creative juice

Mood boards for design

When you’re first assigned a project–maybe it’s to create new branding, a website, or a suite of packaging–you need to establish a direction or a “mood” that guides you in developing a look.

Mood boards are a great tool to help you set the tone of your project. Every time you design for that particular client or brand, you can open up your mood board and refer to it for inspiration, color palette, and guidance.

How do you create one?


  1. You can use tools like Pinterest to create a board specifically geared toward your project.
  2. PicMonkey has some beautiful Pinterest board templates. For this type of mood board, collect the images you like and upload them to the PicMonkey site. (You’ll need to set up an account.)
  3. Canva is a fantastic tool for assembling brand colors and fonts.
  4. In Photoshop, you can create your own mood board template, palettes, and more. Customize it from the ground up.

Pinterest Example

For this example, say you’re developing a branding for a saltwater taffy company. If you create a mood board using Pinterest, make a separate board for the project. (i.e. Saltwater taffy)

Choose images you’re drawn to and pin them to the board. Maybe you’re drawn to colors that represent the seaside. Or perhaps you’re attracted to old-fashioned candy shop stripes and colors. This exercise gives you a good idea for the look and feel of your project.

The downside to using Pinterest as a mood board is that you can’t upload a color palette or font for your brand. You also have to scroll through your board to see it all, so if you have a lot of images it’s not very good for getting an overall idea for tone. I recommend using one of PicMonkey’s templates for Pinterest. With a PicMonkey template, you can create a more focused mood board. Though you still can’t load in a specific palette or font, at least you can get a more concentrated snapshot of a “look.” Then, you can upload your completed template to Pinterest. You may even consider doing several of these to compare looks, if you’re deciding between two or more styles.

Here’s a YouTube video example of how to create a mood board in Pinterest:

PicMonkey Example

Canva example

Canva is a very easy-to-use online tool. While I wouldn’t say this is perfect for putting together a mood board, it’s great for assembling branding pieces for your project. It’s free, but if you want to utilize the more useful functions, like uploading your logos and fonts, you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription fee. There’s a 30-day trial, so go ahead and play around with it to see if it’s something you’ll truly use. One of the cool features is that you can invite others to your brand kit “team.” So, if you’re working with a design team, you can share your color palettes, fonts, and images with them.

Another cool thing about Canva, is that it has tons of templates. The highlight is that you can get templates specifically designed for all kinds of social media usages. For example, they have templates for Facebook ads, banners, and posts, as well as for Twitter, etc. I love that you don’t have to Google ad/banner/post sizes for each social media platform. It’s all done for you. Once your branding is set up, this streamlines producing ads and posts.

Here’s a really quick YouTube video which shows how one designer uses Canva to make a mood board:

Photoshop example

I’m not going to include an example here, because with Photoshop, the sky’s the limit. While it may be more time consuming to set up your mood board in PS, there are no constraints as to size it is or what goes where. You have the freedom to create your board just the way you want it. In fact, you can create a template you can use for each project’s mood board. Include colors, fonts, logos, and imagery for inspiration. It’s up to you.

Just in case you want to use Photoshop, but don’t want to spend the time creating your own template, be sure to check out Creative Market for inexpensive mood board templates which can be opened in Photoshop, and have smart objects to click and replace with your own images.

Here’s a link: Creative Market Mood Board Templates

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