Choosing Colors: Color Schemer


Color Schemer Application Start Page
Color Schemer Start Page

If you love choosing colors or you hate it because you never get it right,  I highly recommend an inexpensive software program called Color Schemer.  It is both useful and captivating. It recommends and allows you to create color samples and save them in palettes, collections of colors—without wasting any paint.

Sample and Match Colors

Color Schemer Sampler Tool measuring the color of an orange lily.
Color Schemer Sampler Tool

You can also sample and match color with any photograph or other image on the screen. Love the colors in that landscape by Vincent van Gogh or that Martha Stewart Living interior? Choose Tools > Color Screen Picker and save the color. You can sample a whole photograph to create a full palette of colors based on a field of wild flowers.

Even more fabulous is the quality of color. On a computer, screen color is instant and luminous. It doesn’t take hours of mixing and 45 coats of thin glazes to get a rich pale blue.

Automatically Generate Palettes

ColorSchemer Sample Palettes
ColorSchemer Sample Palettes

The program will also create analogous splits, angled accents, complements, smooth gradients, shades, soft blends, rectangle shades, semi-circle blends, mono comps, and tetrad blends. I have not a clue what an angled accent or tetrad blend is but my original palette was transformed into 20 or so radiant prisms of perfectly calibrated colors. Fabulous.

Once you have a palette of colors you like, you can name it and save it. As a graphic or website designer this is fabulously helpful because you can save by project. if you are doing website design, you can print out the html # codes for each color. You can also check your color to see how they work for those who are color blind.

Share Color Palettes & Get Ideas

Color Schemer Themed Palette
Color Schemer Themed Palette

Color Schemer also has a website where people upload their palettes so you can scan through tens of thousands of examples, and even rate them. They are all named: A Rose, A Walk in the Park, Angel in the Moonlight. Even Baby Poop and Windows XP. Wedding names are common and get a lot of stars: Winter Wedding, My Wedding, Silver Wedding, Tiffany’s Berry Wedding, Sunny Wedding Day. You get the idea.remixed colors, you have to mix them every time you want to use them. With Color Schemer, you just enter the color number or drag and drop to your new palette or graphics program. Some artists keep records of 2 drops this and 4 drops that, but many painters and designers are intuitives. Intuitives think differently—we do it the hard way and recreate.

And avoid Taxes

I spend hours there, particularly instead of doing my taxes, like today when I’ve received my last deferral and have four days to finish them. I have a whole folder of palettes, my own and others. Totally useless. Complete waste of time. So I recommend Color Schemer if you care about color, or even if you don’t. You might grow to love it since you don’t even have to mix the paint.

Color Schemer Website

This entry  is Part II of a two part post on Color. In case you didn’t take my advice the first time, you  may enjoy  Part I: Colorist Painting that might contribute to your appreciation of color and thus of this program.

Colorist Painting

This post on Colorist Painting is Part I of  an entry on color. Part II is on Color Schemer, a computer application for creating pallets of color. Once you read this you may enjoy Color Schemer even more.

Painting of an amaryllis pattern on a white backgroundI’m a colorist. I paint because I want to study and create the experience of color. “Colorist” has been appropriated by those who add color to cartoons and graphic novels (translation: comic books) or to adjust color in films. And infamously, colorize black and white films. In painting, “colorist” refers to using color to achieve an emotional effect or to define form. In color field, color is the subject as in the work of Helen Frankenthaler, Marc Rothko, and Kenneth Noland. Or even the almost monochromatic, neutral paintings of Agnes Martin (one of my favorites).

Or follow this link to find a whole page of colorist paintings in Google Images: Colorist Painting

One of my students painted superrealist paintings, usually in a series and of a specific subject. Portraits, people with their cars, nineteenth century buildings. The subjects of these incredibly detailed images were so varied I asked him what most interested him. “The colors. I just see colors,” he said. After a pause he added, “And light.” His realism wasn’t about minute detail. It was about color and light. He was a colorist.

Many abstract painters are colorists.  J M W Turner, the “Painter of Light,” was a colorist. The Impressionists were all colorists.

When I paint, I care much more about the color of what I’m painting than in the thing I’m painting. When I look at a flower or a piece of wood or a painting, I see color first. Millions of colors. My color perception was tested when I was in high school. (I never why.) My art teacher just sent me downtown to the Department of Education to take a series of tests. He explained the results, but not their significance. That seems odd, as I think about it, but at fourteen I didn’t expect much of anything to have significance.

Farnsworth100 Color Vision Hue TestWhat I do remember was a test similar to the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue Test but there were more trays of colors. Each tray consisted of black caps with a circle of color in each one, leaving a rim of black. Each spot of color, from one end of the tray to the other, was infinitesimally different from the one next to it. The buttons were mixed and placed in front of me. I had to sort them—red to red-red orange in the first tray, orange-red-orange to red-orange in the second, etc. The lamp over the trays looked like something from a doctor’s office and the tester sat very quietly, doing nothing. The silence was bit much. I don’t remember that she even breathed.

When I finished each tray, she would turn over all the buttons, look at the numbers on the bottom, and make notes on a form. Later I learned from a psychologist that she should have waited until the end to do this because it might have influenced my behavior. I don’t think it did. I’m hard to influence. (Some say impossible.)

When my art teacher showed me the results, I had made two mistakes. After 50 years, those two mistakes still bother me. How had I been so careless as to make two mistakes? Maybe I had made them in the beginning before I realized how much attention the test took. Or in the blue-blue-greens that were a bit darker than the other colors. I never knew what they were. Realistically, considering everything, I knew I had done pretty well. “Superior” couldn’t be dog food, but I thought I could have been perfect if I’d tried harder.

I take no credit for my color vision; it’s the equipment I was born with. My eyes can see them. It’s in the genes.

You can now take the shorter test yourself. Be prepared. It’s hard: Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue Color Vision Test

This post is Part I of  an entry on a computer application for creating pallets of color. Part II: Color Schemer