Picture this: sun, holiday, happy thoughts. A walk down a street with buildings full of history and all of them painted in soft pastels. You feel relaxed, without a care in the world.
Even if they are associated with a delicate look, pastels can make a strong impression on people.
Now imagine this feeling captured in ad visuals or other marketing campaign assets.
Because of the powerful impact they have without you even realizing it, today we’ll focus on the use of pastel in graphic design, and not only.
We’ll talk about what pastels are, the different pastel color palettes, and how to use them in a sophisticated way to make ads that are powerful and send the right message.
B. What Is a Pastel Color Palette?
C. The Psychology of Pastel Colors
F. Which Colors Complement Pastels?
G. 6 Design Tips for Using Pastel Colors
Let’s dive right in and start with what pastel colors are.
A. What Are Pastel Colors?
Pastel colors, also known as “tints,” are the softer versions of primary and secondary colors obtained by adding white to the original color.
For example, pale pink is red with a certain amount of white in it. The more white you add, the paler and softer it gets.
You’ll get a mild color through this color mix that still keeps its power due to initially being a pure hue.
Their muted look doesn’t minimize their impact. Still, it rather gives you the freedom to create many versions of pastel color palettes for your designs without risking making a negative impact on the viewer, unlike bright color palettes, which require much more attention to color theory.
And since I mentioned it, and you know what pastel colors are, let’s see what defines a pastel color palette.
B. What Is a Pastel Color Palette?
A pastel color palette combines two or more pastel colors that go perfectly well together, creating a harmonious look for your design. Whenever you need to discover colors you should pick for your palette, you can always consult the Pantone pastel colors, which also come with pastel colors RGB models.
Alternatively, you can search for these tints and their codes on Tumblr.
You can take pastel hex codes from both these places.
There are many ways to mix them and various choices for you to pick, and we’re going to see them later on in the article, together with pastel colors hex codes.
Before that, we will look at the psychological impact pastel colors have on people and why you shouldn’t exclude them from your designs.
C. The Psychology of Pastel Colors
Probably the first thing that draws your attention and makes you form a perception regarding a design or a certain object is their color.
Colors strongly influence human behavior. This gives you an important edge when creating visuals for your marketing campaigns because you have the power to shift human perception to your advantage.
This doesn’t mean you have to use extremely vibrant colors to send a message because pastels, too, have a unique way of tapping into people’s emotions.
As we saw earlier, pastel colors are a combination of primary or secondary colors with a certain amount of white, resulting in a shade that makes them bold and soothing at the same time.
You can use their duality and explore the many possibilities of creating designs based on pastels.
The essential aspect you need to start with is understanding which colors you should use according to the people you’re targeting with your visual content. That’s because while for some people, pastel colors are a better facilitator in communication, others can perceive pastels as cold and superficial, with no significant meaning.
Let’s learn about the power of pastel colors.
1. They have a calming effect
Pastel colors are less saturated than original colors, which gives them a more calming effect.
Baby blue pastel, pastel pink, and pale yellow are the universally accepted colors for children’s rooms. However, don’t think about using them only in this situation because you’re wasting a huge potential they could have in graphic design.
When you use them correctly in your visuals, they’ll offer the feeling of calmness, cleanliness, and white space, allowing your audience to engage with your designs and understand your message clearly.
2. They are uplifting
Due to their appeasing influence, pastel colors have the power to uplift someone’s mood just by looking at a design based on a pastel color palette.
Because they’re a constant reminder of positive feelings, a well-thought-out pastel visual can raise feelings of optimism in its viewer.
Like this Instagram profile from Mirabeau.
3. They equal spring and vacation
During the Victorian period, the holiday became a new social trend in Europe’s middle class, and together with it came the pastels. People embraced the soft colors of their umbrellas and clothes on the beach, forgetting all about the dark colors associated with winter.
This is why people create an instant connection between pastels and spring, holiday, or fresh beginnings.
Look just how refreshing this pastel pink Instagram theme is.
4. They are versatile
This is probably their biggest and most important trait. Pastel colors can help you with almost any kind of design.
And here’s why.
Nowadays, they tend to be associated with feminism and nurseries.
But, as we’ve seen before, they also send holiday vibes. Moreover, in the early 20th-century, pastel colors were used by sportsmen or gentlemen who chose to dress in pale pink polo shirts.
Today, pastels are still present in a big part of fashion, skincare, and makeup products.
Therefore, if you choose a pastel color palette in graphic design, it doesn’t mean you’re targeting only women. On the contrary, pastels’ history gives you the possibility to target a wide range of people.
A pastel color palette offers you the perfect freedom to insert darker, more vibrant colors to highlight a certain element or text or naturally create color accents.
Later has an Instagram profile with pastel colors as a dominant theme mixed with darker colors as accents.
5. They are simply charming
When someone’s asked to think of a color related to romanticism, they’ll probably say red. But pastels, especially light pink, can denote feelings of romance as well.
Pastel color shades can also show elegance and hold a classy feel wherever you use them—fashion, packaging, on your website, or when creating your designs.
The only condition is to place them in the right context.
Beauty Within used pastel colors for packaging, but also for showcasing their products on their Instagram posts.
D. Types of Pastels
You can explore many pastel color shades for your designs, especially because there are so many of them. Here are a few common and widely used pastel colors that are extremely versatile and don’t overwhelm the viewer:
- Pistachio green. Named after the pistachio nut, this pastel green helps your design by offering a strong presence while remaining peaceful.
- Pale lemon. This color, too, is named after an edible, and it’s the softer version of a vibrant yellow, doing the job of a perfect background for your visuals whenever you need an alternative for white.
- Baby pink. Also known as light pink, this color is never too dull for your designs. Just think about its foundation color and where it all started: red—a strong and energetic presence.
- Baby blue. This pastel blue color, which got its name due to the association with baby boys, it’s classy, with a calming effect but playful at the same time, offering endless possibilities of design creation.
- Light seafoam green. A color that resulted from the combination of blue, green, and white, creating a fresh pastel blue-green look to every color palette you add this color on.
- Lilac. Also known as pastel lavender, it’s an alternative to purple, which still remains a powerful hue with delicate touches of fantasy.
- Peach. This color is a reminder of the delicious fruit we enjoy during summer, which is why it will help any viewer think of the sunny, warmer days ahead.
E. Pastel Color Palettes
Like I said earlier, if you’re using them just for kids’ products or spring-related events, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to incorporate these cute pastel colors into any kind of design and make it stand out.
I will share a few examples of pastel color schemes showcased through templates you can find in Creatopy for digital or print to understand pastel tones’ versatility.
There are two options: you can use colors found on the pastel color wheel without adding any other bright colors, or you can combine them with accent colors.
You can start using any of these templates right away, edit them to your liking, or pick the pastel color hex codes from underneath the designs and start creating your own. If you want to change the colors but don’t know exactly what, you can always consult the Pantone pastel swatches.
1. Just pastels
You can easily create designs with just pastel colors and still draw everyone’s attention. Here are a few template examples, together with their pastel color codes.
- Instagram post
Whenever you feel like going pastel all the way, this combination of pastel pink with pastel blue is one of the most charming pastel color schemes you could apply to your designs.
The white from the copy is pointing out the message clearly, without breaking the perfect warmth of the pastel pink and blue mix.
- Facebook post
This template focuses on different pastel pink shades with black and fresh green infusions to create a harmonious look that attracts everyone’s attention.
This pastel color scheme is the perfect example that you don’t have to use bright colors to create an engaging visual.
- Spotify playlist cover
Here’s yet another example of a perfect template made with pastel pink, this time for a Spotify playlist cover.
The white lines break the slowly darkening of the pastel shade until it gets to dark pastel pink. The final touch is done by the copy written in dark pastel gray to create a soft contrast.
- Etsy big shop banner
How else can you portray the delicate look of jewelry and other cute accessories if not with pastel purple combined with pastel pink color and a slightly more vivid pastel orange?
Who said your logo could catch someone’s attention only through bright colors? The example below shows a perfect pastel logo color combination that can be really captivating without being too out there.
This very soft pastel pink color mixed with a dark mustard color and a dark grey is doing its job at being soft and powerful at the same time.
As you can see below, the light pastel blue works wonderfully with just pastel white.
If you want to recreate something similar, you can take the pastel blue hex code and make your own color combinations.
- Medium rectangle banner
Pastel violet, warm pastel yellow, and a frenzy of dark pastel pink make a great frame for the text, which borrows the pastel pink from the background. All of them together are creating an alluring visual, ready to steal all the attention.
- Business card
Here we have a pastel pink color mixed with warm pastel green, a white section that separates the two, and a mustard text that you can turn into a metallic gold color to emphasize your text. And the final result is an eye-catching, delicate business card.
If you’re wondering what pastel colors go together, here’s one beautiful example: a dark pastel green with pastel pink—a perfect combo that works nicely for a flyer design.
The dark pastel gray which the flower sketches and the copy have is in a soft contrast with the background.
You can also mix light pastel colors with dark pastels, like in the example below. This certificate made for print has a frame created with a pastel orange, decorated with solid pastel colors in darker shades.
The white space from this certificate makes room for the copy written in a more vivid pastel orange, known as coral.
This card has a lovely pastel green frame put in perfect contrast with pastel orange and coral. The soft insertions of pastel purple flowers make this frame all the more delightful.
The text of this card, which is placed on a white background, is in the same purple pastel as the tiny flowers to help everything come together in a delicate visual.
The pastel orange in a darker shade is mixed with a paler one creating a softened look that can soothe anyone looking at this design.
If you wish to create another design with these lovely colors, just take the pastel colors hex codes and make your own card.
Another great idea of creating a pastel color palette is using colder tones that inspire minimalism. In the example below, the dark pastel green is perfectly tuned with a lighter one and a baby blue pastel.
The classic black and white resume can be taken to another level and make a first great impression by inserting a pastel color scheme for a soft splash of colors.
In the following example, there’s a light pastel blue and its complementary pastel tint, which is a pastel orange.
The text is also in a dark pastel grey to keep the delicate look throughout the entire resume.
- Photo collage
These dampen colors go well in a photo collage, too, because you can use them however you wish and still not overwhelm the viewer.
Here’s a combination of pastel white, baby pink, and soft Pantone neon green patched with pastel red all over the colorful eggs.
2. Pastels with accent colors
Pastel tones work wonderfully in combination with darker colors that help accentuate the message or specific elements.
I’m going to show you a few examples, together with their pastel color codes.
- Instagram post
Here you have a vibrant blue with its complementary color, orange, on a pastel color background. This design is proof that instead of using a white background, you can go for pastel pink.
These colors are placed on a pale yellow background, creating a gentle contrast.
The different pastel purple hex codes and pastel yellow hex are yours for the taking.
The next one is yet another template that shows you can use a pale color with its vivid counterpart. The pastel yellow is joined with a brighter yellow and an even greater contrast through dark blue.
- Instagram/Facebook story
Your followers will actually feel the summer breeze when looking at this visual made with different orange pastel shades.
- Wide skyscraper banner
Dark pastel pink looks good when combined with a lighter one if you want to create a visual that looks professional and clean.
Grab these pastel pink hex codes to create a digital banner that’s eye-catching and balanced.
You may be tempted to say print advertising is not that effective. It means you haven’t stumbled across a well-made brochure, for example.
The pale pastel orange combined with a bit of pale pink and black as an accent color gives a highly sophisticated look to help this printed ad rise to the product/service it advertises.
I guess we all agree that a beautifully made invitation gets a better reaction from the invited person.
The pastel shades from this invitation bring a graceful look to it, almost impossible to say no to. The pastel violet makes a great team with its darker shade, a pastel lavender here and there, and a pastel white to finish the delicate look.
F. Which Colors Complement Pastels?
No matter how light of a hue a pastel is, it still has a complementary tint. Whenever you need to find its perfect opposite, think that a pastel color is complementary to a tint of the complementary primary or secondary color.
This means a soft pink is complementary to a pastel green because red sits opposite to green on the color wheel.
G. 6 Design Tips for Using Pastel Colors
Because pastel colors have this muted appearance, you can use them abundantly without worrying about overwhelming your audience.
Still, there are a few best practices when starting to create your designs based on pastels.
1. Choose colors that are on-brand
If your brand’s aesthetics are already created around pastel colors, the best thing you can do is choose the same colors for your future designs. This way, people will make faster associations between your brand and all the designs you create and share with your audience.
This goes a bit different if you’re just starting to build your business.
You have to think about your brand’s values and the colors that will best express your company’s personality to make sure they have the right impact upon your audience.
A cupcake-oriented business and pastel colors are a match made in heaven. Just look at the example below from Wish Upon Cupcake‘s Instagram profile.
2. Use more than one pastel color
One pastel color is good, but combined with other pastels will do the trick.
When used alone, a pastel color may not be as powerful as you want it to be due to its desaturation.
If you want to base your design solely on soft colors, try to use more than one pastel because, as I said before, you can’t make mistakes when combining these soothing colors.
Assuming that you don’t want to join two different tints, a good alternative would be to use dark pastel colors with their light pastel versions.
If you look at Recess’s Instagram profile, you’ll see a frenzy of pastel colors.
3. Pair your pastels with soft metallics
Pastel colors are extremely flexible when it comes to color combinations, especially if you pay attention to what colors complement each other.
To create a more sophisticated look for your visuals, you can insert delicate metallic colors in just the right amount to highlight a certain element.
This combination of colors goes really well when designing your business cards or invitations, giving them a classy yet modern look.
You can also use it for packaging, just like Amor al Postre bakery did for their boxes.
4. Combine pastels with accent colors
As you’ve seen previously in the templates based on pastel color combinations, you can use just pastels for your designs or blend them with accent colors to create a more dynamic effect.
Pastels work wonderfully when paired with darker, more vibrant colors because the result is something really balanced, with the right amount of emphasis on certain elements or areas.
When you use contrast colors, you create a focal point on your design and possibly get more visual interest from your audience.
On Cocunat Instagram profile, you’ll find a lovely combination of baby pink with a more vivid form of pink.
5. Choose a complementary color scheme
Whenever you feel like using more than one pastel color in your design but are unsure which ones, go for a complementary pair of colors.
Once you have a color palette as a foundation for your design, it’s easier to insert accent colors and play with different versions of your visuals until you find the perfect match.
In this post from Hello Body, the pastel background perfectly contrasts with the dark green from the leaves.
6. Test different versions of pastel designs
There are so many different pastel color palette combinations you can choose from. They give you the excellent opportunity to test your visuals in different pastel shades and see which ones work best for you.
You can always consult the Pantone pastel colors before creating your designs and sharing them with your audience.
H. Where to Use Pastels
As you can figure it out by now, the versatility of pastel colors allows you to use them in many instances.
I’ve shown you their vast usage in graphic design, but there are other fields where you can explore their vast potential. From branding to web design, packaging, or digital art, these are a few places where pastels fit perfectly.
We’re going to skim through a few of those.
1. Website backgrounds
The soft, inviting, and warm look of these colors makes website backgrounds to be one of the best places where you can use pastels.
Once you pick a pastel color background, it’s simple to add elements to it without making it look too crowded. They have an essential characteristic of keeping a website with a clean aspect with a lot of white space.
As for the color combination for this area, you can go for different styles and still make it look incredibly good. It can be one single pastel color, a monochromatic look, which will have that tie-dye style, or even complementary pastel colors.
Pair these aesthetics with the right typography style and other visuals that complete your brand, and you’re set.
If you enter the Bonjour website, you’ll see how delicious it looks. Everything is dynamic, made with pastel color palettes that change for each presented product.
This cake, for example, is surrounded by a pastel purple color and a pastel lavender background.
Due to their look that allows you to explore many design areas, you can go a little bolder with your choices.
For example, you can use flashy typography in pastel colors, which would probably be a bit too much otherwise.
The strong presence of display (aka decorative) typography can be in perfect harmony with the softer look of pastels.
Here’s an example of pastel shades used in typography, made by Ana Stoyanova on Dribbble.
The pastel magenta combined with pastel blue, pale yellow, and dark pastel blue placed on a dark pastel pink make the lettering all the more alluring.
If your brand fits the description for a pastel aesthetic, you can start with the logo.
You either use pastels in contrast with another vibrant color to emphasize your brand’s name or the logo’s main element or use only mild colors. For the latter one, you should still create a little bit of contrast by whitening up an element’s color to give the impression of texture.
Baskin Robbins’ logo is a combination of pastel pink and blue, which is a perfect fit for an ice cream and cake specialty shop company.
4. Instagram feed theme
Instagram profiles with a consistent aesthetic are more visually attractive, bringing in more followers.
If you’re into pastels, building an Instagram feed based on these soft colors will create a truly charming look for your account.
Like this gorgeous pastel Instagram account.
5. Digital art
You’ll often find vibrant colors in digital art, but solid pastel colors are not to be omitted from it—if the context allows it, of course.
When you create digital art with pastel palettes, you replace the strong neon colors with softer tints, creating a more delicate, retro vibe, which is still very modern-looking.
Elen Winata created for Dribbble this design dominated by pastel orange combined with dark pastel green on a maroon pastel background.
Pastel color palettes made their way into the packaging aesthetics, mostly in the fashion, cosmetics, and baby clothing industries.
In each of the cases, it’s because pastels have an inviting, gentle look.
Alexandra Necula designed this packaging system for Moujan Lusso, a natural skincare brand.
Their lovely appearances are due to the delicate pastel yellow color, light green, or super-soft pastel pink.
If you’ve seen movies directed by Wes Anderson, you’re probably familiar with his extensive use of warm pastel colors that give an atmosphere like no other. Even if you don’t remember the plot of the movies, surely the pastels made you feel a certain way, making that movie memorable.
Photographies, where pastels are the most dominating element, are perfect for product photography, fashion, or the food industry, allowing photographers to explore many possibilities. Their compositions can look either classy or modern and surreal.
To get an idea of what I’m talking about, take a look at Maria Svarbova’s work. She created a beautiful series of photos entitled Pastel in collaboration with fashion designers Silvia Kissova and Andrea Ganoczy.
The question of what pastel colors go together almost doesn’t exist because pastels are so adaptable that you can use them however you wish.
Take advantage of their powerful effect on people and turn your ads into candy-like visuals that your audience can almost taste.