Start Thinking Visually with Tone Boards

With your brand statements down and your tone words selected, it’s finally time to start thinking about the visual aspect of your brand. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been dying to get here!


Everything you’ve written up to this point is super important. It serves as the foundation you’re building your brand on. But words alone can be a little tricky.


Words are by nature abstract and open to interpretation. Take one of Wild Olive’s tone words for example. “Energizing” can bring up so many different connotations. Some people might think of a loud concert full of dancing and singing at the top of your lungs. Others might picture lightning bolts, neon colors, and power cords.

But what I really mean is that peaceful kind of energized you feel as you hike through the woods or when you wake up from a good night’s sleep. The kind of energized you get from a coffee date with your best friend. The kind that makes you feel confident and empowered.

This is what makes tone boards are super helpful. Tone boards give you something more concrete to communicate abstract ideas with. They help you turn all your thoughts and ideas into something organized and aesthetically pleasing. They can help you communicate your brand direction to others in an impactful way. And they help you start seeing the direction your visuals graphics could take.

I can’t stress it enough. Tone boards are awesome! Follow these three steps and use the free Canva template I made for you to create your own tone boards.

  1. Gather tons of images
    Set up a folder on your desktop for each of the tone words you chose last week and start saving images that you feel represent in each word. Use Pinterest, Google, Instagram – anything at all that feels right. Don’t’ edit yet, just populate. 

    Remember to respect copyrights throughout this process. Using these images for your own inspiration should be ok. Taking credit, selling, and sharing images you didn’t create without explicit permission is definitely not. Do some research before diving in just to be sure.
    And if you’d really rather not risk it, Unsplash always has an amazing selection of high-quality high-resolution free photos that you can use any way you like.


    1. Edit
      When you have at least 20 images in each folder, start highlighting or renaming the best ones. Choose the images that do the best job at communicating your tone words – but don’t get rid of the others yet!
      Later on, you may realize that an image you thought was perfect needs to be replaced and it’s always good to have backup options.This is all pretty subjective, but keep in mind that you’re trying to communicate an idea. The images that you love most may not be the best answer. Think about how the ones you choose would be perceived by your ideal client.


  1. Populate your tone boards
    Each of your tone words will get its very own board, so pick 6 of the best images for each word to start with. Open the Canva Tone Board Template, make yourself a copy, and start plugging them in to see how they work together. Just upload your images and drag them from the left hand column onto the photo you want to replace.

    Use the larger spaces for the two most important images, the ones that communicate the most important connotations you want to get across. Pay attention to how each image is being cropped so you’re drawing attention to the right things. And feel free to switch your images around if you feel like something isn’t working.


Save, print, and hang your tone boards near your desk. Look to them whenever you’re creating something for your business to make sure you’re creating the right tone.

Your action steps:

  1. Gather at least 20 images for each of your tone words
  2. Select the ones that best communicate your tone words
  3. Download the tone board templates and create your tone boards
  4. Print and hang your tone boards for easy reference. Tah-dah!
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