Making a color palette for your brand can be challenging, and it’s often difficult to know what colors would look good together. One of my favorite ways to create a color palette in Photoshop involves selecting colors from stock photos that embody what you feel that your own brand should feel like.
Of course, you could just grab an image and start plucking away at it with the Eyedropper tool, but with literally thousands of colors to choose from within an image composed of different hues and saturation, you’re not really setting yourself up for success by trying this method. Instead, check out this trick that you can use to make choosing brand colors and creating your own palettes in Photoshop easier.
As a bonus, I’ll also be teaching you how to utilize the Swatch feature in Photoshop, for easy and efficient design work later!
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Choose an Image
There’s no shortage of wonderful stock photos out there that you might choose from. Choose one that inspires you, feels right for your brand, and reflects what your business or project is about.
I’ve chosen to use an image I regularly use for my own brand as a good, working example. This stock photo from Haute Stock is one I used for my own color palette. I chose it because it reflects the very clean, modern, strong but feminine feel I wanted for my brand.
An often overlooked feature of Photoshop is the ability to create a set of colors specific to a project you’re working on. These “swatches” of color can be created, saved, closed, and opened at a later time.
Using Swatches makes designing graphics more efficient if you’re not constantly opening up already designed graphics to grab colors off of it, or trying to remember your HEX color codes. This is especially useful for Virtual Assistants with multiple clients they may be designing graphics for, or bloggers with with multiple websites and brands.
If you don’t see the Swatches Panel in Photoshop, you can turn it on via the top navigation. Hover to Windows >> Swatches and ticker it. The panel will appear in the upper, right-hand corner of your screen like in the image below.
At any time, you can reset your color swatches back to the default set… so feel free to delete them from the panel. I do this myself so that I can create a set of Swatches I can load later that only contain the colors I need per project.
To start fresh, click on the small “hamburger menu” in the upper, right-hand corner of the Swatches panel, and select Preset Manager. This will bring up a screen like the one below.
Deleting all of the colors is simple:
- Left-click on the first color (In this case, it’s Red)
- Press the Shift key while simultaneously left-clicking on the last color (Brown)
- All of the colors in the Swatches should be highlighted
- Click on the Delete button, and all of the colors will be deleted
- Click on Done, and you’ll close out the window
Taa-daaaa! Now you have an empty Swatch Panel, ready for creating a set of Swatches you can save and use later.
Creating a Color Palette
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you could use the Eyedropper tool and fumble around within an image, attempting to choose colors. But let’s get real – there’s thousands of colors and it’s going to be hard to make a decision that way. The good news is that you can make color selection easier on yourself by culling the number of colors you see in an image so that you can make better color selections based on the overall color scheme presented in the photo.
Filtering the Colors
To give us less options to choose from, and to help us make color selections best represented in our photo of choice, we’re going to use a Photoshop filter called Crystallize. This filter merges similar pixels, resulting in less colors to choose from.
Here’s what it looks like:
How to Crystalize your image:
- In the top navigation, hover to Filter >> Pixelate >> Crystalize
- Choose a cell size – The larger the number, the less color options you’ll have
- Click Okay to finalize the results
Now for the fun part – choosing colors! With a lot less color options, choosing colors best represented in your image should be a lot easier. The number of colors you should choose will vary depending on your project, but a good rule of thumb for branding is to choose 5 colors…
A good branding color palette should have:
- Black (or almost black) & White – for background and text colors
- 2 light colors for backgrounds and color blocks
- 2 accent colors for links, hovers, backgrounds, or text
Using Color Swatches
Thanks to the Swatch feature, we can make graphic design easier and more efficient for the long haul – and creating a set of swatches for your new brand colors is super easy!
Use the Eyedropper tool to select a cell of color. I’ve chosen #383838 – a sort of charcoal color that would work well for text colors. Once you select your color, click Okay and the color will be selected as your Foreground color.
Make your first Swatch
With the foreground color selected, we can make our first Swatch. Within the Swatch Panel, you’ll find a small button which I have circled in red for you in the image below. This button will create a new Swatch based on the foreground color.
You can name your swatch colors whatever you’d like. I often give mine names based on how I am using them in a project, such as “Text Color” or “Light Background”. This is especially helpful when working with multiple brands because it’s a nice reminder of what the colors were chosen for.
Once you have named it and clicked Okay, the saved color will appear in your Swatch Panel. Repeat the steps to complete your color selections.
Save Your Swatch Set
Once you’ve selected all of the colors you want to use in your set, you can save them for later use!
- Click on the “hamburger menu”
- Select Save Swatches
- Give your set a memorable name and save like normal
You can load this swatch set later using the “hamburger menu” and selecting Load Swatches. You’ll be able to switch between swatch sets based on your project!
Here’s my completed color palette based on the image in the tutorial, plus a few other working examples. What did you make?