Pastel colors have traditionally been used in children's branding, but creative designers are now using them in packaging designs, interior design, and other forms of contemporary design. This is because pastel colors add vitality and freshness to designs.
But what exactly are pastel colors, and how do they function in packaging? Discover the answers to these questions and uncover pastel color schemes for your business in this article.
- What are pastel colors?
- Color psychology of pastel colors
- Types of pastel colors
- What is a pastel color palette?
- How to use pastel colors
- Wrapping up
What are pastel colors?
Pastels (also known as "tints") are pale color tones created by incorporating a substantial amount of white into the original color (so, for example, a pastel yellow would be a paler shade of yellow). Technically, you can mix any color into a pastel with white—the more white you mix into the original color, the paler the pastel.
Pastel colors have a softer appearance than their brighter, more saturated counterparts and are commonly described with adjectives such as "soft," "washed out," "pale," "muted," and "light."
They're typically not present on a traditional color wheel as they're tints and not primary, secondary, or tertiary colors.
But on more detailed color wheels, pastel colors are depicted as shades of brighter colors on one side.
Are pastel shades warm or cool?
There are no such things as warm pastel colors or cold pastel colors. The amount of orange in a color determines its warmth, while the amount of blue in a color determines its coolness. So, according to this definition, pastel colors are neither warm nor cool.
As mentioned earlier, pastel colors or pastel shades are created by adding white to other colors; for example, lavender is the pastel of purple, and peach is the pastel of orange.
Similarly, powder blue is a pastel of blue, and blush pink is a pastel of fuchsia pink. Peach (pastel orange) is warm, whereas baby blue (pastel blue) is cool.
Color psychology of pastel colors
Many people equate pastel colors with being washed out and pale, but when done correctly, they can be aesthetically pleasing and liven up a design. They can also be used to communicate a specific message to your target audience.
So, what is the color psychology behind pastels? Here are some messages that pastel colors impart to your audience.
- Calming and peaceful: Pastel colors have a softer look that is easier on the eyes because they are less saturated than traditional colors. This can have a calming, soothing, and peaceful effect on your audience.
- Romantic: The softness of pastel colors can also evoke romantic feelings, especially when combined with other romantic imagery. So, it's also great for Valentine's Day branding.
- Spring: Pastel colors immediately conjure up images of spring (after all, spring flowers do come in pastel hues!). What are people's associations with spring? Happiness and the prospect of new beginnings.
- Baby-centric: You can't talk about pastels without mentioning babies. Pale blue, pink, and yellow are the most popular nursery colors worldwide. If you use those colors in your designs, many people will automatically think they're meant for kids.
Types of pastel colors
The most commonly used pastel colors include:
- Pistachio green: Named after the pistachio nut's distinctive milky yellow-green color, this green is both soothing and vivacious.
- Pale lemon: Named after the citrus fruit, pale lemon is a more muted version of the vibrant lemon yellow.
- Light seafoam green: A peaceful and fresh pastel hue that combines green, blue, and white, this peaceful and fresh pastel hue is praised for its ability to instill calm and serenity in a space.
Which colors go well with pastels?
A pastel color will look good with a tint of the complementary primary or secondary color. Pastel blue, for example, will be complementary to pastel orange because blue's complementary color (the color opposite it on the color wheel) is orange.
Pastel red (pale pink) and pastel green are two other complementary pastel color combinations, as are pastel yellow and pastel purple.
What is a pastel color palette?
A pastel palette or pastel color theme consists of two or more pastel colors that complement and coordinate with one another. Pastel color sequences that complement each other are used in home decor, fashion, photography, branding, and packaging. In this section, let’s look at some of the most commonly used pastel color combinations.
Pastel pink combinations
The pastel pink and pale yellow color combinations in Courtney Askew’s personal logo reflect her design style — retro and cute, but also a little spooky — to attract similar customers.
Pastel blue combinations
This fictitious bookstore app’s pastel blue theme gives a sense of peace, happiness, and comfort — all the positive emotions that will influence book lovers into exploring the app more.
Pastel purple combinations
The pastel purple combinations and the 3D illustrations in this website amplify the adorableness of the kittens so the readers will be encouraged to adopt them.
Pastel peach combinations
This Popsugar article’s illustration made with pastel peach and other bright colors showcase the ingredients and illustrate the fact that the drinks will leave the readers buzzing with energy.
Pastel yellow combinations
Pastel yellow, coral, and navy aren't typically thought to go together, but as this logo design demonstrates, they actually create a subtle (but impactful) color palette.
How to use pastel colors
Do you like the look of pastels and want to use them in your own designs? Here are a few pointers to get you started:
- Take note of the balance: Have you heard the expression "too much of a good thing?" That is certainly true when it comes to pastels. Too many pastels in a single color palette can feel overwhelming. So, balance pastels with neutrals or bolder pops of color to keep them from feeling too sweet.
- Avoid pastel color schemes that appear dated: Certain pastel combinations can feel dated (for example, baby blue and pink give the feeling of a nursery, so you don’t want to use them unless you’re actually designing a nursery. So, avoid traditional pastel color combinations in favor of unique color combinations to keep your designs feeling fresh and modern.
- Choose pastel color schemes that align with your brand: Not all pastels are created to go with your brand. That’s why you should ensure that they’re appropriate for your industry, business, and overall branding before incorporating them into your palette. For example, pastel colors that are appropriate for a children's snack or a lifestyle blog aimed at millennial women are not appropriate for a brand selling energy drinks.
Pastel colors bring freshness to your designs and carry positive emotional connotations. However, they should be used appropriately and be balanced with neutral colors or dark pastel colors to appear unique.
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