Tutorial: Creating Color Palettes

Blog Posts ,Software ,Tutorials
September 20, 2014

Hey everyone! This tutorial is designed to help guide you through the process of making color palettes with GIMP and Affinity Designer using a photograph as the source for our colors. You can also download a PDF with more detailed steps and images.

1. From Finder, find the picture you want to use as the basis for your color palette and right click to open it in GIMP. In GIMP, go to Filters -> Blur -> Pixelize. The goal will be to extract the core colors of our selected image by breaking it down into a reduced set of shades. Choose a pixel size based on how large your image is. For a 4000 x 3000 pixel image, I suggest using a pixel size of 300 or 400.

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2. The pixelation process may make the colors in your photo seem duller. If the image colors look off from what you’re looking for, adjust the contrast by going to Colors -> Brightness-Contrast until it matches the color theme you want to make.

3. While you can use any shape you’d like to convey a series of colors, my preferred arrangement is with circular wedges to evoke the sensation of a specialized color wheel. The main importance is to have a series of shapes made that you can assign color to. In Affinity Designer, open the wedge template.

Download .afdesign wedge template

4. In GIMP, use the Color Chooser to select the first color for your palette. If you are working with a brightly colored image, it is a good idea to pick one of the more vibrant colors for the first one. The color you choose will appear in the foreground color square on the left side.

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5. Double click the color in the foreground box to open the detailed color view. Use CMD + C to copy the hex value from the HTML notation box – you’ll need this value in Affinity Designer to set the colors of the wedges.

6. Switch back to Affinity Designer and select one of the wedges in your circle by clicking on one of the wedges twice with the Pointer Tool. We will be setting the color of this wedge to match the color that we copied from the image. On the right side panel, select the fill circle at the top by double clicking to open the detailed color menu. In the field labeled with the ‘#’ symbol, use CMD + P to paste the copied HTML notation from GIMP.

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7. Repeat steps 7-11 to fill your remaining wedges with coordinating and complementary colors. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to include variations on the shades and pick one or two color families to make the main focus. Export your finished color palette into your desired file format by going to File -> Export. For a basic image, PNGs preserve file transparency and can be used in a variety of common applications.

Thai Sunset

Don’t be afraid to play around with the colors – there are endless possibilities for color palettes based on just one image. While this method does help find a range of coordinating colors, it isn’t fail proof and the quality of the base image can affect how well the colors blend together.

You can create your own templates to fill with colors or download the ones provided below. You can customize the presentation of your color palettes depending on personal preference.

Affinity Designer Wedge Template .afdesign file

Scalable Vector Graphic Template .svg file

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