Ready to start planning your new year color palette? After crunching the numbers, here are the hottest colors we predict to see everywhere in 2021...
2020 may have been a year of global crisis and economic uncertainty, but the color trends we’ve seen growing in popularity over the last 12 months are at once comforting and luxurious. Here at Envato, we’ve also spotted a strong influence of Pantone’s Color of the Year 2020, the much discussed Classic Blue, with many blue shades appearing in the fastest growing color trends.
In this post, we’ll review the color predictions we’ve made for 2021, based on the colors that our users have been searching for on Envato Elements and Envato Market over the last year. Plus, we take a look at the Pantone Color of the Year for 2021 – or should that be “Colors of the Year”? Let’s go!
Importance of Color In Graphic Design
While line, shape and texture are all fundamental elements of graphic design, color really is king when it comes to conveying emotion and mood. Color theory might simplify the rules of color to a degree, but when used in the right context, there’s no denying that color can impact the way that we think, feel and behave.
For those working in branding, the role of color as a brand code cannot be matched. When you think of ‘French-fry Gold’, you immediately see those golden arches, while Matel’s ‘Barbie Pink’ has become synonymous with childhood. Color can convey more than words, and whether employed for user experience or marketing, it holds a place in every designer’s toolkit.
Each year Pantone makes its pick of the Color of the Year for the year ahead, based on a myriad of data points and factors. At Envato, we typically see the impact of this prediction among the items sold or downloaded on our platforms but we’re also in a position to make our own color predictions based on the colors that our users are searching for. The color trends we’ve predicted are based on the fastest growing searches in 2020.
What are the 2021 Color Trends?
01. Gold Medalist
Gold may come across as showy and ostentatious in the wrong hands, but it’s a fundamental color for many designers. The shimmering shade is so popular, it’s been top of Envato’s color trends predictions list for three years in a row, with a tremendous volume of searches for this color and related terms taking place on Envato Elements and Envato Market. These include gold textures, gold logos, gold background, gold text and gold foil.
Envato’s Graphics Specialist Kate McInnes reveals, “Gold is versatile and can be used with so many different colour combinations and design styles, I think that’s why it regularly features as a color trend. Personally, I like gold paired with rich colors like emerald green and royal blue.”
This gold standard color is typically associated with wealth and prosperity, and while it did grow in popularity by 27% over the last 12 months, we have seen the growth rate of gold decreasing here at Envato. Perhaps, in difficult economic times, the appeal of gold might slip as people won’t want to be reminded of all the glitz and glamor that they’re missing out on.
But this color trend isn’t just about adding bling. For example, the Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey bottle uses gold’s warm and reflective qualities in an eye-catching honeycomb design to communicate the whiskey’s smooth, spiced flavour.
02. Hidden Gems
Apparently actor Adam Sandler has a bit of knack for color trend predictions. His Netflix hit Uncut Gems could be the inspiration for the second color trend we’ve seen trickle into our search filters over the last year. Gems and jewel tones are emerging victorious as the fastest growing color group, on track to brighten up your design projects in 2021. In fact, four out of the top 10 fastest growing colors in the last 12 months have been precious stones, with number 11 also falling into that category.
Azure was the number two fastest growing color in 2020 (up 93% year on year), which means that the cyan-blue color, named after the rock azurite, is sure to make waves in 2021. But the hidden gems don’t stop there; Amber, Amethyst, Sapphire and Jade all appeared in our most searched for colors of the year, and we predict their stock to skyrocket over the next 12 months. These rich jewel shades, like gold, bring a touch of luxe to graphic design.
Kate explains, “As designers look to the natural world for inspiration, gems stand out for the variety of colours shapes and textures they have. The symbolism of gems is interesting too. Amber symbolises vitality, confidence and safety. Amethyst is thought to bring protection, healing, and purification. Sapphire is for wisdom, virtue and good fortune.”
This still-life editorial shoot for PANI Magazine rocked the look – quite literally – by surrounding perfume bottles and pieces of jewellery with precious stones. It’s a great example of how jewel tones can turn everyday items into covetable objects.
03. Feeling the Blues
As we mentioned earlier, Pantone has had a big impact on color tastes in 2020, despite the mixed reaction to the announcement to the colour of the year. Apparently, when things go badly–a global pandemic for example–we don’t just feel the blues but also seek out classic and familiar colours. As well as being calming and serene (the color of the sea and the sky), blue is considered traditional and stable. It’s the color favored by 43% of Fortune 500 companies, from Dell to Facebook, because it promotes confidence and trust.
Overall, Blue was the 5th most popular color searched for on Envato in 2020, up 37% year on year. And among our fastest growing color terms searched for we saw Dark Blue–which is related to Classic Blue–achieve 96% year on year growth, as well as Azure (93% year on year growth) and Indigo (61% year on year growth) also make an appearance in the top 10.
When Itajara Hotel in Brazil wanted to communicate its classic approach to hospitality, designers chose a rich, deep-blue shade–similar to Pantone’s Classic Blue Color of the Year–to form the backdrop for its visual identity.
04. Warm & Comforting
Alongside the serenity and stability of Blue, designers are also using warm colors to add a positive vibe to their designs. In the top 10 most popular colors of the year we saw Red, Pink, Orange and Yellow, while Pink Tones were identified by Pantone as a key 2020 trend.
Warm colors can be stimulating and arousing–think Ferrari, the red sole of a Christian Louboutin stiletto, or red lipstick. They can also be subtle and sweet such as sherbert, citrus and blush.
Warm shades are a great way to attract someone’s attention, so you can use a single color to highlight or accent a specific element within your design. Alternatively, take inspiration from Ukranian designer Tania Yakunova and infuse your work with sunshine by embracing a summery color palette.
Her illustrations instantly tell us that the beverages featured are bursting with fruit flavor. From the ruby reds and rich magenta of Very Cherry, to the zesty yellow and toasted orange of Sweet Citrus, Tania’s playful designs and choice of colors are optimistic and uplifting.
05. Cooling Down
It would be remiss to say that the 2021 aesthetic will be warm and glowing. We’re also seeing a lot of greens and blues gain traction. This includes Dark Blue, Azure, Indigo, Sapphire and Light Blue as already mentioned, as well as Dark Green (64% year on year growth) and Lime (52% year on year growth).
Green has the calming benefits typically attributed to blue (no surprise, given that it’s composed of blue) and is typically associated with wealth, renewal and nature. Brands such as Tic Tac, Heineken and Lacoste have benefitted from Green’s cooling and fresh appeal in their logos.
Blue tones, Pastels and Mint tones were all identified in Pantone Fall Color Trends. In 2021, you might choose to focus on cool colors or use them alongside warm colors to add complementary and contrasting elements to your work. Take inspiration from this ad campaign where Cardi B strikes a pose for Balenciaga. The arresting image strikes a beautiful balance between cool emerald-green grass and the warm pops of sunshine-yellow.
06. Neutral & Earth Tones
You can blame Instagram and the neutral palette favored by style influencers, as neutral colors are continuing to have an impact on the design world with strong year on year growth. Being “beige” used to be an insult, but now it’s the color adopted by the fashion and interior design industries, and on Envato it’s seen 60% year on year growth in searches.
Other neutral colors such as Light Blue (50% year on year growth) and Gray (43% year on year growth) have also risen up the ranks, alongside earth tones such as Olive (27%), Brown (39%), Navy (31%) and Orange (32%). Earth tones have become more popular thanks to the emergence of organic design and were identified as a key trend for 2020 by Pantone in the color company’s Fall colors guide.
Using locally sourced and natural ingredients, it makes sense that Pepperberry combines warm pinks and peaches, neutral tones and colours found in nature, to demonstrate its down-to-earth approach to skincare.
Whether it’s for your Instagram backgrounds, or paired with a pop of neon for a campaign landing page, check out the best of earth tones and neutral color on Envato Elements: Palette Burn Orange for Procreate by a_slowik, White Decorative Elements, Frames and Borders by helga_helga, and Camouflage Patterns Set by MastakA.
07. Pantone Color of the Year 2021: Ultimate Gray & Illuminating
Each year in December time, those clever folks at Pantone Color Institute keep us guessing about what is going to be the color of the year for the year ahead, based on their data, research and color expertise.
This year was no different!
What Is the Pantone Color of the Year 2021?
While we may have been kept waiting, Pantone has more than made up for it this year by delivering not one, but two Colors of the Year for 2021. Our team at Envato had been taking bets for weeks, and we must admit both gray and yellow were considered as possibilities. However, we never expected two colors and in this combination, and we’re excited about what this marriage of colors might bring to the design world.
The Pantone Color Institute’s Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman explains, “The union of enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow of Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude. Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted; this is essential to the human spirit.”
Well there you have it! From shimmering gold to a hopeful marriage made in color heaven, presided over by Pantone; that’s a wrap for our Color Trends 2021.
Want more color inspiration? Check out our trend spotlight on Jewel Tones.