Take a look at your business cards. What stands out to you at first glance? If all you see is black-on-white nothingness, chances are, that’s the first impression you’re making on others. Yes, it can be difficult to look at your own marketing materials objectively, but there is at least one thing that can set your business card apart from all the rest: choosing the right colors.

If your business card is in black and white, you may be missing out. According to experts, people will keep a color business card ten times longer than one that is monochrome.

Red and grey business card with bird illustration
Business card design by Mad pepper.

But did you know that there are certain color schemes for business card development that can increase your chances of landing a new client or closing a sales deal? Colors can influence how we feel, which means they are more likely to engage us and incite us to taking an action—like pulling a business card from a stack and making a phone call.

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So what do you need to do to pick the right colors for your business card? We’ll give you the scoop. In this article, we’ll take you through the various elements you need to think about when choosing your business card colors:

  1. Color theory
    • Understanding color theory
    • Color psychology
    • Applying color theory to your business card design
  2. Designing your card
    • Logo color
    • Color placement
    • Paper type
    • Fonts and graphics
  3. Brand consistency
    • Consider your company culture

1. Color theory

green business card
Business card design by Prozmajevski.

You may not even realize it, but when you pick up a business card, you make a subconscious connection to what you see. Color plays a large role in that. In order to create designs that are effective, we can use color theory, which helps us understand how colors best complement each other.

Understanding color theory

With color theory, designers get an understanding for the role various colors play in conveying a message. This includes how colors are mixed and where they fall on the color wheel.

Analogous colors on the color wheel
via 99designs
Complementary colors on the color wheel.
Triadic colors around the color wheel

Grouping colors in a scheme that puts complementary colors together, for instance, is one formula, while grouping them in an analogous scheme—three colors resting side-by-side on the color wheel are considered analogous—would be another. A designer could also pull colors that represent nature from the color wheel, creating a scheme comprised completely of various hues of greens and yellows.

In addition to complementary and analogous colors, some designers opt for triadic colors, which uses colors that are equally spaced around the color wheel. Green, orange, and purple, for instance, can be put together to make a bold, eye-catching statement. You could also go for a tetradic design, which chooses four colors spaced in a rectangular pattern around the color wheel. Play with variations of this to find the color scheme that works best for your business card.

Color psychology

business card with illustration
Business card design by _fra_.
Business card design by pecas.
Business card design by Small Bottle.

In addition to color theory, designers also use color psychology to choose the right colors to fit a business’s brand messaging. For instance:

  • Yellow conveys optimism and warmth
  • Orange communicates cheer and confidence
  • Red appears youthful and bold
  • Blue communicates dependability and strength
  • Green is associated with peace and health
  • Grey is seen as neutral and calm

Color psychology can have a huge impact on how your business card will be perceived. If you want to learn more about the meaning of colors and how to use them, take a look at this article on color psychology.

Applying color theory to your business card design

For a children’s dentistry a fun, lively design that incorporates reds and yellows is more appropriate, whereas a law firm might want to use blues, greys or muted colors that represent reliability. So when it comes to color think about what effect you are going for first.

Brand messaging in business card design
Simple black and white can convey brand messaging. Via BlueMoon.

At networking events, as attendees collect multiple business cards, what will make yours stand out from the stack? You may be thinking: alrighty then, a neon rainbow business card it is. But that’s not necessarily the case. You want your card to fit your brand, so people remember what your business is all about. Even a minimalistic design with very little, strategically placed color can do the trick.

And remember that the color scheme you choose should be carried through in all your brand collateral—your business’s logo, signage, website design, and business card—to keep messaging consistent.

2. Designing your card

Professional designers have an eye for detail, realizing that they need to strategically use white space and make sure fonts are legible, first and foremost. Color comes into play only after they’ve squared away those design basics.

Logo color

business card with dog paw
Business card design by FishingArtz.

First, take a look at your logo. This will likely be a prominent part of your business card, so you’ll need to choose colors that complement it. Designers pay close attention to the color wheel, choosing colors that are either in the same color family or on opposite sides of the color wheel. If your logo features shades of purple, for instance, you may opt for a shade of orange as contrast.

Color placement

Black and red modern business card
Business card design by Ian Douglas.

Secondly, choose a strategy for your color placement. You can opt to saturate your card with your color of choice or carefully place color throughout. Often the best design involves using color solely on the logo and text, with the contrasting colors setting a tone. You may also choose to saturate one side of your card in the same color you use for your logo on the other.

Paper type

flower watercolor business card
Business card design by HYPdesign.

For non-designers, paper is an often-disregarded part of the design process. But paper plays an important role and can impact how your colors come across on the printed card. Thick stock is recommended, but you’ll also have the choice between glossy or matte. Glossy finish is shiny, reflecting light, so consider that if readability is a concern. Certain lighting conditions may make it difficult to read, especially if you’ve chosen a reflective color like dark blue or black.

Fonts and graphics

business card with graphics
Business card design by Nick Terry.

When choosing colors for your fonts and graphics, remember contrast is key. You want your name and contact details to be easily readable. On a light background black is a safe choice. For any graphics and illustrations that you want to add to your card design, complementing colors work well, such as those from opposing sides of the color wheel. You can also use variations of the same color—dark blue typeface and a bright blue logo, for instance. A crisp white or a deep black background can make the colors of your logo pop. Always remember that readability is the most important feature, but feel free to try out different color combinations until you find one that works.

One-sided vs. two-sided

white business card with red apple
Business card design by pecas.

Once you’re ready to get started, you’ll need to decide whether you want a one-sided or two-sided business card. Condensing the information to one side will keep things concise, as well as being less expensive to print. A single-sided card leaves room on the back for you to write a note, but a two-sided card allows you to put your logo on one side and your contact information on the other. But most importantly, a two-sided card gives you the opportunity to use different colors for each side or the same color, if you feel that makes a better statement.

3. Brand consistency

As important as color and paper choice are in general business card design, there’s nothing general about your own marketing materials. The choices you make should be specific to your own business branding. Before you start, look at your existing marketing collateral. If you’ve decided on a color refresh, you’ll need to put effort into updating your other materials.

modern blue and green card
Business card design by conceptu.

Consider your company culture

In addition to matching your brand marketing, your color choices should be consistent with the type of company culture you project. If you prefer to be all business, your colors should be subdued—think black, white and grey as well as muted blues or greens. But if you’re more fun, choose bright, playful colors or earthy tones for a laid-back look. This will help you naturally attract the type of client who embraces your work environment.

A small piece of paper with a huge impact

Your business card serves as a “calling card” for your company. Your color choices should readily communicate the type of business you run, as well as matching the products or services you provide. Now that you know what to look out for when choosing your business card colors, you’ll be able to make a great impression from the get go. Trust us—with the right colors your card will be the perfect tool to make new business connections and help clients remember your name.

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