Color palettes

10 Feb

Creating a good color palette is an art in itself. I haven’t mastered that art yet, but I now have two tools to make it easier, and take the guesswork out of picking colors from the standard color palette. As a bonus, I can now create my own custom color palettes. How cool is that?

First, there is the free Adobe Kuler web application, which also has a desktop application, based on Adobe AIR. I tried both, because the desktop application has just a subset of the web application, yet the desktop application is more compact and therefore easier to use.

Basically, with Adobe Kuler, you create color palettes containing five colors. You can also use color palette others have made. Once you’ve registered an Adobe Account and use it to log in to the Adobe Kuler website, you can store your own color palettes online. I like the option to create a palette based on an image, either on your computer, or on Flickr.

Now you have your color palette in your Adobe Kuler application, and then what? Well, unless you have an Adobe application from the CS3 or CS4 suite, not much. You can enjoy the colors in the palette you’ve created.

Enter ColorSchemer Studio OSX. This is a for-pay application ($49.99 USD) to create custom color palettes for several applications, include those of Adobe. More interestingly for me is that you can create Mac OS X color palette files (.clr), that are stored in the color subfolder of your own user library folder (located at ~/library/color/).

Now if you open the color palette in any application that offers that feature (all drawing applications, and many other applications as well), you can select your own color palette from the Color Palettes menu (see screenshot). The default is Apple, but you can select your own from the drop down menu.

color palette menu

So, how do you import the colors in the color palette you created in Adobe Kuler into ColorSchemer? Here is a brief description of how I did it.

I used this photo of a giraffe to create this custom color palette in Adobe Kuler.

Giraffe Portrait - Woburn Safari Park - Monday August 27th 2007 Adobe Kuler custom giraffe color palette

To copy the colors in the Adobe Kuler color palette I used the color picker tool in ColorSchemer Studio OSX, which picks a color as base color. Drag this base color into the Favorite Colors section. Now repeat for each of the five colors. Next, rename the colors into meaningful color names (see screenshot).

ColorSchemer Studio OSX

It is a bit of a hack, but hey, it works!

If you want to use this color palette in other applications on your Mac, you should export Favorite Colors to an Apple color palette file (with the file extension “.clr”), with the export function of ColorSchemer Studio OSX. The file should be stored into the appropriate location on your hard drive (color sub-folder of the library folder of your user account). From then on, the color palette should be available for all programs that offer a color palette based on Apple’s color palette subsystem.

After I did all that, I fired up PaintBrush, and drew a giraffe from memory, using the color palette. In addition to the colors of the giraffe, I created two additional colors, one for the grass, and one for the sky.

Giraffe from memory

I like drawing with a limited color palette, because it makes the result so much clearer. Picking the right colors is crucial, and it is nice to have some applications to help you with that. I highly recommend both Adobe Kuler (freeware) and ColorSchemer Studio OSX ($49.99 USD).

That is all.

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