Who doesn’t love spring?! It’s an excellent time to refresh and enjoy the fact that the days are getting longer and there is a whole new year ahead. With spring also comes Cadbury eggs, the Easter Bunny and pastel colors galore, which got us thinking about the use of pastels in design. Pastels and muted colors have gained popularity alongside flat design because they complement and enhance the crisp simplicity that is characteristic of flat design. When pastels are juxtaposed with flat design, they can help neutralize the harshness of sharp edges that might otherwise take over. And while we’re certainly seeing a lot of muted pastels in flat design, it looks like the design world has warmed up to pastels in general because there are plenty of skeuomorphic designs that are embracing the soft, muted tones that make pastels… pastels.
Pastels Are Great!
Pastels are excellent for combining flat design or other bold design choices (like sans serif fonts) because they don’t try to compete with that design element. Retro and nostalgia are perfect matches for pastels. Primary colors, huzzah! Pastel primaries allow you to embrace these bright, bold colors without overwhelming users.
And while we’re at it, ANY color, huzzah! If you want to use a ton of color, you can do so without overrunning other design elements (and overwhelming users). Adding a hint of pastel to big photography warms the picture up, making it more approachable and interesting. Contrasting real photography with pastels graphic draws attention where it’s needed most. Using pastels with bold typography can really make the text stand out, especially if it’s against a simple background.
With all that said, we’ve done some exploring on the interwebs, and I’ve found some sites that are killing it with their use of pastels. Each site brings forth something different about the use of pastels that might make even the most pastel pessimist swap out their favorite electric blue for a cool shade of baby blue.
14 Sites With Lovely Pastel Color Palettes
Plug 2 Studio smartly uses a muted gray color for their sans serif fonts, which is a great combination because the soft gray complements the all business sans serif. The copy on the page doesn’t scream at you — it whispers, making you get a little closer.
This site is fun and adds a little bit of dimension to its mostly flat design. With muted, happy primary colors that are whimsical and intelligent, the self-defined “colorful and crazy” company smartly calls attention to sales and CTAs with a pinkish red.
Barley’s site design uses a soft orangey-tan that’s similar to the color of barley. This site is exactly what we were talking about in the introduction — flat design throughout the site complemented by a pastel tan.
Boomerang uses pastels in its animated cartoon illustration of a landscape— it makes users look, but the calmness of the pastel colors doesn’t scare them off. It’s a great combination to introduce a design element that might otherwise seem out of place.
When you land on Cyclemon’s page, you’re greeted with a huge pop of color that’s still pleasant to view because it’s a toned down pastel orange. As you scroll down the site, the parallax scrolling introduces different pastel colors behind each bike design.
Wrist combines illustration and big color with its use of pastels. The result a colorful, interesting design that creates interest without the turn off of blindingly bright color.
This one is bright — but by combining big photography of otherwise boring wood grain and wood stumps with a wash of pastel color, users are greeted with a unique and amped up picture without making it too overwhelming.
Activate Media pulls out all the stops with pastels by using flat design elements, big photography, illustration, and sans serif fonts.
Envy uses pastels in a few ways: it’s evident in the big photography, flat design, illustration, and most notably, with their typography. They also incorporate a neat mouseover feature that turns their CTA from pastel green to pastel orange.
Goodness uses pastels primarily with their typography — it really stands out against the subtly hued beige background.
Melonfree uses a soft melon palette (because what other color palette could they really use) that emphasizes its typography and illustrations… and South Park characters, err, the designer and developer.
Retro Rosie the Riveter meets pastel with this Chicago eatery’s website. The faded colors in Rosie bring forth a feeling of nostalgia, while the juxtaposition of bold pastel orange with big photography gives the site a modern feel.
Blogin is another site that pulls out all the stops with their use of pastels. Most notable is the pastel wash over the hero image, which puts emphasis on the overlay of white, sans-serif text
Pastels For All Seasons!
Overall, pastels are an excellent choice to add emphasis, excitement and interest to your design. And while it’s a design element that’s perfect for spring, we won’t mind if it sticks around for awhile because of its versatility and adaptability with different design elements. How else are you using or seeing pastels in design? Do you think it’s a trend that’s going to stick around awhile? Let me know in the comments!