Color tools

Thursday 7 December 2006This is over 16 years old. Be careful.

Luckily, I don’t have to choose colors for a living. I wouldn’t be good at it. Maybe as a result of my lack of skill, I am fascinated when I find a gadget that claims to help choose colors. Not that it makes it any easier for me really, but I like playing with the knobs and levers.

Here’s a collection of color choosing helpers:

Other useful color stuff:

Colourmod is a color-picker widget you can embed in your own web application. It uses a clever transparent PNG trick to build a nice smooth picker.

Finally, if you are on a Mac, here’s some tips on how to get the most out of the built-in color picker.


I think you will like the color shemes gallery available from this site.
They have a commercial tool that look nice too.
Don't forget Gold Section. A great little Java application for finding nice related / complimentary colors.
I use ColorImpact -
Their web site also has some very good color theory basics -

Back in the Lotus Magellan days, I wrote a GIF graphics viewer. I had an interesting color problem to solve back then. First, a little background on Magellan - it is a DOS based desktop search and file viewer program - more here:

The file viewers had to display a file in sub-second response time. The interesting problem I had to solve was that I only had 16 colors (back in the days!) to display an image. Several colors were fixed by Magellan file viewer technology and so I actually had about 10 colors that I could choose. So, given any GIF file with any number of colors, to pick the "best 14" colors to display the image. Some images, like a rose, have many shades of red, whereas other images have a wide range of colors.

Lotus sponsored the MIT Media Lab and they offered us a "no doors closed" open house. I met Walter Bender there, who was a Professor in the Media Lab and one of his specialties was colors. I explained the problem, and my solution to him. We had already shipped by then, but I sure wish I knew an expert was just around the corner before I started.

It was an interesting journey to learn color theory by having to solve a real world problem like that.

By the way, Magellan is still available (for free) from Lotus here:
Oh, man, I wish I weren't color blind!

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