Create branded emails with Mailchimp

Mailchimp is a popular, easy-to-use marketing platform best known for helping users create and deliver e-newsletters and email campaigns. Recently, Mailchimp has expanded its capabilities to become a full marketing automation tool. In addition to sending mass emails, you can now build your website, create landing pages, or send promotional postcards. While these new features can be useful, most business owners still use Mailchimp primarily for their email marketing. So, let’s focus on how to improve the look of your Mailchimp email templates.

Go ahead and sign-up for a Mailchimp account, you can start with a free plan.

Mailchimp signup
When you sign up for Mailchimp you are asked for details about your business, but your answers do not affect how the tool works.

In the registration process, you’ll be asked questions about your business. However, this does not seem to factor into the templates or themes Mailchimp suggests or impact how they are customized. So if you want, you can skip them.

Use Mailchimp email templates to improve brand recognition

Any marketing campaign will be more effective if the visual style and branding connects with other brand touchpoints. Your e-newsletter should look similar to your logo, website, business cards, social media graphics, etc. If you’ve decided to use Mailchimp, your goal should be to set up your email templates to reflect and match your branding.

Your e-newsletter is a place where you should match existing brand standards, not make them up!

Start with a template layout

You’ll start your email by choosing a template. There are several options for the overall structure of the content: how the headlines, body copy, and imagery are arranged into sections and columns.

Try to think about what format will be most effective to share your story. Do you have a headline that grabs attention? Do you want to feature multiple product photos or one big one?

Choosing a Mailchimp template
Choose the best Mailchimp template based on the type of content you want to feature.

You can go ahead and choose whatever template will best fit your content. It really doesn’t matter which template you use, because you can add, delete, or move elements around using their drag-and-drop editor. For this reason, it doesn’t make sense to upgrade your account to access those additional templates, just choose a free one.

The examples below are using the ‘Basic – 1 Column – Full Width’ template.

What is confusing is that the thumbnail showed images and a full-width band, but those are not part of the email editing screen when you start working.

Style your email to match your brand

Mailchimp style menuWhen you get started with a Mailchimp email template, you’ll notice that their thumbnail examples and default colors are all black, white, and gray. So you’ll need to customize all this, and it’s your chance to make sure the email properly reflects your brand. After you select a template, you will get into the main editor panel to make these changes.

Get started by choosing ‘Style’ from the menu.


Choosing fonts and colors at the ‘page’ level helps ensure that everything is consistent. If you set styles for your headlines and subheads here, you can then add in new content blocks and the style will be preset. This can save time and ensure consistency as you add content.

Background colors

Mailchimp email background color picker
Choose a background color by hex #

The background color for the page is not actually the background of any content block, but rather areas around the sides, top, and bottom. Make this a dark or bright color for a bold or high-energy look, or choose something more light and neutral for a less-obtrusive and calm look.

Their color picker tool allows you to choose colors for the background and the header text style using an eye-dropper or by entering a color formula. To ensure that your brand colors are consistent, always use a color formula. Enter the web hex# that you want to use.

Fonts and type styles

On this same style menu, you’ll choose fonts and colors for your headings.

Not sure what color to choose? A good rule of thumb is to match Heading 1 style to the dominant or key accent color for your brand. This is most often taken from your logo.

style your fonts in Mailchimp
Choose a font for your heading 1 that matches your visual identity.

For fonts, Mailchimp features about 20 standard and custom web fonts. These are fonts that are all readily available on many operating systems. Ideally, you should match these fonts to fonts used in other parts of your branding, such as your logo, your website, or even printed marketing materials.

If Mailchimp doesn’t have your primary font, try to find a font with a similar style. Look at whether the font is serif or sans serif. Look at the shape of letters and the thickness of them and try to find something similar. As Mailchimp alerts you, not all fonts will show up in all email clients. Don’t worry, Mailchimp will automatically swap out your fonts for anyone who may not be able to see them.

Once you set the styles for your Heading 1, Heading 2, etc., these will be applied automatically to your email.

You can custom-style every piece of content manually, too, changing the fonts, size, or color. You’ll be able to work faster and have your email look more polished if you set up the styles once and then use them consistently.

Body styles

You may have noticed the main body of the email doesn’t get styled on the page tab. Go to the tab called ‘body’ to change the overall background color and to choose fonts, colors, and styles for the body copy (the main text within your email). You can also customize the color used on links.

While it’s OK to choose a bold or decorative font for your headlines, your body should be more readable. These are often longer paragraphs of text. Good fonts to choose for your body text are:

  • Arial
  • Georgia
  • Helvetica
  • Verdana
  • Lora
  • Noticia Text
  • Open Sans
  • Roboto
  • Source Sans

Style the footer of your email templates

All emails sent by Mailchimp require that you include your mailing address and links to unsubscribe. It’s also the place you’d typically include copyright information. You can change the background color and fonts here too.

In order for the footer to not grab too much attention, some people choose a light background and small, simple fonts. But, if you want to add more color to your email, choosing a bold color in this area is a great place to do that.

Mailchimp footer design
Changing the background color of your footer has a big effect on the look of your email.

Mobile styling

Mailchimp allows you to customize how your template will look on mobile devices. You are only able to adjust the font sizes, you won’t be picking new fonts or colors.

About half of all emails are opened on mobile devices. So make sure you set the mobile styles and then test how they look on your phone by sending test emails.

Save this design as a template

One of the best features of Mailchimp is that you can save the styles, colors and fonts you picked to be used as a template for future email campaigns. Sure, you can also use their ‘replicate’ option to copy another email that you previously formatted, but with the template feature, you have all of your styles saved.

Go ahead and save your work as a template. From here on, the rest of the formatting is done for your individual email campaign and not in the template.

Mailchimp Featured Email Templates

Mailchimp offers a few “featured” templates. These are at the top when you first choose a template.

Mailchimp has 5 featured templates
Featured templates are no different than basic templates.

There is really no difference between the two types of templates. You will use the same process if you start with a featured template: adjust your page, body, footer, and mobile styles. After that, you’ll begin to edit the content of the email itself.

Adding content and designing your email template

Now that you have all the master styles set, you can begin using the Mailchimp blocks editor to add, edit, or remove elements.

Every type of element can be added-in, moved up or down, deleted, and customized. This is why it really doesn’t matter which template you started with from the beginning.

Mailchimp apply style buttonsTip: after you style one type of element, check the box to apply it to every similar type of content. For example, if you decide your photos should have rounded corners and a black border, checking this box when you style your first image will apply that style to every image. This will quickly give the email a uniform and polished look.

Template themes

Another option as you begin your email templates is to choose a ‘theme’. Some of these options require a paid Mailchimp account to get access. When you choose a ‘theme’ rather than a ‘layout’ template there is more content and styling already in place.

Don't use a mailchimp theme
Don’t use a Mailchimp theme, it won’t reflect your branding.

It can feel like a shortcut to start with these themes, but in reality they don’t help. You should be using graphics, colors, and fonts that represent your brand. Some of these themes have product or social media photos that would clearly need to be replaced. Others use more generic graphics — seasonal or emotional — that will not align with your branding. You’re going to want to override all the settings of these to match your brand colors and imagery.

In fact, these pre-made themes are probably one of the biggest mistakes small business owners make. The emails you send should always be consistent with your established brand elements.

Use email to reinforce your branding

Email marketing reminds your customers and prospects of your company and what it does. It is never the first time someone is seeing or learning about your product or services. So your emails should reinforce your branding.

Customize your Mailchimp emails
Customize your Mailchimp template and individual email content to match your brand identity.

For example, a professional services company like an accountant might send a monthly e-newsletter with a tax tip to their customers. A jewelry designer might send photos and descriptions of new pieces that are available for sale. An e-commerce site might send an ‘abandoned cart’ email to someone who considered a purchase but didn’t buy.

In every case, the recipient has some knowledge of you and your company, the email is just a reminder of why they may want to buy from you.

The visuals of your brand such as your company name, logo, colors, fonts, and overall graphic style of your imagery are a strong way to reinforce that memory. It may take 5, 10, or 15 brand touchpoints before a prospect has a clear idea of what you offer, how you might help them, and trust in your product or services. Because of this, you want every outreach to have the same visual identity. You want to build that recognition as quickly as possible, and the best way to do that is with consistent use of your name, logo, colors, fonts, and visual style.