Building Awesome Color Palettes

Sometimes as designers and artists, we get a little stuck with choosing the right colors in our work. Sometimes we spend a lot of time trying to get colors just right, and it can be frustrating. Thankfully, Adobe has included some tools that really help with creating specific and fairly accurate palettes inside of Photoshop and Illustrator. You can also use the traditional Pantone fan samples as well, which show you how certain colors look on paper. For our purposes I am going to show you some helpful tools for building color palettes built right into your Adobe software.

Color Palettes Step 1

In Adobe Illustrator, we have the Color Guide palette. This is helpful, because it takes your exact color choice, whether you are in RGB or CMYK mode, and shows you different colors that go with your color choice. It also shows you five tints higher than that color. It will also show you 5 shades lower than that color, and it does the same thing for the colors that it provides for you. You can also modify how many steps there are in the palette as well, giving you more color choices and more subtle color variations. This is handy, because you can have one color choice. Then you can have a tint of its complement, so that the color has more impact. This makes your color palettes more diverse.

Color Palettes Color GuideColor Palettes Color Guide OptionsColor Palettes Variations

You can also choose what type of palette that you want to use as well. For example, you can have a complementary, split complementary, analogous, triad, tetrad, etc. This is really handy if you are looking to create a certain effect with your colors.

In Photoshop, you have Kuler, which basically does the same thing. However, you can also upload and download custom color palettes that other people have made. The downside to this part is that you have to have an internet connection to receive custom created palettes by others. You start out with a base color that you can retrieve from the foreground or background color. Then you can set what color palette you are looking for, such as analogous, triad, complementary, etc. An added feature that Kuler has that the color guide doesn’t is that you can retrieve the hex value for that color as well. Another cool thing is that you can save the entire palette in your swatches panel all at once. The only downside to Kuler is that it doesn’t have as many preset options options as Illustrator’s color guide does. However, Illustrator’s color guide doesn’t have an internet upload feature or a way to browse other people’s color palettes.

Color Palettes Kuler


There are many tools available for creating great color palettes inside of Photoshop and Illustrator. These tools help you to create better color palettes by applying color theory and mathematics to your colors, so that they interact well with each other. What do you use for building color palettes for your designs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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