Color palettes are a vital part of any visual medium. Color choices often frame the larger content in a way which emphasizes particular emotions. However, people often concentrate so much on the content of any given piece that they forget the emotional element.
Colors communicate emotion in a way which is unmatched by any other technique. One color palette can communicate a brisk winter’s morning. Another collection of colors can make people feel the comfort of a spring day. The options are as many and varied as the colors which exist in the world.
Color palettes can even suggest different time periods by emulating media of the era. Different color combinations are often used for branding as well. Oftentimes people aren’t consciously aware of why they get a craving for certain products when they see specific colors. They’re probably not even aware of it happening. This effect just goes to show how tightly associated colors are with how we see the world. Tying a message together with strong color choices will ensure that it’s heard.
However, it’s not always easy to design an effective color palette. We quite literally have millions of different colors to choose from. On top of that we need to work through a wide variety of different usage scenarios. Color choices for one project will often be totally different than what we’ll need for our next. How do we know which colors to use and how can we make the process of choosing between them easier? The answer is color theory and color palette generators.
Color Theory and Harmony
Color theory has evolved over the years as a way to help people create the perfect complement of colors. By using color theory we can ensure that our choices will ease people into certain moods. We can also help guide people’s eyes to certain points. Color theory can even ensure that all color choices will work in harmony with each other.
Harmonious color combinations or schemes in color theory rely on specific rules which govern our choices. Our initial choice of a color and intent will work within these rules to help us pick secondary and tertiary colors. However, at this point we begin to see one of the larger issues with color theory. There’s a huge number of colors out there to choose from. And working all of those colors into specific rule sets to create a larger palette can prove a rather daunting task. So how can we work with a significant number of colors while also making proper use of color theory? This is where computer programs and color palette generators come into the picture.
Using Computers to Create Effective Color Palettes
Computers have revolutionized most aspects of the modern world. And art is no exception to that rule. Some of the earliest programs for microcomputers were centered around graphic design. And today almost anything related to art has a digital helper of one kind or another.
There are a wide variety of programs in the world which can help people create and use custom color palettes within the guidelines offered by color theory. Some of them take a jack of all trades approach and try to cover as many aspects as possible. Other programs focus on specific elements of palette generation in order to provide the most detailed results possible.
There’s quite a few programs out there which can help people generate color palettes that are as simple or complex as they need them to be. In fact, there are so many options that it’s often hard to know which programs to use. But we’ll go over the most popular and innovative programs to help highlight the best of the best. Each of the programs can help you create harmonious color palettes for graphic design, photography, interior design, painting or other artwork.
Best Color Palette Generators
Coolors is especially notable for a high level of availability and usability. You can use it online as a web app or chrome extension. It’s also available as an app for iOS and as an Adobe extension. One of the most important benefits of Coolors is its accessibility. This color palette generator runs on the vast majority of platforms people might want to use.
Even someone with limited experience in color palettes can get the hang of Coolors fairly quickly. The ease of use even extends to using existing color palettes as a base. For example, users can upload a picture to use as a source to sample from. If a user signs up for an account they’ll be able to save their palettes to the cloud. However, even without an account there’s a number of ways to export your work. It’s quite easy to have Coolors open in a browser and then simply copy and paste results to other programs.
Colormind is another solid choice for people looking for the most user friendly option. Like Coolors, Colormind gives people an option to create a palette from uploaded images. It also has some extra features for people who want to use the palette for a website. You can instantly apply a created palette to an example dashboard design to see what it would look like in action.
Additionally, Colormind has a public API which users can tie into their own programs. It uses REST, which means that almost any modern programming language can tie into Colormind’s API. What’s more, this high tech perspective extends to Colormind’s underlying design. The system as a whole uses machine learning to generate palette ideas from various online sources.
3. Color Designer
Color Designer is a step up in complexity from what we’ve looked at so far. However, it’s still quite user friendly. This is also a case where advanced features sometimes make things easier. Color harmonies are often more difficult to work with when the finer details are hidden beneath the surface.
Color Designer makes color harmonies as simple as just clicking on the specific type you’re interested in. Color Designer gives users the option of complementary, analogous, split-complementary, triad, square and rectangle color harmonies. Users can also use swatches, color picker and a mass editor tool to make a palette.
The number of additional options might seem overwhelming at first. But everything is categorized in a way which makes it easy to understand with a little trial and error. While more complex than the options we’ve looked at so far, there’s nothing here which a newcomer can’t pick up fairly quickly.
Color Designer is mainly used as a web app. However, it’s also available as a plugin for Adobe XD. When used this way it brings the full complement of options for creating color harmonies.
Paletton is another somewhat advanced choice. But like Color Designer it shows how additional complexity can sometimes make tasks easier. Paletton puts a heavy focus on color harmony right from the start. So far the programs we’ve looked at have nestled color harmony as one of many options. But Paletton assumes that users want to build a design right on top of a color harmony based ideal.
Users begin by selecting a color harmony rule. From here we’re presented with a complex color wheel to show how the color harmony rules have been applied. We can also begin to work with the results to tailor it to specific needs.
The large color wheel in particular really drives home how much work the program is doing. Color wheels typically have twenty four or less choices. This is simply a limit of ease of use. An analog based color wheel would become unwieldy with too many colors. But in digital form Paletton can, and does, give a truly vast frontier of color to work with.
The most significant downside to Paletton comes from the development cycle. If Paletton lacks a feature that you’re looking for then the chances of it ever appearing are fairly low. It’s a great tool if it matches what you need at this exact moment. But it’s best to consider it as a finished project with little chance of future expansion.
5. Adobe Color Wheel
Adobe Color Wheel is similar to a more complex Paletton in a lot of ways. Perhaps the most notable similarity comes from a foundation built on color harmony. Adobe Color Wheel starts users out with color harmony rules. But impressively enough Adobe Color Wheel offers even more options for color harmony than Paletton.
Adobe Color Wheel also gives users a lot more to do with the results of their work. People can easily share the results of their work with many Adobe products through the creative cloud. This means that it’s easy to create a color foundation in Adobe Color Wheel and then make use of it in Photoshop.
Adobe Color Wheel also provides a wide range of methods to import or export palettes. As with some of the other programs a user can extract palettes from uploaded images. The results can then be used as either a theme or gradient.
Adobe Color Wheel also has options for potential usability issues. For example, you can use the tool to help iron out potential issues for colorblind users. At the moment colorblindness is the only accessibility issue the tool can help with. However, this might change in future updates. And this also illustrates another benefit of Adobe Color Wheel.
Adobe is a large company with some strong motivation to keep pushing forward in both usability and power. It’s likely that they’ll continue to offer new features over time. This means that new features for Adobe Color Wheel are quite likely in the future.
Using the Right Tool for the Job
We often want to declare a tool to be the absolute best for any and all situations. However, it’s important to keep in mind just how large the scope of graphic design really is. Sometimes people want to create a quick combination of colors for a certain task. The same person might want to create something far more involved for a different project.
Different usage scenarios will often work better with different tools. Likewise, it’s often quite easy to share data between different apps, tools and programs. As such, it’s always a good idea to become familiar with a wide variety of different options so that you’re always using the right tool for the job.
Each of the color palette generators we’ve looked at have something to differentiate them from the rest. Likewise, each has unique benefits for different scenarios. Looking over what each has to offer can ensure that you’re able to get the best results for any given task.