April 25, 2015

April 23, 2015

How to use Photoshop to create a color palette from another painting

Here are two methods to grab a color palette from another painting/image to use in your own work.

We'll use the painting above as our example.  (Coincidentally, I used the color palette from another artist to paint this one, but I won't tell you which one. :) )

Method 1

This first method is is pretty simple and is my preferred means to grab a color palette from another image.  To do this, first open up the image you want to grab a color palette from in Photoshop.  Then go to Filter -> Pixelate -> Mosaic.

Move the Cell Size slider to where you get the least amount of cells, but still have a good dark and a good light cell to choose from.  This will help you by giving you a good range of values to work with.

The reason I prefer this method is, first, it's fast, and second, the Mosaic Filter still gives me a rough context in which to use the values of the original image.  Now all I have to do is color pick from it when starting an original painting of my own.

Method 2

This one is a little more involved, but will give you a Photoshop Swatch Palette instead.

To do this, you'll first need to convert your source image (which you want to extract a color palette from) to Indexed Color (Image -> Mode -> Indexed Color).  Make sure you also have your image set to 8 Bits/Channel.

In the Indexed Color window, the only thing you will need to change is the amount of colors you want to have in your Swatch Palette.  The default is 256, but if you leave it at that value, you will end up with a Swatch Palette with 256 swatches in it.  Are you seeing where this is going?!

Why don't we bring this down to a more manageable amount.  Let's try 20 colors to start with.

You'll notice as you change the number of colors, the image will update live to show you how well you've captured the colors in it.   With 20 colors, we're starting to loose some of the red from the image.  Lets try bumping that up a bit to see what we can get.

It looks like 50-60 colors still gives us enough range to get most of the colors we want.  In this particular case, I probably wouldn't go below 50 colors.  The amount of colors you choose will depend both on how colorful the image is you want to create a palette from, and also how large of a Swatch Palette you want to be working with.  You'll just have to play around with it to get what you want.  

When you've gotten the number of colors you want, go ahead and click OK to close the window.

Next, you'll want to go back up to Image -> Mode -> Color Table...

This brings up a Color Table which shows you the total colors in the image.   

Hard to believe that's all the colors in the image now, isn't it?!  Now you'll want to click on SAVE, and save it to somewhere on your computer you can find easily.  Save it as a Color Table (*.ACT) file.  Then click OK to exit the Color Table window.

Now, find your Swatches Palette, and go up to the upper right color of the window and find where it says Replace Swatches.  Click on that and go to where you just saved your Color Table (*.ACT).  

You may need to change the 'Files of type' to Color Table (*.ACT), so that the file is visible when you go to look for it.

Go ahead and select your Color Table (*.ACT) file and click on LOAD.

. . . And there you have it!!  Your own custom Swatch Palette built from whatever image who's colors you've admired for who knows how long!


April 3, 2015

Playing around with Color Gamuts

Several years ago, James Gurney wrote in his blog about a Gamut masking method for creating color schemes for his paintings.

Other artists have taken this further and created such things as an interactive online version of the Gamut Mask which is available for anyone to use.  (Great tool!)

Another guy created a portable app for analyzing Gamuts used in digital images.  (Highly recommended!)  And here's another one!

And even beyond that, I found someone else who figured out how to do something similar right in Photoshop!  This person wrote up a nice, clean tutorial on how to do it.


I recently gave a demonstration on Gamut Viewing at work and how it can be used to analyze color usage in paintings I admire.  It can also be used to view color distribution in my own paintings as I work to help keep myself on track when I want to stay in a particular color harmony.

The one problem is I didn't have any 'clean' color wheels to use while demonstrating the Photoshop method.  The ones I pulled off the internet had lots of jpg artifacts and were a little messy to work with.  I've since then created the following to share.  They're not perfect, but much better than what I was using at work.  The one on the left is a standard color wheel and the one on the right is a yurmby color wheel.


Here are a few samples of what a gamut looks like (utilizing the standard color wheel) when extracted from several of my own paintings.

Note: The Photoshop gamut method shows you colors in their range of saturation only.  To view the value range of these colors, all you would need to do is place a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer over the top of the gamut to make the colors brighter or darker. -or, just remember to add black and white to your colors as you paint.

As you can see, most of these images contain a lot of colors -and a lot of saturated colors to boot.  I'm working on exploring paintings with more muted, simplified color palettes.  The top-most painting is one example of this goal.  Look at how teeny that gamut is -and the finished painting works so well!
I used a different method than a color gamut to find a pleasing color scheme for that one, and I'll be sharing that method in a future post.