Seems all the big tech companies have to have a “lab” these days. All their products come out with the obligatory “beta” label in small letters beside the product name (yawn) but if you go to the lab you get the really bleeding edge “alpha” stuff… the stuff they used to call beta. Beta being the stuff they used to call “version 1.0”. Stay with me… this is very very important stuff!
Anyway, over at Adobe Labs they cooked up something really funky last year called Kuler. It looks like this:
Wow, no beta label. How… radical.
Kuler is a Flash browser-based colour scheming tool, which has a social dimension to it, in that it stores and compares schemes that you and others have pulled together.
What I really like about it… the thing that I think differentiates it from other (vaguely) similar tools out there, is the interactivity. There’s a page for editing and playing around with a given scheme, or starting your own. And you get a colour circle thingy to play with. And when you grab a handle kind of thingy and move it around all the colours in the palette update in sync, and it looks pretty impressive. Don’t you love the quality of my description here… riveting stuff!
Needless to say, don’t even try and work out what I’m saying. You need to play with this baby to appreciate it properly.
Now as a designer from way back, I get excited about this sort of thing and my creative juices just go wild. Just like when I’m drooling over good typefaces or good photography. If you’re that way wired too, you’ll love Kuler… to date there are almost 6,000 saved colour schemes!
A Little Trick From An Old Graphics Guy
While we’re talking about Kuler, some of you are scratching your heads wondering when you yourself are going to need a tool like that… since you’re not a designer and you’re happy with the blog theme you’ve got.
Well, for you… think wider. Are you trying to work out a colour scheme for a bedroom you’re planning to remodel perhaps? Or you’re into scrapbooking and want to get out of a “colour rut” perhaps? Here’s a tip I use…
When I have a client website/blog/whatever to design I often start with the photography. Photos mean so much and I often get the client to sign off on the images first (forgetting logos for a moment). Often it might just be one “hero” image that I start off with.
For purposes of example, here’s the Aussie outback (gorgeous!):
So what then?
Here’s my trick: in Photoshop (or similar program), I apply a very heavy blur to the photo. A really really blurry blur. Which has the effect of washing the photo out completely and leaving me with smudgy areas:
Now, depending on the photo, I can usually get those colour areas to amount to an “averaging out” of the different prominent colours of the photo. And I can now use these colours (or very close relatives) as the basis of a colour scheme, knowing that they are well represented in the photo (which will almost certainly look really good).
If I need to I can go another step, and ask Photoshop to show me what this blurred image would look like optimized as an 8-colour-palette GIF image. Not because I want to save it as that, but because I want to see solid colours:
What I would do at this stage is go to Kuler, stick in a few of the colours you’ve pulled together from the above exercise, and let Kuler help you find some additional “contrast” colours, and so forth.
Meanwhile as I was writing this post, I went to Kuler with these colours and within moments found someone else’s scheme called “Riboflavin” that looks like this:
How close was our photo to this scheme?! It just shows that “nature shots” often have naturally occurring colour schemes in them… neat!
So there you have it. Using a photo to get you to a closely derived colour palette.
Hope that’s useful to you. Now go play 🙂