Saturday, January 28, 2012

Getting the right colors out of an image the pragmatic way

One big and difficult question designing visuals is which colors to use. Using images makes this question easier to answer. In this post I show three pragmatic ways to do this including using Adobe's free tool kuler. 

Source: Flickr
Most visual decks need a aesthetics improvement, and getting the slide's colors right when it contains a photograph. This is not an easy task, so how to approach this pragmatically? Right off the hat, one fast solution is to  randomly select the colors from the photograph using the color picker (also called the eyedropper) tool. The eyedropper tool is found in every slideware, e.g. PowerPoint, and also in gimp and Photoshop.  Another solution is to pixelize the image. In gimp open the image and in the image menu go to filters → blur → pixelise. The bigger the pixel block, the less colors you get to choose from, but the more homogeneous they get. As an example I'll use an image of a red wolf from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service digital library, which has amazing collection images with public domain rights.

Original and its pixelized version with a pixel block of 20×20
A much better way to get the colors right is to use Adobe's free internet service kuler. Kuler allows you to create your own color scheme based on color theory, but perhaps even better is feature that generates an color scheme based on a image.  Applying kuler this image I got this color scheme:


In a nutshell: less colors, better colors, less and better decisions. Here is an example of a slide using the color scheme:


Three things about this slide: first, the wolf's eye serve as an horizontal imaginary line and text is aligned with it. It looks if as he was looking at the text! The color of the text is white, this is to get the largest possible contrast with the beige background. Finally, in case you are wondering the font is called Rockwell.

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