The Essential Guide to Using Color in Marketing and Branding

 In Industry Trends

814423752, Prostock-Studio

We come into contact with an incredible variety of colors day in, day out. But how many of us really know much about the theory behind how colors work? Or what they mean to viewers on an emotional level? Color psychology is a far-reaching field of study and one that matters more than you may think when dealing with branding and marketing efforts. In fact, according to Forbes, color improves brand recognition by up to an incredible 80%, while consistent brand presentation across platforms can increase revenue by almost a quarter.

Read on to discover the basics of color psychology and learn to combine colors like a pro to create standout company visuals that attract and engage your audiences and keep them coming back. Here’s how to leverage iStock’s vast collection of imagery and videos—in every shade and color—to bring your vision to life.

What is Color Theory?

ColorWheel.jpg525330939, Thoth_Adan

Let’s start with the basics. Originally created by Isaac Newton in 1666, the color wheel is a great reference with which to understand how colors relate to each other. Primary colors—red, blue, and yellow—are the three off which all others are based. And secondary colors—orange, green, and violet—are obtained from mixing two of the primaries together (red and yellow for orange, red and blue for violet, and blue and yellow for green). Accordingly, tertiary colors go further in-between, giving us yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange, and yellow-orange.

Color Harmony: Colors that work well together

ColorHarmony.jpg1142252426, oleksii arseniuk

A successful marketing color scheme consists of colors that work well together—and ones that speak to the brand itself. Using the color wheel, it’s easy to identify various harmonious combinations to start thinking about what makes sense for your efforts:

  • Analogous color schemes use three adjacent colors for a smooth link among each.
  • Complementary schemes employ colors from two opposite sides of the wheel, creating a strong contrast.
  • Triads use three evenly spaced colors that make for a bold statement.
  • Monochromatic schemes consist of three different values of a single color; a subtle yet sophisticated look.
  • Split complementary schemes use a color and the two colors adjacent to its complement for another bold combination.
  • Square, or tetrad, schemes get more complex with two complementary color pairs.

Reds, yellows, and oranges are known as warm colors that stimulate a viewer, while blues, greens, and purples are known as cool and calming. These concepts begin to influence how colors work to impact emotion.

How does Color Psychology affect marketing?

ColorHarmony.jpg470865818, mustafahacalaki

When it comes to marketing, no choice should be made on a whim—and that includes color. The hues you choose to infuse into your work and your brand send underlying messages to your audience. A certain combination of colors can create a unique aesthetic while creating specific emotional connections that impact buyer behavior. But to be sure your visuals are communicating the right thing, you need to know what kind of feelings common colors trigger.

For a basic overview, here are a list of colors and their common associations:

  • Red: Excitement and action
  • Orange: Confidence and friendliness
  • Yellow: Warmth and optimism
  • Green: Peace, health, and growth
  • Blue: Strength and trust
  • Purple: Knowledge and imagination
  • Black: Sleek modernity
  • White: Serene minimalism

According to HubSpot, color plays a huge role in how a brand is perceived. Take a look at their comprehensive breakdown—as well as our eBook on Visual Identity 101: How to Create a Stellar Look and Feel for Your Brand—to learn more about why red creates a sense of urgency and orange is a sign of optimism, while purple stands for prestige and green and blue evoke safety and reliability.

Using Color Combinations in your marketing

Color.jpg808812624, LisaAlisa_ill

With this basic foundation in color theory and psychology, the possibilities are limitless when selecting and combining colors for your marketing assets. From curating illustrations and photography that adhere to a certain palette to integrating your core color scheme into typography and other graphics like icons and easy-to-make frames and backgrounds, there are plenty of opportunities to stand out in this way.

By adding your brand colors to your various marketing efforts, a consistent look will begin to emerge. This in turn helps boost brand awareness and memorability, giving your audience something to look for and remember when engaging with your business. Check out this handy color calculator to start experimenting with different combinations and see what works best for you and your company.

Where to Look for Imagery Inspiration

ColorBoard.jpg1080567710, efetova

With iStock’s advanced search options, you can browse images by hue by easily picking from right within the color wheel. That means you can type in any subject—like “beach” or “boys” or “barbecue”—and assign any color, no matter how particular, for results that are customized to your specific visual needs. A brand new feature also lets you select any result’s “Similar Images” option to instantly see a more expansive selection of images featuring the same color scheme or subject matter. And with Boards, you can create and share as many mood boards as you like—organized by color, theme, or whatever makes the most sense for you.


Ready to design a marketing masterpiece? Get started at iStock.

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