How many colors should be part of your brand

Most companies have one or two “corporate colors” in their brand palette. Most commonly, these key colors match the colors in the company logo. But many brands may introduce secondary or additional colors into their marketing and branding. How many colors should a brand have?

Limit your colors to maximize your brand impactHow Many Colors

Choosing only one or two dominant colors is the easiest way to create a memorable and impactful brand.

Limiting yourself to one or two dominant colors means that you will use those colors as your primary and most dominant colors for typography and graphics. Limiting your colors builds a distinct look for your company because of the consistency. Very quickly, you start to have a unified visual identity when everything—from your business card to your website to your social media postings—always use the same one or two colors as key colors.

How to add in more colors to your visual brand

Having more than 2 “corporate colors” is risky because it’s more likely that your materials will not look unified.

If you have 5 key colors, you may find yourself using just colors 1 and 2 on your business card and then colors 2, 3, and 4 on your brochure, then using colors 2, 4 and 5 on your website. As you can see there’s not as much unity to your brand.

As a reminder, the reason you want to unified visual identity is to help you build brand recognition. Prospects often need to be exposed to your brand multiple times before they are ready to buy from you. Make it easy for them to connect your brand touchpoints together by having them match visually.

If you do feel limited by only using a couple of colors, then choose 1 or 2 as primary colors and then another 2-4 as secondary colors. For example, Air BnB’s primary color is red which is used in its logo. And they have 4 secondary colors, two of which are fairly neutral grays, that you can see used as accent colors on their website or other marketing materials.

AirBnB's primary and secondary colors
AirBnB’s primary and secondary colors

In smaller applications like your business card, you may use only your primary colors. But having additional colors to use in the rest of your branding and marketing materials such as your website, product packaging, social media posts, etc. can be a way to expand your color options without losing control.

When adding in additional colors, you should define your colors very specifically—pick the exact PMS, RGB or CMYK—for each one and stick with it consistently. Your designer will typically pick a Pantone (PMS) color, and then also selects CMYK and RGB equivalents.

Try a family of colors or style of colors

Another option to consider is developing a “style” for your secondary colors. Again, we recommend that you have 1 or 2 primary colors but then instead of choosing a set number of secondary colors and defining them with specific color formulas, choose a distinct type of color.

secondary color palette ideas

This usually works with colors families such as:

  • Pastels
  • Neons
  • Shades of one color
  • Colors near each other on the color wheel.

Understand the psychology of your color choices

Whether you’re picking the primary one or two colors for your logo, or an expanded group of secondary colors, make sure you understand the common perceptions of each color.

redRed can reference love, hate and sex and are used by powerful brands like Tesla and many healthcare companies.

pinkPink is mostly used by female-focused brands, but has also been used by progressive brands like Lyft.

orangeOrange alerts us to danger and is high-energy, famous orange logos include Home Depot and Harley Davidson.

yellowYellow is cheerful and fun like MailChimp, or rugged like Caterpillar.

greenGreen often connotes nature and used by many natural and agricultural brand, but also can refer to money.

blueBlue is viewed as conservative and trustworthy, and is used by most water brands to show purity.

Purplepurple suggests royalty and fantasy, but is now being used by several tech companies.

Blackblack can be mournful, rebellious or elegant.