Pick the Perfect Hue with Our Brand Color Guide

Setting the scene: You’re a small business and you’ve got to pick some colors for a sign, flier, or promotional pen. Unless your small business is graphic design, you may not know the first thing about brand color meanings, or have the time or inclination to dive any deeper than “does this color look good?” when choosing a shade for your logo, website, or customized tote.  

Good news! You don’t need to study color theory to make a perfect choice for your logo, or put together a brand color guide to figure out the color theme for your trade show giveaways. We’ve done the legwork (er, color-wheel work) for you.  

What Is Color Theory, Anyway?

It’s true, you don’t need to know, but now that the pressure’s off, wouldn’t you like to? If so, here’s brand color theory from 30,000 feet—the SparkNotes version.  

  • Design: In the visual arts, color theory is the collection of guides and guidance for mixing colors, including the visual effects of specific color combinations like what are colored primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.
  • Terminology: Color theory uses all kinds of terms to describe colors and color combos, such as complementary (red and green), warm (orange and yellow), cool (blue and grey), and achromatic  (tans and pastels).
  • Psychology: Color theory psychology considers psychological, emotional, cultural, and even political associations with different colors. Some colors are considered calming and relaxing (cool tones), and others stimulating (warm tones).
  • Harmony: When developing your logo or marketing collateral, keep in mind a subjective aspect of color theory called “harmonious colors”. Whether a color combination is deemed harmonious by the viewer involves all kinds of factors including age, gender, country, context, personality, and much more.

Though you may not need to hire a specialist in brand color theory for your logo or promotional merchandise, there are some key takeaways that will ensure you play your best hand when picking colors for your brand.  

What Do Different Colors Mean in Color Theory?

Colors and color combinations are endless, but there are some basic truths to keep in mind, especially when it comes to colors that represent different things among various cultures. If you could use a brand color guide with just the key facts to keep you out of the color catastrophe trenches, read on: 

  • RED means action and “order now”. It reminds us of intensity and strength (and also, of eating!). In some Russian cultures it connotes rebellion or communism. Is some Asian cultures red represents prosperity and good luck (see our Lunar New Near blog for more: Chinese New Year Marketing Ideas to Stir the Branding Hot Pot).
  • ORANGE means creative, adventurous, successful, and balanced. It reminds us of autumn and harvesting. However, in some Egyptians cultures it can represent mourning.
  • YELLOW means positive and optimistic. It reminds us of sunshine and sunny days. But it can be associated with death and mourning in some Egyptian and Latin American cultures.
  • PINK means playful, childish, and unconditional love. It reminds us of traditionally “feminine” things.
  • GREEN means growth, health, and generosity. But it also is the color of envy.
  • BLUE means peace, calm, stability, and trust. It reminds us of water, sea, and sky. In some instances it can remind us of loneliness.
  • PURPLE means power, wisdom, and luxury. It reminds us of things regal and noble.
  • WHITE means innocent and clean to some viewers, and cold and sterile to others. It is a great contrast color and pairs well with black or grey. But in some Asian cultures, white symbolizes bad luck, mourning, and death.
  • BLACK means power, elegance, and sophistication. It is a great contrast color. It is also sometimes associated with mourning, death, and evil.
  • GREY means neutral and balanced to some viewers, and depression and loss to others.
  • BROWN means natural, humble, comfortable, and secure. It reminds us of the earth. It pairs well with yellow and green.

Tip: For more on colors that help convert customers, see our blog: 3 Colors That Make People Want to Spend Money

What Else Should I Know When Choosing Colors for My Small Business?

Color can be trademarked! Emotional associations with certain colors are so strong (and profitable) that companies have successfully trademarked them. All kinds of companies have trademark colors that have grown to be associated with their brand.  

Tiffany® has robin egg blue, or Pantone 1837®. Christian Louboutin has red soles, while Barbie® has Pantone 219C®, or Barbie Pink. Tools and appliances are in the game as well: Wolf® appliances have trademarked red knobs, and Fiskars® scissors  sport telltale orange handles. Target® red? Trademarked. UPS® pullman brown? No bueno.  

Use of trademarked colors within the same industry could result in legal trouble, so if you’re unsure, use the Pantone Matching System to identify your color, then go to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to ensure it’s not off limits. 

What Are Next Steps in Using the Brand Color Guide?

Look at a few of these different colored customized products, and see what each color makes you feel about your business: 


Full Color 22 oz. Stainless Steel Eli Travel Mug   


Bright Alpha Soft Touch Pen with Stylus 


Soft Touch Paragon Pen with Color Stylus 


Anniversary Bright Hughes Gel Pen 


Green Repair Tool 


Arlington Stylus Pen with Mirrored Imprint—Blue Ink 


Spiral Jotter & Pen 


Medium White Kraft Eurotote Bag 


Full Color Inkjet Black Craft Gift Box 


Shoren Backpack 


Eclipse Bonded Leather Portfolio with Calculator 

Any Final Thoughts on Brand Color Meaning and My Logo?

As you’re looking at competitors, color wheels, and products to which you might apply your logo, such as signage, stationery, drinkware, totes, and pens, notice your own emotional response to various colors. If you’re an autobody shop with a passion for calm car repair, does blue help communicate your product, service, or approach to business? If your business is a curated baby boutique, perhaps pale yellow is your style.  

Enjoy the process of searching the spectrum and honing your hues. Then apply them to your merchandise and let the color work its branding magic!   





Karleen Wise Andersen

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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