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Corporate Color Palette: 10 Free Online Color Tools

by James Fielding 28. January 2011 14:39

Intro | Part 1

A common color question for a web designer, at least where I live in Muskoka, is, "What tools do you use to build a website's color palette?"

Obviously a shelf of Microsoft and Adobe development tools helps a professional designer "play ball". But more and more, I find myself pulling up some really great online resources...and all are free. Now it used to mean that, at least in the design world, "free" was synonomous with "crappy". Not any more. Here are 10 Free Online Color Palette Tools that will help you knock your website's color scheme out of the park:

Colour Lovers Trends1. Colour Lovers Trends – If you are shopping for a color palette, this is the place to start.

Pros: Expansive and regularly updated Trends list of live A+ designed websites to peruse, complete with each site’s color palette.

Cons: Sciosoft Systems website hasn’t been included in the Trends list, yet.

Kuler Adobe2. Kuler from Adobe – For me, when I’m building up a color palette, I almost always start at Kuler.

Pros: Integrated into Adobe Studio, which is a big plus for workflow. Intuitive user interface. Big color blocks make it easier to get a good feel for your palette, and what message it conveys to the viewer, partcularily when using it in area fills.

Cons: Unless you're importing your palette into an Adobe product, your post palette creation options are limited.

Color Explorer Color Matching3. Color Explorer: Color Matching – Color Explorer is actually a comprehensive set of color tools. Sadly, I only have space to highlight the three tools I use most, but in sum total it’s an impressive package. As with most things in life, with many features comes added complexity. As such, Color Explorer has a bit of a learning curve (e.g. if you have a #hex color in mind you need to add it to you color palette in “Color Picker” tab before you can use it “Color Matching” tab.) Having said this, Color Explorer is a great package and well worth the small investment in time it will take to start producing amazing color palettes.

Pros: Excellent proprietary palette generation algorithms in addition to the standard color theory algorithms (i.e. complementary, single hue, triadic, etc.). Intuitive and easy to transition to other color tools. Adding colors or removing a single color from your custom palette (as you build it up) is easy and all done within Color Explorer, so there is no need to use another program to piece palettes together. Created palettes can output in a variety of file formats including Adobe and standard PNG.

Cons: Cannot enter #hex colors directly into Color Matching (must be entered in Color Picker). First time users may find it challenging to find a particular color tool, although each tool itself has an identifyable purpose and is easy to use.

Color Explorer Image Color Import4. Color Explorer: Image Color Import – Have you ever wanted to capture the color palette from a photograph. Look no further than Color Explorer’s Image Color Import tool.

Pros: Fast, really fast...less than a minute to generate a color palette from an image file.

Cons: Not 100% foolproof. Sometimes you’ll need to increase the number of colors returned to get all the colors that you want (although you can edit the palette post import). Maximum file size upload is 250K.

Color Explorer Contrast Analysis5. Color Explorer: Contrast Analysis – Ever wondered if your new website’s viewers will be able to read your content if you use a specific color? Not only does Color Explorer’s Contrast Analysis tell you, it gives you a nice report to present to your boss, justifying your decision.

Pros: Quickly test/compare color combinations for optimal readability and conformance to the accessibility standards.

Cons: High standards conformance doesn’t necessarily equal great color palette. Remember, a straight black & white palette is going to give you the highest possible contrast rating, but it probably isn’t the best palette.

website6. Aviary: Color Swatches – If you are looking for a powerful set of free imaging tools, Aviary Tools are for you. The truth is, some of these tools should be paid for...they are just that high a quality...don’t tell Aviary that, though.

Pros: Color generation algorithms are highly adjustable through the use of UI sliders. Really easy to get a palette with multiple colors that you really want. Pixilation feature for on image color import is a handy for isolating colors on an imported image.

Cons: Tools require multiple clicks to launch...OK, I'm being really picky here, but it might be confusing for first time users. Image Color importer only allows manual color selection (it would be nice to see an automatic capture, too).

Color Scheme Designer7. Color Scheme Designer – Don’t let the simple UI layout fool you. When it comes to building color palettes, Color Scheme Designer is a serious contender.

Pros: Simple & efficient user interface. Outputs color palette to sample webpages to help you envision colors in layout. Palette export is comprehensive. Easy to cycle between palette generation algorithms.

Cons: Palette adjustment is buried and not overly intuitive.

ColoRotate8. ColoRotate – If there was ever a prize for reenvisioning a user interface for color tools, it should go to ColoRotate.

Pros: Innovative user interface allows you to visualize and put together great color combinations (particularly in the similar hue range) that you would not get using other color tools. An experienced user can get unique results.

Cons: Innovation is a double-edged sword: For new users, ColoRotate can seem unwieldy.

Colors on the Web Color Wizard9. Color Wizard – This straight-forward color palette tool is simple to use, and easy to produce a palette.

Pros: Arguably the easiest color palette tool (in this list) to use. Allows you to enter a #hex color, make some adjustments, and then reset back to your entered color with a single click.

Cons: Limited functionality outside making basic palettes. Doesn’t appear to be any export feature for palette.

website10. Colour Lovers: Copaso – Another color palette tool, Colour Lover’s Copaso allows you to easily piece together colors into a custom palette.

Pros: Well laid out user interface is intuitive to use. Advanced and Simple modes is a nice touch .

Cons: Some features (like Import From A Photo) require you to create an account.

Hopefully some of these great online color tools will fit the bill in you next project, or at least help get you started. Let me know what you think. NOTICE: My comments are as-of-post-date, but obviously these tools will evolve. If you think I need to make any updates, please email me.

Happy Color Tooling,
James Fielding

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Sciosoft Systems is a Canadian web design & development company based in Muskoka, which is in central Ontario. We provide ASP.NET website & Windows Server application development services to small and medium-sized business, as well as local government and not-for-profit groups. If you have a website project you’d like to discuss, please visit us at

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Comments (1) -

Solar systems
Solar systems United States
12/12/2011 1:54:11 AM #

Givin the online color tools are very nice and i like most of the 8 and 10 cooler tool thanks for the sharing the blog...

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The opinions expressed herein are the personal opinions of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Sciosoft Systems Inc.