Color…Glorious Color!

Written by Lisa Luck

As flower lovers and designers, one of the most delightful aspects of working with flowers is the vast assortment of colors they come in.  Reds, greens, yellows and blues… along with oranges, pinks and purples; flowers and foliages provide us with all of these in a dizzying array of tints, tones and shades.

A large part of our job as floral designers is to interpret and reflect our customer’s wishes…not only in floral materials and design but also in color.  Can you imagine sending a delicate bouquet of pastel pink and purple Sweetpeas to a man?  Of course not!  Red Anthiriums with yellow-orange Pincushion Protea are a much more 
befitting gift for the masculine gender.  And for those of us who enjoy landscaping, we know that the power of correctly using color in our gardens brings order, unity and cohesiveness to its overall appearance.

We all understand how color affects our emotions…blues and greens are cool and relaxing while reds and oranges are warm and stimulating.  Pastels sooth while deep colors invigorate.  In floral designs, light and bright colors advance (stand out) while deeper colors (especially purples, blues and deep reds) recede.

Working with flowers and plants affords us the opportunity to experiment with a virtual cornucopia of color mixtures and palettes.  Today, our color palettes are so much more adventurous and exciting than they were just 20 years ago.  I can remember as a young girl (when color combinations were bound by much stricter regulations) some of the cardinal rules of color were:

  • Never mix pink and orange…NEVER!
  • Brown is blah and mixed with any other color (except tan) will only ruin your color palette.
  • Warm colors and cool colors are difficult to combine together and look best when they stay with their own kind.
  • 

Dusty mauve and country blue are the bomb!  (Yes, I grew up in the ’80s)

Well obviously…we’ve come a long way baby!  We’ve shed our restrictive color thought processes and enjoy color freedom like never before.  However, some color combinations look more professional and appealing than others.  Certain color palettes have that “wow” factor and others have more of a “what?” factor.  So, is there any help out there for us color lovers wanting to experiment with color combinations without the hassle of expensive color chips or computer software programs?  Good news uBloomers….YES THERE IS!  If you have access to the Internet, then you have a free pass to some really terrific online Color Palette Generators.

First, let me explain what a Color Palette Generator (CPG) is and how it can help us as floral designers and landscapers.

CPG’s can automatically “generate” a color palette from a single, base color of your choosing or from a picture.  Some generators can adjust your palette to correspond with Color Wheel Schemes (monochromatic, triad, complementary, etc.).  For instance, if you choose a deep pomegranate red to be your base color and submit that in a Color Palette Generator, the CPG can automatically find the perfect monochromatic, triad, complementary etc. color scheme for that particular red.  Neat huh?  Or, you can totally customize your palette on your own and see what different color combinations look like together.

Some CPG’s are part of a social website which allows you to view, rate and even “keep” other users palettes.  You set up an account (totally free and nothing to download) and will be given your own “personal” page from which you can work on your color palettes and store them, communicate with other users and select palettes you like and add them to your “favorites” page.  It’s really tons of fun and the enormous variety of user color palette combinations will inspire even the most color scheme impaired individual.

The great part of CPG’s is that they can help give you exciting OPTIONS with floral design and garden color schemes.

  • Use the palettes you create as “visuals” for brides wanting something “New” and “Different.”
  • Upload a photo brought in by a bride to get a perfectly matched color palette.
  • Add some “zing” to that boring color combo by finding an unusual color to mix in the palette.

See what different colors look like side by side.  A terrific tool for gardeners who want to know what certain color flowers will look like next to each other, or how they can seamlessly transition from one color to another without “jarring” color mixtures.

I’ve done a little research on the biggest, easiest and most popular (free) CPG’s on the Internet.  Here is what I found.

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The two largest Color Palette Generators, Kuler and COLOURlovers , are community websites which give you the most palette generating options as well as tons of fresh inspiration from their users.  High speed Internet is recommended when using these two sites and you will also need the latest version of Flash.  I’ll start with these first.

Kuler
Kuler is easy to use and gives you several options in how you generate your palettes.  After registering, you can go to your personal page and start creating your 5 color tile, color palette.  You can begin by selecting a base color to start your palette with or you can upload a photo from your computer or flikr account.

Base Color Option:  Once you’ve selected your base color, you can then automatically generate different color combinations based on the Color Wheel Scheme.  You can also completely customize your palette by the use of “slider” bars which adjust the color hue, tint, tone and shade.  Click and drag your color “tiles” to arrange them in any order.  Once you’ve finished your palette, you can name and save your creation to your personal page for future reference.  Kuler gives you the option to keep your palettes private so that other users cannot see them (in case you are a little color shy).

Photo Option:  Upload a photo from your computer or flikr account and the Kuler CPG will automatically generate a 5 color tile, color palette.  You can change the palette by clicking on the available color mood choices: Bright, Colorful, Muted, Deep, Dark or Custom.  Kuler’s CPG will automatically extract the colors from the picture to correspond with the palette mood you selected.  This is so much fun and it’s really cool to see the different color combinations that come from just 1 photo.

Kuler also allows you to download your palettes as an Adobe Swatch Exchange File to use on Photoshop and similar programs.  How Convenient.

If you need more inspiration, you can view other Kuler users palettes and save the ones you like to your favorites file on your personal page.

I found Kuler easier to navigate than the other CPG giant, COLOURlovers, and less “cluttered” for quick and simple operation.  Also, the square color tiles are larger for easier viewing.  On the down side, Kuler doesn’t seem to have the same color range as COLOURlovers and the “slider” bars used to adjust colors aren’t as good as the ones on C/lovers.

COLOURlovers
This CPG community site has tons of bells and whistles, which is great if you can spend lots of time trying to navigate the site, but a bit confusing if you just want to get some palettes and go.  C/lovers has Community Forums, Blogs, Trends, and Groups it’s users can participate in.  It also has a larger personal page and is much easier to interact with the other users in the community.  So far, I haven’t found a way to keep my palettes private on this site… but that’s OK because everyone seems very friendly and ready to help.  I found out that there are several floral designers that use the site…including one I know!

Like Kuler, you can create a 5 color tile, color palette from a photo or a base color.  C/lovers gives you 2 CPG’s to choose from…and smaller, easier one, and a larger, more complicated CPG called Copaso.  Copaso does have a help section (which you will need) so you can get the most out of this powerful CPG.  You can name and save your palettes to your personal page as well as gather other users palettes to save in your “favorites.”

I like the greater color range on C/lovers and the helpful “color tile” hints they give as you create your palette.  That’s great if you want to customize your own palette without it being automatically generated for you, but you still want some helpful options.  On the down side, C/lovers is more complicated to use.

I belong to both sites.  Both sites allow you to enter “tag” words to search users palettes.  For example: Type in the tag word “light blue” and the CPG will bring up palettes that have been tagged by users as containing the color light blue.

Here are a couple of other sites that allow you to generate color palettes.  These are quick and simple and you don’t need to join a community.

DeGraeve :  Just type in the URL of the photo you want to create a palette for and the CPG will automatically generate a 5 color tile, color palette for you in both a dull and vibrant version.

Color Hunter :  Upload a photo from your computer or get one off the Internet, this CPG will generate a 5 color tile color palette for you automatically.   This is a low level community site.  You can enter tag words to view color palettes containing the color you typed in.

Color Schemer :  Choose a base color and then this CPG will give you 16 colors that will “go” with it.  Terrific for those of us who get a bride who insists on using a weird shade of blue in her wedding and we need help finding colors to complement her unusual tastes.  It’s super quick and easy!

Big Huge Labs :  Creates color swatches from a photo of your choosing.  You can get the photo from your 
computer, URL, flikr account or photobucket account.

Of course, there are other Color Palette Generators out there on the web, as well as some that you can download for free.  My computer is maxed out memory wise so I’m sticking with the online versions to save space.

Once you start using CPG’s, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!  But be warned…they are addictive!

I know you will find much color inspiration and a whole lotta fun as you use these online CPG’s.

Good luck and Happy Color Hunting!