Playing with color

A guide to thirteen23's color kit


When thirteen23 was working on FRICKbits, we knew it was going to be difficult to generate Laurie’s color treatments using software. Particularly challenging was the need to create an adaptable color palette from a specific “seed” color in the app.


The following is a brief description of our initial approach to solving this problem. You can find our sample app, ColourPalette, on GitHub.

Our Sample Application

Launching ColourPalette reveals a number of different controls that can be effected to change each set of colors (i.e., palette).

The Values

H, S, & V controls the Hue, Saturation, & Value.

L, A, B & sliders control the distance vector for each dimension in the CEILAB colourspace

The Algorithm

The heuristic for our palette generation is admitedly a bit crude, but dealing with color palette generation is never an exact science.

For starters, the CIELAB colorspace is a human-perceived colorspace with 3 dimensions. These three dimensions actually form an ellipsoid that’s shaped more like deflated soccer ball than anything.

LAB color space // The ellipse inside the LAB color space // Resulting color palette

Our algorithm works by taking a seed color, translating it into CIELAB colorspace, and then bounding it by a randomly derived (from the delta values above) mini-ellipsoid. It then generates random points within that ellipsoid until it acquires a valid neighbor color.

The guts of this can be seen in our file ColorPaletteGenerator.m:

CGFloat lambda_neg = (0 == arc4random() % 2) ? 1.0f : -1.0f;
CGFloat beta_neg = (0 == arc4random() % 2) ? 1.0f : -1.0f;
CGFloat lambda = ((CGFloat)arc4random() / (CGFloat)RAND_MAX) * M_PI * lambda_neg;
CGFloat beta = ((CGFloat)arc4random() / (CGFloat)RAND_MAX) * M_PI_2 * beta_neg;
x = aX * cos(beta) * cos(lambda);
y = aY * cos(beta) * sin(lambda);
z = bZ * sin(beta);

It’s possible to derive colors that sit outside the spectrum of sRGB so this method is implemented asynchronously so that it can loop and filter results until it determines matches for the value.

But forget all the math — just give it a try!

See More

Be sure to grab the sample project on GitHub. It leverages thirteen23's T23Kit-Colour cocoapod to generate our unique color palettes. For more on this library, also see “T23 Color Kit: Mixing Colors Like an Artist.”


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