Picking A Palette

(Part V, Following “Sketching A Layout”)

I absolutely love playing with color, so picking a palette is one of the most enjoyable parts of the process to me (mixing all of them with paint, however, is one of my least favorite parts — but that comes later). A pattern this large and complex can handle a large and varied palette, and I knew that I wanted to take advantage of that. I had in mind a vibrant, punchy palette that made use of bold complementary tertiary colors.

Heading back to my Pinterest, I searched through my “Palettes” board for images that fit this idea, and I came up with the six you see below. Using photoshop, I selected twelve representative colors directly from each image and created a palette:

I then grouped these palettes together and eliminated colors that didn’t blend well with the others. I also got rid of ones that were too similar to each other. The final step was selecting a ground color, which I then placed the palette on top of and proceeded to delete the ones that did not interact well with the ground. In the end, I came up with an edited down palette:

The next step is creating a very rough color guide for myself, which I did digitally. I selected colors from the above palette and filled them into my layout sketch, tinkering with them as I went along:

As you can see, I put the color layout into repeat at this point to ensure that the colors will be evenly balanced throughout the design (I did, however, leave out some of the secondary motifs in the repeat, I just didn’t feel it was necessary in order for me to get the overall feeling.)

From there, I created what I call a “painting guide,” which shows one full repeat that includes every motif in a completed form (as opposed to cutting them off wherever the boundaries of the repeat happen to fall).

Using Photoshop, I separated this file into color layers, which helps to keep myself organized when I set out to paint. It shows me approximately how much coverage each color is going to account for and helps me to make sure that I don’t miss any major areas before the paint is all used up, dried out, etc. Here is an example layer that shows where the dark teal is going to be the primary color, sort of like a little map for myself:

After all of this, I have my palette whittled down from 72 to 25 colors — and some of those will probably become gradations of each other, limiting the palette down even further.

A final note is that because I will be using some gradient painting technique as opposed to painting the entire design in completely flat, limited color, a palette of this nature can only be representative up to a certain point. Here are a couple of examples from past projects to show how this digital palette planning can really only give you so much information, inevitably getting altered by the painting process:

As you can see (especially in the second example), there is a fair amount of deviation from the digital plan. However, I still firmly believe that it’s an essential measure to take in a design of this nature — and it’s fun!