Did you know the human eye can distinguish about 10 million different colours? Makes you head spin doesn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty picking harmonious colour palettes for lettering (even with 10 million to choose from). I used to think it didn’t matter. That the work itself would speak for itself, even in black and white. Don’t get me wrong, I love using black and white a lot of the time, but I came to discover that colour combination is a very powerful tool. It can grab attention and express emotion to the viewer instantly.
You could spend a lot of time learning colour theory. There are countless websites and studies solely devoted to it. But there is a much simpler way. There are plenty of free online tools that make picking the perfect colours quick and easy.
First I’ll show you five of my favourite places for colour inspiration that each bring something unique, and we’ll then go through a simple way to save these palettes to use in Procreate.
Previously know as Adobe Kuler, this is web app lets you create, browse and save colour palettes. You don’t need to be a Creative Cloud subscriber to use it, but if you are, you have the advantage of exporting palettes straight into Photoshop or Illustrator.
When you first get to the site you’ll see the colour wheel with different settings to create your own palette. This is great but we are looking for inspiration, so just click on the ‘Explore’ tab to see the pre-made palettes. You can then filter these by ‘Most Popular’ and ‘Most Used’. You can also enter a keyword in the search bar at the top left to find themed palettes.
Originally created by the folk at Creative Market, Colour Lovers is another great resource for palette inspiration. It extends beyond colours and also has ‘Pattern’ and ‘Shapes’ sections as well.
You’ll see a ‘Browse’ button in the top navigation. Rollover this and select ‘Palettes’ from the drop down menu. You can then use the filter options below to sort by New, Loved, Commented and more.
The search feature is really handy too. You’ll seen a box you can enter the HEX value of a specific colour you would like to include, and it will show any shared palettes that contain it. You can also do a more general search by using the ‘Hue’ options where you can search for a colour by name.
The ‘Trend’ section shows a feed of colour schemes in branding and photography which give you an idea of how these palettes are used.
Color Hunter is slightly different to the first two options. You can still browse through a gallery of saved palettes, but it’s main feature is you are able to generate a custom colour palette based on an uploaded image. Click on ‘Upload an image’ link at the top of the site and upload a .gif, .jpg or .png of the image you want to sample. It will then generate the values of the main colours used.
This comes in handy if you are using photography in your lettering work, or if you just like the tones in a particlar image.
Note: There seems to be a browser issue using this site on Safari. Try using a different browser like Chrome, for Firefox if you have any trouble.
As the name suggest, Color Blender is a simple web app for a generating the tones between two colours.
Simply choose two different colours and specify how many mid points (or steps) you want between. Color Blend then generates these graduation values for you. Very handy!
While Dribbble isn’t intended purely as a colour resource, a special feature of the site is it automatically generates colour swatches for user’s posts. It’s like you’re getting two for one – great design inspiration as well as colour palettes.
By clicking on any of the individual colours in the swatch group, you can also search for other work based on that colour.
If you are a Photoshop user, you can download an .aco file and import the palette.
Save your Colour Palettes in Procreate
Now we have our colour inspiration, let’s look at how you can save those values in Procreate to have on hand for your next Lettering project.
I like to keep a swipe folder on Dropbox called ‘colour-reference’. Anything I see that I like, I take a screenshot and save in the reference folder. To screengrab from your Mac, press cmd + Shift + 4, or the Home Button and Power Button on the iPad.
Next, open Procreate on your iPad and create a new document. Import your reference images by tapping the wrench icon and choose ‘Insert flat image’. Navigate to the location you saved the images and repeat to import each file.
Now we can create a new colour palette group to store your swatches. To do this tap on your colour circle icon in the top right of the toolbar. This will reveal the colour panel. From the colour wheel screen, tap on the arrow next to the Colour Palette group shown below it.
You’ll then see the ‘Palettes’ menu. Tap on the ‘+’ in the top right of the menu to create a new palette. You can rename it by clicking on the Title text ‘Untitled Palette’.
Next we want to save the colours to our new swatch library. To take a sample of a colour, hold down the square icon on your left side tool bar and at the same time, tap the area of colour you want to sample with your pencil. You’ll see an enlarged circle on the screen highlighting the sample area. The colour will also then fill the circle icon in the top right of your toolbar.
This next step stumped me at first… In order to save the colour value, you need to be on the colour wheel screen with your chosen palette selected. For some reason, Procreate only lets you save the colour from here and not from the ‘Palette’ menu screen.
Make sure your new palette library is active – there should be a blue tick next to the title of the palette on the right. (If there isn’t, just tap on the title of your palette to select it.) Now click the arrow to the left of the panel which will take you back to the colour wheel and then tap on one of the empty squares within your palette library. Your colour settings are now saved for easy access them later.
Repeat this for all colours as you want to save.
You now have a quick reference to your favourite colour combinations! If you want to share these palettes, it’s as simple as swiping to the left and clicking ‘Share’. You can then save the file to Dropbox and send it to whoever you wish.