I hate colour.
Trying to keep abreast of colour space, colour theory, colour perception, colour psychology and cultural colour associations is too much. Choosing a palette, even just two or three colours, can be fraught. Thankfully, there are many wonderful tools out there to assist with the mammoth task of selecting colours, if you struggle too.
Here’s a handful of colour tools I have found helpful when trying to find, select, blend or check colours.
Adobe Color is loaded with features. You can create colour themes using the Colour Wheel and apply a range of colour harmony rules. Switch between colour modes; RGB CMYK, HSB and LAB. Generate themes or gradients by extracting colour from an image. Use Adobe’s accessibility tool to check that your theme is colour blind safe. In addition, you can explore themes and discover current colour trends across creative industries. Your saved colour themes are automatically synced to Creative Cloud and are immediately available in the Libraries panel of your desktop and mobile applications.
Google’s Art Palette works as a search engine for colour palettes. Using this tool, you can match a plethora of art based on your chosen palettes. You can explore how the same five colours from Van Gogh’s Irises can be related to a 16th-century Iranian folio or Monet’s water lilies. Art Palette also gives you the option to extract colour from an image.
ColorSpace is a colour palette generator with very nice results. The generated palette expands on colour harmony rules, so the results feel a little more random. 25 individual palettes are generated by a single colour, each one containing up to six colours. I’m quite tickled by the palette names, which include “Classy Palette”, “Grey Friends”, “Neighbor Palette” and “Discreet Palette.”
Coolors generates a completely random five-colour palette at a touch of a button. The result can then be modified, saved, shared and exported to various file formats. You can modify how a palette is generated, view a palette’s luminance map and view the palette as a gradient. There’s an option to globally adjust the palette’s hue, saturation, brightness and temperature. The features do not stop there, you can generate a palette based on an image and create a collage of that image and its corresponding palette. Coolors also has a Color Contrast Checker to make sure your palette follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Oh, and it also has an Explore section to inspire.
Color Supply’s Colour Picker is another app that generates completely random colour palettes. You can click on the colour wheel and the generated palettes to apply them to illustrations, patterns and gradients. There is also an option to use a custom hex value as your starting point. With the paid version you have access to more colour wheels and can favourite palettes.
Colour Contrast Checker
Colour Contrast Checker is one the cleanest and easiest to use contrast checkers that I have found. In art, contrast is used to add emphasis; often as a stylistic choice. But importantly, good contrast increases accessibility. This is a topic that is often overlooked and rarely discussed in illustration. Colour contrast should always be considered when making limited palette decisions and especially when applying text on images.
Colour Contrast Analyser
Colour Contrast Analyser (CCA) is a colour contrast checker desktop app with a few extra features. It has a Colour Blindness Simulator. It has a helpful colour picker and lets you switch between HEX, RGB, HSL values. These two features alone are why the CCA app is always open on my desktop.
Tint & Shade Generator
Tint & Shade Generator accurately produces tints and shades of a given hex colour in 10% increments. Unlike similar tools, this app takes maths seriously. No falling to incorrect calculation due to rounding errors, creator preferences, or other inconsistencies. In short, it does one thing very well.
Color Blender lets you blend two colours with up to 10 mid-points. That’s it, pretty simple, but extremely useful. I find myself using it almost weekly.
Average Color by Matthias Klein is another tool that does one thing well. Upload an image to quickly find out its average colour. Another tool I repeatedly find myself on.
What’s your favourite?
These are just some of our favourite colour tools — let us know in the comments which tools you like to use.