Colour tools and resources

Colour and emotion are closely related, so it makes sense to pay particular attention to the colours we choose for our design projects. Here are a few helpful tools and resources.

Colour palettes and combinations


Colour lovers

“COLOURlovers gives people who use color – whether for ad campaigns, logo design, or in architectural specification – a place to check out a world of color, compare color palettes, comment on news and read color-related articles / interviews.”

Nature’s Color Palette

nature color

“Nature provides some of the most striking and beautiful color palettes imaginable! You don’t have to look far to find great inspiration.”

Color combinations – cure for designers block

web developer notes

“Choosing the right color combination is vital for any design – logos included. In these pages you will find more than 200 color combinations to help you in selecting colors for your website or identity project.

Color combinations, schemes and palettes

color combos

“The heart of the site is the Combo Tester, which allows designers to see how different color combinations work together on the screen.”


“ has been around since March 2005. It has two purposes: 1) It’s a tool to let designers fiddle around with colors. 2) It’s a jungle gym for software ideas.”

Web 2.0 colour palette

modern life

“Organised into 3 distinct colour groups – neutrals, muted tones and bold colours, you may recognise a few of the shades from some of your favourite Web 2.0 sites.”

Colour theory

The Color Wheel and Color Theory

color wheel

“The color wheel is one of the first places I turn for color inspiration and guidance when choosing a color scheme. Color charts and pre-made palettes are nice, but the color wheel is simple and easy to understand and use.”

DOs and DON’Ts – Colour

color tips

“Did you know that colour and visual elements activate the right brain (emotions), while the printed words activate the left brain (logic)?”

Color: Meaning, Symbolism and Psychology

color meaning

“Our reaction to color is almost instantaneous and has a profound impact on the choices we make everyday. This lens is a quick look at general responses to colors based on research, historical significance of color and word association studies.”

color matters

“Color plays a vitally important role in the world in which we live. Color can sway thinking, change actions, and cause reactions. It can irritate or soothe your eyes, raise your blood pressure or suppress your appetite.”

Color Theory Overview

color theory

“Why study color theory? If you are involved in the creation or design of visual documents, an understanding of color will help when incorporating it into your own designs.”

Colour Harmony: Secrets of Web Color Revealed

web color

“One of the most challenging aspects of visual design is developing effective color harmonies that strike a balance between monotony and overstimulation.”

16 Lessons in Color Theory

color theory

“The history of color, colors with pastels, the meaning of color, color perspective, and much more…”

Color Theory: A brief tutorial

color theory

“For a long time, there has been a problem that fledgling designers have run into. This problem seems insignificant to most, but it is quite possibly the most important factor in a design or piece of artwork. I’m talking about the issue of COLOR.”

Color Theory Articles

what is color?

“Color is the byproduct of the spectrum of light, as it is reflected or absorbed, as received by the human eye and processed by the human brain. It’s also a great design element!”

style gala

“Insights into the purpose and effect of physical elements, design, and layout of web pages … and why clients should let designers handle design.”

Colour tools

Adobe Kuler

adobe kuler

“Explore, create and share color themes. Use online, or download themes for Adobe Creative Suite 2 and 3.”

Accessibility Colour Wheel

colour wheel

“I’ve borrowed the formulas to compute the contrast and brightness difference between two colors from the W3C.”

Colorblind web page filter

colour blind

“If you only use one filter, use the grayscale filter which will not only point out potential problem areas.”

Triplecode – Munsell Palette

colour grid

“Picking colors is not an easy task. It is definitely an art. But available software tools don’t make the task any easier. This is, in part, because most color models (such as RGB, HSV, and web color palettes) are based on mathematical formulas which have little to do with how the human eye sees colors.”

color scheme

“ColorToy 2.0 is a Flash based color scheme generator and picker. It generates complementary color schemes based on your inputted color values or randomly, which is much more fun.”

Color Palette Generator

color palette generator

“Start with one of the following actions: 1. Browse for an image (of type png gif jpg jpeg) and upload it. 2. Select an image from the drop down menu.”

4096 Colour Wheel

colour wheel

“Hover over the wheel to view colors. Click to choose a web-smart color. Reload to clear.”

Color Blender

color blender

“ColorBlender – your free online tool for color matching and palette design.”

colordb – the colour database

color harmonies

“Complementary, opposite, neutral, shade, analogous, triadic, tetradic…”


color lab

“The 216-Color Webmaster’s Palette.”

Colour Scheme 1, Colour Scheme 2

color scheme

“Experienced designers choose colors intuitively. However, finding a good combination of colors may be sometimes long and gruelling work. These tools will find a set of colors you can start with, and may facilitate the search for the optimal color palette.”

Colour Schemer Online v.2

color schemer

“You can get a related fix here at the ColorSchemer Blog (broken link removed, 2014).”

Color Shades: Colors and Lighter Hexadecimal Codes and Swatches

color shades

“This chart shows a list of colors and, for each color, three other colors based on the original color but with higher light values. You can use this chart to set up color schemes.”

Colour Contrast Analyser

colour contrast

“This page is provided to allow you to check the contrast of two colours using the W3C’s colour contrast algorithm by specifying the colours directly.”

ColourMod DHTML Colour Picker

colour mod

“ColourMod comes in many different juicy versions. Each version is tailored to fit your specific needs and desires. From colour conversions on your desktop, to colour picking on the web, there is something for you.”

Easy RGB

easy rgb

“Provides information and services related to color technology. During the years it has become a popular source of technical and commercial information about colors, color science and color programming techniques.”

Eye Dropper Colour Mixer

eye dropper

“This perl tool uses ImageMagick to fetch a chosen pixel’s hex color value. You can use any image you like. This is very handy if you’re trying to match an image background perfectly.”

Infohound Color Schemer

color values

“This color schemer is a simple tool to help you experiment with various color schemes for your next web or print project.” Color Inspiration


“Kolur is a simple (and hopefully) enjoyable way to browse color palettes. Designs displayed in our gallery go beyond the generic 3 colored dots, and attempt to portray the possibilities in palettes.”

Online Image Editors Compared

smiley cat

“In this new era of web-based applications I thought it would be worthwhile to see if there were any online image editing tools that would meet requirements and maybe more.”

I Like Your Colors – Red Alt

I like your colors

“There is a form at the bottom of this page that lets you choose any URL you want to extract colors from.”

The Colour Calculator

sessions design

“Identify colour harmonies faster than with any colour wheel or chart. Use it to select a colour scheme for a logo design or identity project.”

Unsafe Colormatch

green color

“Specify a base color in decimal (R,G,B) or #hex – or in CSS color specification format. Choose Lightness steps (20%, 10% or 5%). Press SHOW.”

Web Color Visualizer

web color

“Set the background color, then hover over swatches to test how text color works.”

Colour patterns

Squidfingers / Patterns

color patterns

“Feel free to use any of these patterns on your own site.”


pattern bomb

“Pattern-bomb is a site for everything you ever needed regarding Photoshop patterns.”

The Inspiration Gallery


“Over 1,000 patterns for your inspiration.”

Colour codes

logo orange

“Note that the conversions in this color codes chart are best described as “nominal”. They will produce an invertible conversion between the RGB code and a subset of CMYK; that is, one can take an RGB color code and convert to certain CMYK colors, and from these CMYK colors obtain the matching, original RGB codes.”

More resources

55+ Color Tools and Resources for Graphic Designers

ag design

“Every designer will find these free online color tools useful. Whether you are a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Fashion Designer, Interior Designer, Logo Designer, or any other.”

101 Color Resources for Web Designers

web hosting

“101 color resources for Web designers. The categories are listed alphabetically as are all the links contained within each category.”

If you have any feedback on the tools above, or if you know of better ones, please do comment.

38 responses

  1. Thank you for compiling this great list! Very useful, bookmarked it… Missing that del.icio button below the post.. (hint hint)

  2. Wow!

    That is an extensive list! There are some great resources there that I have used and some that I will be checking out for the first time, thanks!

    I’m amazed that you havn’t listed Adobe’s Kuler though. ( )

    It’s absolutely amazing, I use it for every single website I design and also play around with it for fun far more than I would care to admit. lol

  3. We can’t ask for more!

    When I am confused about choosing colors, I prefer to use colors from nature scenes, it guarantees that your chosen colors will be in harmony.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Marko, glad you’ll find some useful. Looking forward to your site’s completion.

    Sander, good point. I figured those users would have a ‘tag’ icon in their browser, but an extra prompt is always helpful.

    Sherif, you can’t go wrong with nature. That’s why I included nature’s colour palette.

  5. Super nice list David.

    It’s going to take me all week to go through these resources. I haven’t seen many of these before.

    These should definitely answer most of my questions I have about color theory and whatnot but I just never took the time to research it extensively.

  6. A big thank you David! It is very clear you did a lot of research. I love color lovers palette rss feed. I find so many great color schemes that inspire my designs. Great job!

  7. huh, how long did it take you to collect all these colour resources? What an extensive list, definitely bookmarked. Thanks for including my article on colours. I hope this list will encourage designers to be more brave and knowledgeable with colours.

  8. Lauren, no colour list would be complete with referencing Creative Curio. :)

    Niyaz, you’re very welcome buddy.

    Vivien, I’ve had this post in my drafts for some time, adding a few sites every so often. Now all I need to do is finish up my 50 other drafts! You’re very welcome for the inclusion.

    Lukas, that’s very kind, and thanks for listing the URL. I’ve re-added a Digg tag at the foot of each post, but prefer not to show a button at the top.

  9. David: Do you have a system for how and when you write blog posts? I’m the same with the 50 drafts, well actually they’re not even drafts they’re just titles or ‘ideas’.

    I think the list is too long, it’s so daunting I put off picking any of them, lol.

  10. I’ve used Kuler and ColorCombos and Color Blender and COLOURlovers. Of those I prefer the community as well as the different colour/palette/pattern tools on COLOURlovers. I think the flash interface was a little easier on Kuler to use though; I find it weird that COLOURlovers uses a different tool called COPASO, it’s never obvious to me where I should go in the navigation. I found Combos quite confusing — still have no idea how to save combinations.

    I don’t like being restricted to online tools though, I want to be able to save stuff on my computer for when I’m working on the train. ColorSchemer would solve that, but it doesn’t seem cool enough to pay for (when almost everything on my computer is free or open source).
    So, I use the built in Color Picker on my mac. Last time I made a colour scheme I used COLOURlovers and then saved the values in Color Picker so I had it on my HD.

    I look forward to checking out some of those links!

  11. Hooray, COLOURlovers is first! It’s my favourite site, although Kuler seems to get more buzz…the community is fantastic and very helpful, among other nice things. ^^

  12. Now that’s an extensive collection! I take it you don’t use all of them personally, which do you use on a regular basis?
    I usually go to Kuler when putting a palette together, after some initial thought about what is needed. I also like the articles on COLOURlovers which I read regularly. I’ve used a few of the others in the past, but I will be checking out some of those I haven’t seen before for inspiration!
    Another good way to choose colours if there is a dominant photo tied in is to use the Photoshop mosaic filter on the photo and pick the colours out of the resulting squares.

  13. hy david,

    this is an awesome source for designers. normally you have 2-3 tools for finding colour themes. but this is a really precious compilation for most graphic problems a designer could have.

    thank you very much!

  14. This is probably the most expansive list of color resources I think I have ever seen. There are several of these sites that I have never heard of, but I’m glad you listed them. Great article David.

  15. I kept thinking that your list will surely end as I kept scrolling down! That is a great list of resources. I still have some trouble working with colors myself. I think some people are more gifted at putting colors together and making them work towards the beauty of the whole project. Fortunately, I have someone that can help me.

  16. Every colour has its own meaning. So, while selecting the colours, the first thing to be kept in mind is that for what purpose we are choosing the colour and the second thing is the best colour combination.

  17. Shaun, many of my drafts are just titles or ideas. I’ve no real system in place. Sometimes I’ll put off a post if a new story comes up (which seems to be quite often).

    Cel, I’m not involved in the colour community, but I’ll check it out for tips.

    Kristarella, great to read your thoughts. That’s a nice offline solution, too.

    Steve O, COLOURlovers is one I’d use more than the others, although I do list a few blogs I subscribe to, so I’d see that content more regularly. Your idea for using a photo reminds me of one of these resources. You upload it to the site and it automatically gives you colour swatches (perhaps with the hex codes too).

  18. Goodness! This list is going to keep me busy for hours. Always looking for good colour resources. Never knew there were quite so many out there. I’d better get clicking. Thanks, David. Brilliant.

  19. The Color Blender is really cool, just had a play with it and decided to add to the list of bookmarks. I think it is a great idea to experiment with color as a logo, graphic or web designer to ensure you don’t get stuck to closely to your favorites.

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