Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Thinking in Color - Part II

A little over a year ago, I wrote about some of the online tools I turn to when I'm trying to piece colors together. Color theory isn't one of those things I do instinctively (unlike my best friend, Kimmy, who is a natural!) so I've been working on improving my overall design sensibility and digging a little deeper into what makes good design. One aspect of that is how colors work (or don't work) together.

For starters, I invested in two subscription services: Lynda.com and Adobe Creative Cloud. For a very reasonable monthly fee, Lynda.com offers unlimited access to thousands and thousands of training videos on every single topic you can imagine, including web and graphic design, photography, and color theory. Learning is one of those things I don't think I'll ever get tired of and this subscription has turned out to be wonderful for those times when I want to dig a little deeper into something than I can get with a Google search.

The Adobe Creative Cloud membership offers me access to every single one of the programs that are part of the Creative Suite of products - but instead of paying $2,000 or more for the software, I pay a monthly subscription fee that ensures my software is up-to-date at all times. It's a win-win for me - I'm a heavy user of Photoshop and dabble with InDesign and Lightroom, and the subscription winds up saving me a ton of money on the programs I use the most.

But if you're looking for a color design tool that ups your game without a commitment or a financial investment, let me introduce you to Adobe Kuler

Select the color "rule" you want to try from the drop down menu, set your base (or primary) color, and then start moving the pistons in the center of the color wheel. Any change you make in one color results in changes to the others, making sure your colors stay related. You can also tweak individual colors using the sliders below the color blocks for fine tuning. When you come up with something you like, you can set up a free Adobe account and save the color palette to your themes so you can refer to them later.

But one of my favorite features is the ability to create a theme or palette from a photo. Upload a photo and Kuler automatically chooses a palette based on one of five pre-programmed color "moods." (This photo is one of my favorites from a Hawaii vacation we took in 2009.)

All of these themes evoke the overall feel of the photo, but each one has it's own unique vibe - except that the 2nd and 4th palettes are nearly identical. I am really drawn to that taupey grey on the right side of those two - very warm and rich, and not at all a color I would have picked out of this photo.

This photo (another favorite from our Hawaii trip) gets tweaked in a whole different direction.

I love that third palette - it really reads "spring" to me, and is composed of colors that aren't at all what I would have pulled out of this photo.

Honestly, this is one of those toys... uh, I mean tools.... I could spend hours with. It makes me think about colors in a new way, and usually pushes me towards color combinations that are completely outside my comfort zone. I've been trying out some of those color combinations in recent enameling experiments and I hope to have some things to share with you soon.

So what new digital tools are making their way into your studio? Are there new things you're finding you can't do without?

Until next time -


  1. These all look like so much fun!! Thanks for sharing Francesca, I'm going to check them out!

  2. Thank you for this excellent advice! I have color 'challenge/block' all the time, which saps my creativity. As a matter of fact, I was just housekeeping at my bead table, looked at my paper color wheel, sighed, and stored it away..so disappointed in myself. This was right before I tuned in to the AJE Blog. It's like this installment on AJE was meant to be just for me! Thank you, Francesca! I will put the Adobe toy...uhm, tool!...to good use! Carol

  3. Carol, how wonderful! That makes me really happy - make sure you check back with us and let us know how it goes!

  4. I love "Design Seeds," I will look at that now and again for inspiration. I used to play with this too (free color palette generator): http://www.degraeve.com/color-palette/ It is a fun way to mentally sort through my bead stash and think of new ways to use it.

  5. What a fantastic toy! I mean tool ;)
    I have used CraftArtist for drawing a colour palette out of my favourite photos - it's a great way to push you into thinking outside of your comfort zone.
    Thanks for sharing!


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