10 Tools for Creating Brilliant Color Schemes


1. Adobe Kuler

Adobe Kulers’ user-friendly, versatile, cloud-based interface creates a slick experience. It’s built around three core principals: Users can browse, build and share color schemes through the site, desktop (Adobe Air) app or (Mac OS X) Dashboard widget. It’s also available inside the Adobe CS4 Creative Suite applications.

You can search color schemes by color, concept, hex values, tags and more. The ability to create a scheme based on the colors of an image you upload is also an incredibly useful feature. Once you’ve settled on your color combination, download it as an Adobe Swatch Exchange file or by simply accessing the color table values.



2. COLORlovers

COLORlovers is much more than a color scheme designer; it’s an active, creative community of people passionate about color, a place to discuss color-related topics and create and share colors, palettes, patterns and the latest trends. At present, it boasts 6.2 million colors in 2.6 million color palettes created and shared by its users.

Of special note is Copaso, an advanced color palette tool that lets you create beautiful color schemes and custom themes. Pick colors from a color wheel or upload an image and optionally pixelate it to isolate particular colors. Furthermore, the impressive community has generated a useful search facility to find colors and palettes.



3. ColoRotate

With ColoRotate, explore colors and select color combinations by generating color palettes in real time 3D, just as the human brain perceives color. It’s available free online or as an iPad app, and can connect to Adobe Photoshop CS5 or CS6 to update foreground and background colors and send palettes to your desktop.

The interactive 3D color pyramid is fun and intuitive to use and enables you to vary the color hues or tints, as well as blend two colors simultaneously. You can check how your chosen palette works with typography, browse through a selection of palettes and export your own color palette in various formats.



4. Color Scheme Designer

The interface of Color Scheme Designer is incredibly simple to use, which means you can start creating a color palette in seconds. There are a wealth of options in the type of scheme you require, from monochromatic to accented analogic. These affect the number of colors used in the palette and also how the colors interact with one another. If you’re not familiar with these terms, go to Help and click Tooltips to display an explanation of each part of the interface.

Along with the ubiquitous color picker, there are several other options to fine tune your palette, or if you choose Adjust Variants, you can edit colors individually. The color-blind preview is particularly useful to simulate how people with common color vision deficiencies will see your color scheme. You can export your palette in a variety of formats, with the text option offering the greatest flexibility.


5. Pictaculous

Built by the team at MailChimp, Pictaculous generates a dedicated color palette from your uploaded image. It creates a primary palette of five colors, out of the colors directly extracted from that image. It pulls in color suggestions from both Adobe Kuler and ColorLovers, so you can quickly check color combinations.

One great strength of Pictaculous lies in the fact you can snap a picture with your mobile, email it and the service will generate a matching color palette, including hex codes. This is particularly useful if you spot some inspiration on the go, and want to quickly create a color palette from the snaps.

All palettes can be downloaded as Adobe Photoshop Swatch Files or by simply copying the generated hex codes.



6. Color Blender

ColorBlender’s main feature is to generate a six-color “blend” from your chosen base color, making it easy and efficient to create a complementary color scheme. To start, select a preferred color using the color picker, then a six-color matching palette is automatically calculated.

If you would like to take more control over your palette, you can choose to edit colors individually by switching to “Direct Edit.” In this mode, you can select any of the six color swatches and edit the color using the RGB sliders. There are several options to export your palette, either as a Photoshop Color Table (.ACT), via email or you can bookmark the palette in your web browser for future reference.



7. Color Explorer

ColorExplorer is packed full of useful tools for designing and working with color palettes. It has a well-organized set of features, which can be used individually or together. You can jump straight into the Color Picker, try the color matching tool using the traditional RGB mix or take the hue, saturation and lightness approach. There are eight color-matching algorithms to experiment with, which use scientific and theoretical models, or you can explore the color libraries and analysis and conversion tools.

The color import extracts a palette from an uploaded image or from HTML, CSS or text files to evaluate and work with colors. Native Adobe Swatch Exchange (.ASE) allows for export to Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Export is also available as plain text or a PNG overlaid, with RGB values and HTML color codes.



8. Colors On The Web

Colors on the Web is a dedicated resource to color theory and the importance of colors within web design. Of particular note is Color Wizard, which lets you start with a base color and returns a matching color palette. What started as an ASP application back in 2000 is now a full flash app with enough features and variations to create a complete palette.

Along with generating a matching five-color palette from your base color, the application returns a set of hue, saturation and tint and shade variations. You can also generate a random color palette if you are having trouble creating your own. Colors are outputted as hex code values.



9. Color Munki

ColorMunki offers solutions to color control for both photographers and designers. Usually this is as hardware; however, it also offers a Palette Creation Area free on its website. It provides introductory functionality to get you started creating your own color scheme.

You can generate palettes from either the Munsell or PANTONE Goe coated color systems. Once you select a color, clicking on it will give you a list of options, including “Add Patch,” which adds that color to your palette. From there, you can view similar and harmonious colors, save it for reference or download it (as a CSV file). It also gives you the ability to search user-submitted palettes using keywords.



10. 0to255

Perhaps the simplest tool listed here, that doesn’t mean 0to255 is any less useful. Instead of spending an age manually finding lighter or darker shades of your chosen color, 0to255 allows you to find colors in the same spectrum as one another, within seconds. Ideal for finding that perfect hover, border or gradient color.

Start by picking a color, enter its hex value, and you will be presented with a range of colors from your chosen color through to black and white, using an interval optimized for web design. Once you’ve found a color you like, simply click on it, and the hex code is copied to your clipboard.

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