I recently wrote about the web design standards from the U.S. government, and how you could use them to improve the design of your promotional items such as web sites, presentations, documents and emails. The design standards include color palettes that you could download, but they weren’t in a Microsoft-friendly form that most people could use.
To remedy that, I’ve translated those palettes into a free PowerPoint document for you to download. I’ve included general instructions about how to use the colors in your own documents and specific steps to create a custom color palette in PowerPoint.
Color is More Than Pretty
Color conveys information, such as the common green, yellow and red status of traffic lights. It portrays motion and depth and perspective. It is integral to brand, such as Coca Cola red or the blue of the Energy Star logo.
Color also has pitfalls. Some people are color blind, meaning that they can’t distinguish between some pairs of colors such are red and green. Some colors and color combinations make text harder to read on either white or colored backgrounds. Colors also carry cultural significance. For instance, in U.S. white is the color of purity and innocence, and is often used in weddings. By contrast, white in China is the color of mourning and is often used in funerals.
Tips for Using This Color Palette
This downloadable palette features red, white and blue, because those are the brand colors of the U.S. and the federal government. As such, this palette of colors may not be suitable for you. On the other hand, if you don’t already have a well-designed color palette, my download may be a good place to start. Here are some tips:
- Choose just a few colors for your specific palette–don’t try to use all of them
- Neutral colors, blues and grays, should form the foundation of your specific color combination
- Rely on light versus dark and warm versus cool for contrast in neutrals
- Pick an accent color, but use it sparingly
- Align your colored text choices with your specific palette
Using color well is hard even for those specifically trained and experienced in color theory and application. That’s not me and, odds are, not you either. Working from a professionally-designed set of colors makes your materials more pleasing, more understandable, and more credible.