Color Palettes



The colors chosen for your apparel line can help to evoke an emotional connection between you and your target consumers. Color has the power to awaken feelings in people that help them to express who they are or how they’re feeling on any given day. As someone who has a closet dominated by black, grey and navy blue garments, I do feel like a brighter person on the days when I pull out my sherbet orange top or my bright red blouse. Color has the ability to change a mood for better or worse, and it’s important to think about these aspects when creating a color palette for your line.


First, let’s start with a core color palette. There should be a handful of colors that you plan to have in your apparel line every season, every year. I’m talking about your brand’s version of neutrals or your specific brand colors. Black, white, a specific grey that you prefer and a specific blue that you prefer are extremely typical of a core color palette throughout the industry. However, if you’re an outdoor focused company, you might find that deep browns, tans, ivory and a specific green color are better for your brand. Those more natural and earthy colors will say more about your company’s connection to the outdoors, and that’s an important message to send. If you’re making running apparel, a reflective silver might need to be a core color for safety purposes, or similarly for hunting gear, you might need to include fluorescent orange. Once you choose the colors that define your brand, keep them in your palette and build around them for each future season of design.




Adding seasonal colors to your core palette can depend on many factors, so it will be important to remember your company’s core values when designing your color guides. For example, is your company led by annual trends? If so, then you may want to include the same ‘colors of the year’ that other brands will be looking to develop. However, there is no real rhyme or reason to color beyond your brand’s core palette, so this can and should be creative, fun and inspiring. I like to find images that create a feeling about the upcoming season that I want to portray to customers. It helps me to build a story and a “why” behind the apparel designs that I can then use in marketing campaigns and social media posts.


I think the authors of The Secret Language of Color, Joann Eckstut and Arielle Eckstut really said it so well in their introduction: “Anyone who claims to be an expert on color is a liar. A true expert would have to be fluent in physics, chemistry, astronomy, optics, neuroscience, geology, botany, zoology, human biology, linguistics, sociology, anthropology, art history, and cartography; and the list goes on and on.” It is not possible to predict all the ways that color will have an effect on your brand, your customer, your sales or your success. All you can do is create a color palette that speaks to you and conveys the feeling that you want to put out into the world with your apparel line.


If you do want to do more research on color theory and how color creates responses in humans, I recommend these additional resources: Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments by Bernard Guineau, Color & Human Response by Faber Birren, and Color Psychology by Richard G. Lewis.


Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, may earn me a small commission.

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