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How to: Create a Stunning Color Palette for Fashion Designers and Our Top Tools To Get You There

Sunset Color mood board
Sunset color swimwear mood board

Introduction: Creating a stunning color palette for fashion designers can be the defining element that breathes life into their creations. The careful selection and combination of colors can evoke emotions, set trends, and establish a brand's identity. In this How To, we will explore the art of building a color palette that will elevate your fashion designs to new heights.

When starting to build your color palette, we will assume that you already have Design Direction or a Design Brief, so that you have that in mind when building your palette. This could be from your team, your client, or from your own work.

  • Seek Inspiration: Start your color palette journey by seeking inspiration from various sources. Look to nature, art, architecture, and everyday objects for ideas. Explore color trends, runway shows, and fashion magazines. Immerse yourself in a world of color to spark your creativity and find unique combinations.

Color theory infographic
Color theory infographic

  • Understand Color Theory: Familiarize yourself with the basics of color theory. Learn about the color wheel, primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, and concepts like complementary, analogous, and monochromatic schemes. Understanding these principles will help you create harmonious and visually appealing palettes.

Magenta Color Palette from Pattern Curator
Magenta Color Palette Mood Board from Pattern Curator

  • Define Your Palette's Purpose: Consider the message and mood you want to convey through your fashion collection. Are you seeking a vibrant, energetic vibe or a more subdued, elegant feel? Define your palette's purpose to guide your color selection. Remember, different colors evoke different emotions, so choose wisely.

womens clothing on rolling rack of Core neutral colors
Core neutral colors

  • Start with a Foundation: Build your palette with a few core colors to serve as the foundation. These are usually neutral or versatile hues that anchor your designs and allow other colors to shine. Classic colors like black, white, beige, or navy are timeless choices that complement a wide range of shades. Think about who you are selling your collection to; is it a retailer? A wholesaler? Online? If a retailer, think about they will merchandise colors together or how many "arms" on a rack or wall they will allocate to your brand- they may only get 3 styles in a few colors, so what will be your main colors that will be their best sellers? If you are working several colors into a print, what will be the base colors that they coordinate with? Make sure to include colors that can mix & match and work back to your solid core colors.

  • Explore Color Relationships: Experiment with different color relationships to achieve balance and depth in your palette. Complementary colors, located opposite each other on the color wheel, (check out this free color wheel generator) create bold contrasts. Analogous colors, found adjacent to each other, provide a harmonious and cohesive look. Triadic or tetradic schemes offer vibrant combinations for a dynamic impact.

two women in yellow Setting the mood with color
Setting the mood with color

  • Consider Color Psychology: Colors have a profound impact on human psychology. Research the emotional associations (read our color theory blog to learn about emotions) tied to various shades and consider how they align with your fashion collection's intended message. For example, blue conveys calmness and stability, while red exudes passion and energy. Use this knowledge to evoke specific emotions in your designs.

Cool0rs Color Palette Generator
Cool0rs Color Palette Generator

  • Test and Refine: As you build your palette, test the colors in different combinations and contexts. Experiment with various fabric swatches, sketch designs, or even create digital mock-ups. Continually refine your palette by eliminating or adding colors until you achieve a harmonious balance that aligns with your vision. Check out Coolors; a free online color palette generator- its pretty slick!

Creating a captivating color palette is a crucial skill for fashion designers. By seeking inspiration, understanding color theory, defining your palette's purpose, and exploring color relationships, you can build a stunning palette that brings your fashion designs to life. Remember, colors can captivate and inspire, so embrace the art of color selection and let your creativity shine on the runway.


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Hey there, lovely fashion friends! My name is Britta Cabanos, and I'm thrilled to have you here! 


I'm a 25+ year fashion industry design professional, and I'm passionate about supporting conscious designers, ethical makers, and sustainability. I believe that fashion can be a powerful force for good, and I'm committed to helping aspiring fashion industry pros make their mark in this exciting and ever-changing field. 


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