Tool Review: Color Scheme Designer

Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 1:10 pm
Jennifer Dick's picture

Graphic design used to be the sole purview of artists toiling away at drafting tables with a t-square, X-ACTO knife, and color wheel. The tools used by graphic designers to create the print and digital media that shapes our world have evolved along with technology, moving off of the drafting table and onto the computer. These days, anyone with access to a computer can create brochures, flyers, presentations, web pages, and other types of published media without a background in formal design. We’re exposed to professionally crafted advertisements, magazines, blogs, and web pages throughout the day, so that should be enough for us all to have absorbed basic design principles when creating our own media artifacts, right?

Wrong. I’m sure we can all agree that with the many technology tools empowering us to become content creators, getting a little design assistance can only help to make the web a prettier place. Welcome to Color Scheme Designer, a free Flash-based web app by designer Petr Stanicek that makes assembling a coherent color scheme fun and foolproof.

Instead of having to drag out the paint chips to play with different color combinations, Color Scheme Designer lets you experiment from your web browser with a click of the mouse. You can choose the type of color scheme — do you want something based on one color or split complementaries (or triad, as it’s called here)? Do you know what a split complementary color scheme is? Doesn’t matter! Thanks to an elegant and intuitive user interface, you don’t need two semesters of color theory to pick hues, tones, tints, and shades that work well together and maintain a coherent palette.

By default, colors display as RGB (the color system used by computer monitors and TVs), and the HTML hex code appears with a simple mouse-over. Options for a random scheme can be useful when you really don’t know what you want, or when you’re looking to mix it up. What’s more, you can test what your selection will look like to viewers who have various types of color blindness. What might be an exercise in empathy to many of us provides intriguing visual options. Hardcore design nerds can choose the type of color classifications to work in (RGB, web friendly, PANTONEâ„¢, and RALâ„¢), and palettes can be exported to HTML/CSS, XML, text, ACO (Adobe Photoshop palette file), or GPL (GIMP palette file).

Sample Classroom & Youth Program Applications

  • All: The next time you have your youth put together a PowerPoint presentation or slideshow, have them plan their color scheme to avoid poor choices, which can affect readability and speaker credibility.
  • Visual Arts: Youth can use Color Scheme Designer to plan the palette for their next painting or digital art project. In a digital art class, they can also use it to explore how much different palettes affect a piece.


  • Price Structure: Free
  • Pros:
    • Very easy and intuitive
    • Able to export palettes in a variety of formats suitable for different media
  • Cons:
    • Those less facile with more advanced design features in computer applications might not know how to use HTML color hex codes in their work


Do you talk about color theory and design with your youth? Do you have any activity suggestions, tips, or tricks to share? Comment below or contact us!