Have you ever designed something by following a colour pallet? Do your blog, business webpage, portfolio, diagrams, videos, documents and résumés each follow a colour scheme? Or do you use colours on a per need basis—with dubious results at the end? If so, we recommend learning a bit about colour pallets—a beautifully simple way to create beautiful results in your design.
What is a Colour Pallet? | What Colour Pallets look like…
The term ‘colour pallet’ stems from the wooden boards that artists use to hold the paints that they’re using currently. Like this:
For painting as well as all other forms of design, colour palleting performs the same function: an overview and easy access to the colours that you’ve decided to use most.
The digital kind of pallet that we’re talking about looks like this:
This is one we made from the Mona Lisa, just for your interest:
We’ll say more about these digital pallets in a moment.
Colour Pallets Solve so Many Design Problems | The Benefits of Colour Pallets
Colour palleting has a score of design advantages, which is surprising considering how easy it is to do. Here are some of the main ones:
- A more cohesive colour scheme. Colour pallet’s make you stick to a scheme. You have the colours right in front of you and deviating from them makes you feel a bit bad unless you have a good reason. Why do you want a cohesive colour scheme? It clearly looks better and gives a key visual appearance to your brand. Try and think of a brand that doesn’t follow a colour scheme…
- Easy access to the colours you’re using. If you’re following a colour scheme—like any sane designer, then you’ll find yourself using the same colours over and over again. With a proper colour palleting system, you’ll have direct access to all the colours and their HTML color codes, RGBs etc., all at a glance.
- Less ‘colour creep’. ‘Colour creep’ is our term for a negative tendency in design where a colour scheme is followed at the beginning, but the designer gives in to the temptation to introduce another colour here, another colour there, and soon the scheme has descended into complete chaos. This is our term for a design equivalent of ‘feature creep’ in software development—where developers don’t fight the temptation to add increasingly tangential and unnecessary features.
- A more precise way to create your colour scheme. When creating your colour scheme, you don’t want to be making it up as you go, putting colours on the page that seem to ‘work’ even though its hard to tell because they’re separated by paragraphs of whitespace. Colour pallets put the colours right next to each other, so you can see if they work with the ultimate in precision. You can see if they all work together and if each colour works with each other. You can actually go very deep with this stage if you want to, like Ethan Schoonover the creator of the Solarized colour scheme who spent 5 years perfecting this scheme to be readable and easy on the eyes. (I’m using it right now in my text editor.)
Uses for Colour Schemes | Colour Schemes for Blogs, Youtube Videos, Artworks, Typography, Logos and More…
Colour schemes are used for almost every brand. We use the word ‘almost’ just for possibility that there is a brand without a colour scheme, but we can’t think of one. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the prevalence of this practice.
Here is a by no means comprehensive list of where colour schemes are used, and the incredible thing is—that you recognise hundreds of these types of colour schemes, even if you don’t know it:
Sporting teams, schools, film genres, films, artworks, art genres, fashion trends, countries, websites, product types, political parties, blogs, video series and etc.
Why is Colour so Useful in Design?
Colour has a way of making an impression and being remembered. It makes a good or bad impression almost immediately when someone views your work—consciously or often subliminally. And then, also usually without noticing—people remember your work largely by its colour scheme and then recognise it at a later date by the colour.
“What did it look like?”
“Well it was blue… Ahh, I can’t remember exactly…”
We’ve all had this experience, when the thing we were trying to remember was just one coloured blur in our heads.
Why does colour have such hold on us? Vision is our primary sense, so visual stimulus is often prioritised. It is also interpreted at lightning speed compared to other stimuli—60,000 times faster than text. And speed of processing is inextricably linked to how well information is stored in our long term memory. Furthermore, colour is only one small piece of information to remember. Compare that to the complicated details of other visual information—the logo with a bold, fancy ‘W’, bevelled edges, a 2-part slogan, etc.
Free Online Colour Palleting Apps
The heros of this article are the wonderful digital apps that make colour palleting so easy, precise and fun. We can vouch for three web apps:
Simple online colour pallet: Coolors
Coolors is incredibly easy-to-use and beautiful. This is what it looks like:
It’s the clearest way we’ve found to lay out the colours in your pallete side-by-side with no distractions. You can rearrange their order for another perspective, adjust colours or the entire pallete by properties incrementally, pick colours from an image (like the Mona Lisa), save to your account and export to formats that will make a designer’s day. But……… only 5-colour pallets are allowed. For an app without this restriction, have a look at our next recommendation:
Lightning fast colour pallet web app: Colordot
Colordot is the fastest way to make a colour pallet thanks to its brilliantly simple mouse-driven UI. Move the mouse in different directions to adjust hue, lightness and saturation. Click to save colour, then click to adjust or delete. That’s it. And no restrictions on the number of colours! Although things can get squishy if you have a lot of them.
The only major drawback of Colordot is the flip side of its ease and speed: precision. For a more precise, colour pallet, with all the dialogs, bells and whistles, you should try–
Full-featured online colour pallet: Paletton
This online tool puts the ‘app’ in web app. It has the features of a desktop app, but somehow the load time of a webpage.
For the professional designer, there are dials and dialogs and technical terms (like ‘Tetrad’) galore. Plus numerous preview options, output viewing options, there are presets, different visualisations of the colour spectrum and of your colour pallet. In sum—there’s more than yours truly needs or knows about as a content writer, but for the graphic designer, this may seem like a rainbow wonderland. But……… there is a 4-colour limit for pallet sizes.
Now for the Fun Part
Making colour pallets! It’s colourful, fun, and the rewards of doing it are truly amazing. Not many other things in design that are so simple can have such amazing results on the quality of your logos, websites, brands, images and etc. Have fun colour scheming, and remember the number-1 rule—the reason for colour pallets in the first place: Less is More. 4-5 colours isn’t much of a limitation when you consider that most good colour pallets are less than this. Fight the evil temptation of colour creep and you should see great improvements in your design.