How to / Ideas

How to develop bead color palettes from Photographs

trees along roadside

Taking a photo with my phone as we drive by the tree-lined road

Ferns by the stream at bottom of ravine

Ferns by the stream at bottom of ravine

As beaders we use all kinds of things for inspiration — the outdoors, paintings, or photographs.

I love being outdoors and take several photographs whenever I go for a hike. Those hikes and photos become the inspiration either for website color schemes or for the next grouping of colorful seed beads I’ll use.

To get an idea of the colors you might use based on an inspirational photograph, you need to see what Kuler can do for you. Kuler is a free, online application that lets you look at five colors from a photo and then experiment with several variables to arrive at your choice of color schemes.

If you have never tried Adobe’s Kuler, give it a try before you buy your next round of beads.

It’s free to sign up for a Kuler account and doesn’t involve any downloading of software. All the software is in the cloud.

If you find you want lots of training for new software programs there’s Adobe’s help or my personal favorite, videos about how to use Kuler. This is what I watched to learn the less than obvious techniques to Kuler. You can watch all the videos in an hour or so. If you want to get a 10-day free trial pass to the videos, here is an opportunity for a short period of time that would get you access to the Kuler course.

The beauty of Kuler is that it lets you play with color schemes and palettes. I typically upload a photo as a starting point for playing with color swatches. Below you see the freshly uploaded photo of the ferns at the bottom of the ravine. If you look carefully at the image, you see five white circles on different parts of the photo. You drag those circles until each is on a color that you want in your swatches.

Fern colors photo uploaded with possible color scheme

Fern colors photo uploaded with possible color scheme

trees along side of road

Colors generated from the trees lining the road.

Once you have colors picked from a photo, save your palette.

Now comes the fun. You can experiment with that palette according to a range of variables. You can drag levers and scales to change the hue, the saturation and more. You can increase the light/dark ratio. You can choose a base color and then select to have your palette rules of color through choosing and dragging a lever to produce analogous colors, triads, complementary colors, chromatic or shades. The experimentation is unlimited. And from your original palette, you can generate many more palettes.

If you’re familiar with Adobe products like Photoshop or Illustrator, you can download the scheme as an Adobe Swatch Exchange (.ase) file. If you just want to remember the color combination, you can take a screen capture, or you can write down the colors in hex (Web designer choices), RGB (red green blue), HSV (hue, saturation, value), CMYK or lab values.


At the bottom of the colors, you can see the hex, hsv, lab, cmyk color values.

Having said all this, if you decide you don’t want to pull colors from a photo, you can always just browse the other color palettes that others have saved and generated. Do a search for “beach” and see what palettes others have devised. You can save them to your own space for further consultation and innovation.

Take a look at the colors from ArtBeadScene’s March challenge based on the photo of “Deer in the forest”.



3 thoughts on “How to develop bead color palettes from Photographs

  1. Pingback: Mobile Adobe Kuler for designing color palettes | Wood Beads

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