How I Use Nature for Colour Palette Inspiration

using nature for colour palette inspiration

December 6, 2019

Struggling with how to design the perfect colour palette?

It probably comes as no surprise that nature and the outdoors is my biggest source of inspiration when it comes to designing branding elements. I’m the sort of person who goes outside and spends the vast majority of the time staring at things, “look at the moon”, “look how cool the trees are”, “I really love mountains”. You get the gist. I’m an outdoor girl, and that’s why I work with the people I do. I understand their business and their passion for the outdoors, nature, adventure and sustainability, and so I can bring this out in the design, and create something that feels “right”. 

When it comes to designing colour palettes, the outdoors is the first place I look. You can find so much colour palette inspiration outdoors, and usually find colours that naturally work well together right before your eyes. After all, natural beauty is best, am I right?! I tend to look at things like, rocks and the veins that run through them, leaves and the different colours within them, and how they differ from one another – particularly beautiful in Spring and Autumn, the sky – especially at sunset, plants and how their colours interact with their surroundings. Basically, I look at everything, I let my mind wander, and take photographs of naturally beautiful things. 

When I designed my own colour palette, I had a few ideas of what sort of colours I wanted to use, but nothing came together at first, this design took time! I was at home in Sheffield, and wanting to use colours that were reminiscent of the mountains where the idea for Do Good Stuff was born. I had a few other ideas as well, but my current location was hindering me slightly – you can’t quite nip to the beach, or go for a mountain walk, when you’re in the middle of England. So, I did the next best thing! I dug around in my photo albums and picked out my favourite pictures, ones which made me think, ones which inspired me, pictures I was proud of, and most of all, pictures which spoke to my adventurous soul. 

Once I’ve collected photographic inspiration, I put the photos one by one, into the Coolors.co website. This is an amazing tool for playing with colour, but you can also use the eyedropper tool in Adobe programs. To use coolors, head to coolors.co, click the generate button, and then the camera icon. On hover, you’ll see it says “pick colours from image”, once you’ve clicked it, you can add an image from your computer, or enter a remote image url for one you’ve found on the internet.  I did a lot of playing around this website, and generated multiple colour schemes from each picture, and then started picking out my favourite individual colours, and seeing how they played off the others. 

The ones that generated my favourite colour palettes are these two (very different!) photo’s:

The left one was taken on the Hohe Salve mountain near Söll, Austria, where I’ve spent much of the last 4 years living. We had cycled up the mountain with a bottle of champagne to celebrate a special occasion and watch the sunset. Then we had a hilarious cycle back down, in the dark. A perfect outdoor evening, you could say! This picture combines nearly all of my favourite things, mountains, sunset, trees, and one of my two favourite sports (you can’t really get biking and skiing into the same picture… so this will do just fine!)

The picture on the right was taken on an autumn trip to Cornwall. It turns out, Autumn is a great time to visit the coast, because the crowds have gone, and the colours are even more beautiful. I snapped this on a visit to Bedruthan Steps. The tide was in so we couldn’t get down onto the beach fully, but we got as close as we could without getting our feet too wet. We used to holiday in this area as children, so it’s got a firm place in my heart. 

Below you can see an example of the colours I drew from the above images. I’ve only attached a few, as there were many many more… way too many for this blog. I then mixed and matched the colours, until I’d got the perfect combination.

Nature-inspired colour schemes

This process took a long time, but colour is one of the most important parts of your branding. It’s part of your brand identity, its personality, and influences how your brand makes people feel. There’s also a lot of psychology behind the use of colour in design. The final combination of colours are:

Nature-Inspired Colour palette with inspiration from the Cornish Coast and the mountains of Austria

Here’s a quick brief on why I chose each colour:

Navy: I love navy as a less harsh alternative to black. It’s picked directly from the deep blue of the sunset. It reminds me of dark night skies, in places which suffer far less light pollution than the cities of England. This colour, takes me away from all the hustle and bustle.

Yellow: This colour is the bright pop of the last of the days sunlight. I love the colour yellow for it’s fresh, contagious energy. It makes me happy and feel alive. It was also my Grandad’s favourite colour – he was an incredibly joyful, inspiring person with a naughty, playful streak. I inherited his love for travel and exploration, so this colour is a nod to him and his influence on my adventurous spirit. 

Glacier blue: This colour was actually picked from the waves of Bedruthan steps. Like mountains, the sea has always inspired me with its immense power and its ability to make you feel really small. This colour also reminds me of the beautiful blue waters of the rivers in the Alps. I’m going to go Geography nerd on you a bit now… When glaciers erode rock, some of it gets trapped in the ice. When the ice melts, these tiny mineral segments get carried with the water. The smallest bits of this sediment are called glacial flour, and they’re so small and light that they don’t sink. This is what gives rivers and lakes that are fed by glaciers the beautiful blue colour. The particles refract light similar to the way the sky does, and voila, beautiful colours. The rivers and lakes of the mountains, are some of my favourite parts of the scenery. 

Grey: This colour was picked from the rocks of the Cornish coast. I’ve always loved rocks, and used to collect little treasures from the beaches as a child. It’s also a colour that makes me think slowly and calmly, and it works really well as a backdrop for the other colours chosen.

Snow: This off-white is dreamy, and the fact Coolors actually calls this colour snow, I think was a sign it HAD to be part of my scheme. I love that it’s slightly less bright than true white, and it acts as a nice, easy background to most of my website. It’s also a nice text colour when the background is grey or navy. This colour was picked from the white bubbles of the waves in the coastal picture, but it reminds me more of the snow-capped mountains in the place I’ve felt the most at home in the world, Austria. And of course, snow and skiing are two of the biggest parts of my life, so it would be rude to leave their influence out of my colour scheme.

I stopped at 5 colours, I could have gone on and on and on picking out beautiful colours. The fresh green of a spring Beech leaf for example, absolutely stunning. However, you don’t want too many colours in your palette, 4 or 5 absolute maximum. Otherwise your design won’t be cohesive, and will look very all-over-the-place. The 5 colours I chose, work well together, with some as nice background colours, and others as perfect accents. The colours take me outside as soon as I look at them. Mountains, sunsets, and rocky coastlines, wild, rugged nature at its very best. I love it!

Struggling with colour palette inspiration but want your own nature-inspired colour scheme? Check out my branding package and get in touch! #2020goals

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