From Google and Dropbox to Slack and Airbnb, big brands made custom illustrations a rising trend in 2018, and 2019 doesn’t show any signs of this trend slowing down.

Yet, illustrated brand content is nothing new, and at one time when photography didn’t even exist, it was the only means of advertising visually outside of using straight-up text. Once color replication in print was more accessible, illustrations came to support marketing and sales of a brand.

Introducing illustration to your brand is a way to bring individuality, creativity, and even a larger than life effect. And we’ve found that when limiting the colors used in your brand, and subsequently, your brand’s illustrations, it helps to establish unity across everything that’s created.

A color palette is essentially the range of colors in a given piece of art or design.

These colors, like in traditional fine art, may be mixed or blended to create more swatches in an illustration. There are many ways a color palette can be decided, but this is usually already explored by a brand in their brand guidelines.

color palette

Limiting an illustrator to using your already established color palette can take the final illustration to the next level.

But why?

Here are 3 good reasons to use a limited color palette for your next brand illustration:

1. Elevate Your Brand Out of Stock Photography Prison

Your brand is evolving. You’ve already used every good stock photo you can find. You have a great brand color palette. Why not make more use of these swatches in your brand’s guidelines? Use the colors that are already associated with your brand in a new and exciting way, and in doing so, you’ll have created value around those colors and tied rich content back to your brand, all while avoiding cliché imagery.

Let’s take a look at Slack. We all know and love Slack for its revolutionary, streamlined communication tools, but ever notice how the illustrations literally draw inspiration from the same exact colors in the logo? The illustrator used these colors and only a few complimentary colors in the same range as the original logo colors. Therefore, all of these illustrations instantly feel like Slack and thus the brand is elevated to a beautiful world of richly colored characters that jump off the screen!

example of effective color palette

Concepts that would be cheesy or difficult to convey in photography suddenly come to life and bring a sense of uniqueness that harkens right back to the brand itself, and its logo.

2. Create Content Emphasis

An effective way to create emphasis in illustration and design is to use color to pop a certain section or element. Using asymmetrical balance in a limited color palette is simple. If the brand colors are heavy on blue, but have room for a yellow, incorporate that! Choosing to color everything in blue except a few elements, or even just one, creates visual emphasis through the minimal use of one accent color. The eye will instantly be drawn to the areas where yellow is used as it becomes the instant focal point.

example of limited color palette

In the example above, the illustrator uses a limited color palette of only three colors: off-white, dark blue, and yellow. The yellow is used so sparingly that it becomes the focal point. A brand could use this simplistic style to attract a viewer to a representation of their product or a certain idea by limiting colors in this way.

3. Unify Brand Materials

Introducing illustration into a brand creates visual unity in the same way consistently styled photography does. By illustrating in a brand’s limited color palette, not only does the brand itself become unified, but so does every illustration. Unity and consistency are the staples of successful branding, and color used in a uniform manner through illustration creates a singular brand message.

Let’s take a look at Mailchimp’s blog page. They have begun using illustrations that match the brand identity perfectly. Going heavy on the black but using other established brand colors, Mailchimp elevates their content while unifying every post to feel consistent and engaging.

example of effective illustration

While Mailchimp’s primary color palette is very limited, they introduced a muted secondary palette, which all of their illustrations use effectively. Because these illustrations appear throughout the site, they create unity for the brand in a subtle, yet effective way. The more you use your branded illustrations on various materials, the more you tie it all together!

example of effective illustration

The next time your brand is working on a new campaign or expanding your identity, consider illustrations rather than stock photography. Think about your brand’s own color palette and how its limited nature can be an asset to elevating and unifying your brand.

How can we help you explore the potential in your brand’s color palette? How can we expand it while maintaining unity?

We’d love to draw something up for your next big idea. Let’s get the conversation started so we can grab our sketch pencils and do what we love to do most, for your brand!

Francesca Farrisi

About Francesca Farrisi

Francesca is an Art Director at Liquid Interactive. Francesca specializes in brand development, illustration, UI/UX design, presentation and client relations. She draws her creativity from her fine art, and utilizes that passion to develop award-winning brands.