Logos are crucial in establishing your company’s identity and brand, but designing your logo can be a daunting task. How many colors should your logo have to achieve an eye-catching design without overwhelming the viewer?
Logos should have no more than three colors, and logos with one to three colors are most appealing to consumers. Logos with good color use should:
- Include one to three colors
- Use contrasting colors, or greyscale shades
- Make good use of color theory and the psychology behind it
The colors in a logo should not just be your favorite colors or a design element that you pay little attention to. Logos are crucial to establishing recognition and association with your company. While you should not pick more than three colors, you do have to decide what colors work the best for your application.
How Many Colors Should a Logo Have?
It is easy to get caught up in the idea of having a very elaborate, detailed logo that is truly a work of art. While you want the logo to be attractive, you have to keep in mind that the logo should really be simple.
Simple logos with fewer colors are the easiest for people to quickly process, which allows them to make associations with brands without even realizing it. You should also remember that your logo will usually be too small to incorporate a lot of little stylistic details.
Thus, your logo should have between one and three colors. Adding more than three colors to your logo can actually make it less eye-catching and identifiable, which is what you want to avoid.
Using Logo Colors Across Your Brand
Logos that have more than three colors are significantly more difficult to apply consistently throughout your brand. For instance, think about some of the difficulties you would have with using the same colors across your materials when your logo has five colors:
- You inevitably focus on one or two colors: Achieving a cohesive, unified look through font and background colors becomes much harder when you have too many colors to add.
- You’ll have inconsistency across mediums: Unfortunately, you cannot always make sure that the colors of your logo are the same on a computer as they are on paper, or even on another computer. The slight inconsistencies are more obvious with more colors or close shades of color.
If you are having to incorporate five colors from your logo into the rest of your materials, it can be distracting to the viewer. Colors are great for distinguishing different types or sections of information, but this should be purposeful and not accidentally occurring because you used too many colors in one area.
Dealing with Changing Color Trends
Various colors and color schemes go in and out of style throughout society. It is a lot easier to avoid your logo’s colors going out of style if you choose three or fewer colors. Chances are that the colors that you use in a design that has more than three colors will be less common colors.
To make the colors mesh well in a design with five colors, for example, you would likely have to choose muted hues of each color to be appealing. There is then an increased chance that those specific hues will fall out of trend.
You should aim to make your logo long-lasting and as immune to changing trends as possible. While the occasional logo update is appropriate, the colors should typically stay the same as only the design itself is slightly altered. Using fewer colors makes this much more achievable.
Why No More Than Three Colors in a Logo?
At first, you may think that logos with three or less colors cannot possibly be attractive or eye-catching. But once you stop and really consider it, you will notice that many of the most recognizable logos have three or less colors.
It is also easier to create a unified identity across your brand if you use no more than three colors:
“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.”
Many top brands and companies have only one logo color, yet we immediately recognize and identify the logo’s connection to the brand. The ultimate goal with your logo is for people to be able to recognize your company without the name being present in text.
Often, the time a person will spend looking at a logo will be very brief, so an easily identifiable design will create the most recognition. Having three or fewer colors in a logo makes this recognition much faster and the entire logo easier for the brain to process.
Designing a Logo: When to Add Color
In most cases, color should be the last element you add in the design of your logo. You may not always be able to have your logo in color, such as in a print that is black and white. If color is the only thing that identifies your brand, then this recognition will be lost when the color is not visible.
Versatility in your logo is key; you need to have a logo that translates across different mediums. Ultimately, color should be used to enhance your logo, but the design should also be able to stand on its own.
Relying on color alone does not promote versatility in your logo. You should only add colors to your logo when the design itself is great and you want to raise it one more level to excellent. Essentially, start with the design first, and then add color last.
If you prefer to make your logo yourself, rather than hiring a graphic designer, my favorite online logo maker is called Placeit. They have the largest library of both free and paid logo templates.
How Do I Pick Logo Colors?
It is simple enough to see why you should not use more than three colors in your logo, but that still leaves the issue of how to actually pick what colors to use. The colors in your logo have to work together in a way that unifies your overall logo and its design.
What to Consider for Logo Colors
You should ask yourself a number of questions when you start thinking about the colors to use in your logo:
- What is your goal? Consider what you want your audience to feel. Think about whether you want the audience to feel excitement, comfort, or any other vibe.
- Is there a common color or color scheme in your industry? Some industries have recurring colors that companies use in their branding. Choosing colors that are common to the industry can help identify you as part of that niche while choosing different colors can help you stand out.
Additionally, you might want to think about any obvious connections to color in your company’s identity. For instance, if your company’s name involves something with water, then blue would be a good color to incorporate for that association.
Also, keep in mind that the colors you choose may appear slightly different on different screens or papers. You will want to use a color that is mostly primary, as this will be the most consistent across various platforms and mediums.
When to Use One Color in a Logo
The use of only one color in a logo creates a number of feelings in the audience that can help your brand get its message across.
Naturally, a logo with only one color is simple. This is hugely beneficial in making it easy for your audience to process the design. You do not have to worry about colors clashing, and the use of a single color creates a simple, clean look.
Logos with only one color also appear professional. A single color gives the sense that your brand knows its identity and is established. The logo’s design is also not distracting because there are not a lot of excess elements to consider.
Single-color logos are also striking and bold. They convey a feeling of confidence and that your company does not need to add anything else to be successful. This is especially prominent in all-black logos.
When to Use Two Colors in a Logo
In many ways, logos that employ two colors are also quite simple. The audience is not overwhelmed by many colors that can be distracting. The vast majority of the biggest brands use no more than two colors in their logos because of this simplicity.
With logos that have two colors, you can go a couple of different routes in selecting your colors:
- Contrasting colors: In most cases, it is best to use two colors that are directly opposite from each other on the color wheel. We will explore this further in a later section of this article.
- Varying shades of the same color: Another option is to use the same base color but with different hues or saturations. For instance, you could use a dark navy with a sky blue, and both colors would stem from the blue section of the color wheel.
Logos that have two contrasting colors are usually more striking, and those that use two varying shades of the same color are often more subtle. The goal of your company and logo comes into play here when you are trying to decide what you want the effect to be on the audience.
When to Use Three Colors in a Logo
As you have already learned, your logo should have a maximum of three colors. The approach you will take for choosing three colors for your logo is similar to the process you would use for choosing two colors.
Generally, logos that have three colors should be based on:
- Contrasting colors: Choose colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.
- Varying shades of the same color: Again, you may decide to use different shades of the same color. Typically, the colors should be in different ranges of the base color, such as one light hue and one dark hue.
- Grayscale colors: You may also decide that you want to use two contrasting colors and a third grayscale color such as black, white, or grey. These colors pair well with others and are generally cohesive.
You may wonder how to use opposite colors on the color wheel when you are selecting three colors. We will cover that in the next section.
Using the Color Wheel
The color wheel is extremely helpful for selecting colors that are attractive together. This usually involves avoiding colors that are right next to each other on the color wheel. These types of color combinations usually clash with each other.
Instead, to find two colors that contrast well with each other, you should use the color directly across from the other on the color wheel. Examples include:
- Yellow and violet
- Orange and blue
- Red and green
Each section of the color wheel is then broken down into different shades, which means that you might find a blue-violet or indigo color as the opposite of a very light orange or dark yellow.
It is relatively simple to use the color wheel to select two colors, but what about when you want to pick three colors that do not clash with each other? You can use a triangle approach to the color wheel:
- Visually picture or draw a triangle on the color wheel so that the three corners are each in a separate color.
- The three colors that are located with that triangle are not quite opposites, but they are far enough apart on the color wheel that they should not clash.
- For instance, a triangle could place red, blue, and yellow as opposing.
Using the Meaning of Colors
You may not even realize it, but people have natural reactions to colors that affect how they view whatever the colors are representing. This reaction process is important to consider when you pick the colors for your logo.
Considering the common emotions and reactions that accompany different colors can help you make sure that your logo is communicating your intended goal to your audience. For instance, warm colors, which are those that have a high red value, are good for grabbing attention.
Cold colors, in contrast, are those that are high in blue value. Logos that are primarily cold colors may be viewed as more serious, professional, and comforting. Cold colors are less harsh to the eye than warm colors often can be.
Using Common Emotion Color Associations for Good Logo Design
While individuals may have various personal associations with different colors, here are many of the common emotions people associate with colors:
- Red: Red signals passion and excitement but can also invoke feelings of love or anger. Using red in a logo is often a good choice for brands that want to grab the attention of the audience. It also symbolizes a modern or playful feel for many people.
- Blue: As opposed to the excitement of red in a logo, blue often gives a calming, comforting sense. Many people view blue logos as extremely professional and mature. It creates a feeling of trustworthiness and reliability.
- Yellow: Some people view yellow as a fun, energetic color, but others are easily fatigued by bright shades of yellow. Softer or warmer yellows may be associated with wealth and prosperity.
- Green: Green is highly connected to feelings of nature and growth. Many people also associate green with money. Logos that incorporate green colors often have an environmental or agricultural focus.
- Orange: People may associate orange with change due to the changing orange hues in autumn. Others may view bright orange shades as attention-grabbing but signs of caution.
- Purple: Purple has historically been symbolic of royalty and power but more recently it is also seen as a representation of soothing or comfort. It can also be viewed as an alluring color.
- Black: One of the most powerful, elegant colors to choose for a logo is black. Whether it is used alone or with other colors, black is sleek and modern. It hints at luxury and wealth as well.
Ps. Here’s A Guide to Choosing the Best Colors for Your Logo that shows common color combinations, and their psychological effects.
Ultimately, the biggest thing to remember about using colors in a logo is that you should use no more than three colors. The logo should be easy for your audience to process and having too many colors makes this process unnecessarily difficult.
Also, keep in mind that colors should generally be selected based on their opposing color in the color wheel. You can also use different hues of a base color for a more subtle contrast. Another option is to use a grayscale color.
An effective logo will make it easy for your audience to associate the logo with your brand, even if your company’s name is not present on the logo. Using three or fewer colors also makes it much easier to create consistency in your brand’s look across multiple mediums.
Finally, you should be sure to keep in mind how people associate colors with different feelings, emotions, and ideas. Colors in a logo have a psychological effect, even if you are not consciously aware of it. Careful consideration of all these factors will make your company or brand more cohesive, recognizable, and effective.