You’ve been working on a design in your spare time for 5 days straight… and almost everything is perfect. Everything except the colors. You have 4 different variations laid out in illustrator and keep flipping back between them. You’ve already switched the shirt colors half a dozen times, changed your bright red to something a little darker, and completely nixed the navy blue.
But it’s still not right.
photo attribute iboy_daniel
As designers, we’ve all been there. Choosing the right palette is sometimes the hardest part of the process. And when you have to throw printing considerations into the mix too (will this need an underbase? do I need to use halftones here?) it gets even more fun.
Over the years, we’ve rounded up an arsenal of color tools on the web that have helped us get better and smarter at picking color combinations for our projects. We’re going to share them here today, and hope they help you, too.
This is our top site when it comes to browsing and discovering new color combos. This is a social site, so hundreds of new colors, palettes, and patterns are added over time by users. The built in rating system lets you easily see the most popular and sorting features allow you to discover new submissions.
The concept is pretty simple: find an image you like, upload it (or enter the URL), and the site will spit back a palette of the colors in the picture. There’s a ton of different sites out there that do the same thing, but the idea is a great way to get inspiration from what’s around you.
Targeted towards web and graphic designers, I think this is a killer tool for anyone who works with colors. ColorZilla is a Firefox plug-in which allows you to color pick from any web page (including graphics) and find out it’s RGB and hex values.
This is GREAT when you find a fantastic image on the web and want to easily capture the colors from it. You can also bookmark and archive your favorites.
If you’re involved in designing tees for screen printing (as opposed to digital or vinyl), then you already probably know that PANTONE is the grand-daddy of color in print. (Never heard of them? It’s time to get educated!)
When you send a spot color design off for printing, these are the colors that your printers will be looking to match to. Be a superhero and ensure that colors come out exactly how you want by specifying all your colors from the Pantone Coated/Uncoated palettes.
Pick up a color guide to make sure that colors on screen match what you’ll actually be getting. They’re $299 from the source itself, but you can find older ones for less on EBay.
How images look on screen vary wildly from monitor to monitor. Factors like monitor manufacturer, model, user settings and even ambient/overhead lighting all influence color display. So it’s all fine and dandy if your artwork looks great on your monitor, but what if your monitor isn’t displaying colors how they really look?
Color management software + hardware (software-only solutions are entirely worthless) does much to solve the problem. Simple walk-through software combined with hardware that can sense (and adjust for) changing light conditions will improve the accuracy of your on-screen colors in just a few minutes.
There’s a tons of different packages out there at different price points, but we use and recommend Spyder.
Got any awesome color resources you use when designing? Share them below in the comments!