among their audiences. As Aaron has pointed out, different colors evoke different emotions. We tend to associate the color red for example, with boldness and passion, blue with trustworthiness and security.

In Ridley Scott’s epic film “Gladiator”, a misty blue haze dominates the opening scenes as we are introduced to the heroic protagonist, Maximus. Maximus’s trustworthiness is an essential part of his character, as is the fragility of the security he initially enjoyed as one of Rome’s ablest generals. Gladiator’s opening scenes thus use a color palette that helps to call up these emotions. Other colors are prominent in various scenes where different emotions are appropriate.

Although some films may highlight more than five colors as they tell a story—especially those that are more emotionally complex—a five-color limit seems to be the general rule in film as much as graphic design.

Color Wheel | Blueprint

Adobe has created an awesome tool for exploring unique color palettes that all evoke a different response. The brilliance of this tool is that it automatically changes four of the five colors as you change just one. This intuitive-to-use feature ensures that all five colors in your custom palette work well together.

There are plenty of theories and equations that go into creating a feature like this, which we won’t get into, but it sure is cool to see the final product. This webpage is great for creative professionals looking to see how different colors mesh together to create compelling prints. It can also be used by anybody wanting to simply have fun with colors and find out which colors are most visually appealing when paired together.

Color is amazing, and the hues you choose say a lot about you. Give careful thought to what your business or brand is about, and what audiences you are trying reach, and select your colors accordingly.

By: Adam Baxter
  • Great post, Adam. Understanding how colors work together can help with the design and branding of everything from products to websites. Choosing the right colors can make a big difference with customers. Thanks.

  • Aaron Ward

    Adobe did a great job creating their Kuler app. This app is very easy to use and a great tool to understand color theory. Google has taken color theory one step further in their latest user interface called material design. Google uses a bold primary color with 1-2 accent colors to create a mood and shape brands. Less is more.

  • Joshua Bains

    That tool from Adobe is great – now I can design my kids room.

  • Jeff Cline

    Nice to see adobe has finally adopted a model that has been around for a long time and integrated into their ever growing arsenal of tools. much simpler and far more adaptive than the good old 99colours.net of years ago. My personal favorite will always be #002FA7.

  • Naima

    This tool is very helpful for businesses, especially when picking a company logo. It’s amazing how much influence colors have on the success of a business. Thanks for sharing Adam!

  • Brian Abbott

    I always used sites like http://www.colourlovers.com/ to find good palettes based on colors I already had or for inspiration for a new project. After using Adobe Kuler for a few minutes though, I believe it is a better tool that makes it much easier to get the four to five colors you need. No real searching involved. Great tool.

    And when it comes to color in general, logos are starting to use less and less colors. Many are only two: a foreground and background (like Nike’s black on white logo or McDonald’s yellow “M” on red). I believe this is the right direction – symbolism and abstraction seems more powerful and is easier to remember.

    And most websites should stay under five colors (maybe with a few shades in between) to keep the eyes relaxed the the layout flowing. Too many colors confuses the eyes and makes it hard to focus on the content.

    Great article. 🙂

    • Samantha Torres

      Colour lovers is a great tool! I’ve been using it for years when putting together website layouts or branding documents.

  • Victoria Vener

    Thank you for this! I really like how intuitive the tool is. I can definitely see this being very useful both professionally and personally.

  • Chuniq Inpower

    “Color is amazing, and the hues you choose say a lot about you.”

    Relating this to personal branding, this is also important for your wardrobe! Colors affect your mood and emotions as you mentioned, so this theory can be applied in many ways! Its said that CEOs should wear red or blue ties for the power/trustworthy element and other colors can influence other characteristics too such as yellow, orange or pink for customer service or client facing positions. Choosing a HUE to represent you should be used on and offline!

  • One of the critical ways to drive effective marketing is through limiting a target’s potential emotional response to digital content, and color palette is a shield when doing this, much like tone shapes our response to written content. Thank you for this solid explanation of hues and for providing feedback on tools to get the job done.