I have always found creating colour schemes challenging. How do I pick colours that are beautiful, work harmoniously together and are unique? Where to even start? In this post I will show you how create a colour scheme in Photoshop and if you use my free template, you can easily test it against light, dark and grey background, all that in 5 minutes.
There are a few excellent free tools that can help you pick colour combinations based on traditional colour wheel like paletton.com or Adobe Kuler. I have tried them but didn’t feel like I was doing well. I picked some nice colours and saved them as swatches only to find out later that what looked nice as a swatch, didn’t work well for the text because the contrast was too low.
There’s always an option to go for ready made colour schemes. You can use Open Color especially optimized for user interfaces, Adobe Kuler offers a large gallery of user colour schemes or pick a one from artists and illustrators at Color Supply.
If non of these methods work for you and if you want to create something unique quickly and easily, I recommend creating colour scheme in Photoshop from an image.
How to create a colour scheme in Photoshop from an image
Step 1: Getting in a mood
Picking random colour because you like it might not be the best start. Colours greatly affect moods and emotions. You need to choose colours that will create the desired feel for your project. Visit free image library Pixabay and browse photographs till you find one that has colours that feel just right and download it to your computer. Doesn’t matter what is in a picture. I’m going to pick this beautiful kingfisher.
Step 2: Open image in Photoshop
Run Adobe Photoshop. If you don’t have Photoshop in your computer, you can get a free trial.
If you are a subscriber to my blog, you can download a free Photoshop template by clicking on a button below.
Double click on the downloaded template do open it. Find the top layer called Image in the layers panel and right click on it. Choose Replace Contents… from the menu.
Navigate to your image on a hard drive and confirm by clickling Place. Your image will look like lot’s of square so don’t freak out.
If the image is too large, scale it by pressing CTRL+T and dragging the corners of the image. If you get a warning about Smart Filters applied to this layer will be turned off temporarily, don’t worry and click OK.
If you didn’t download my template, press CTRL+O to open the image, navigate where you saved the picture and confirm Open.
Right click on the image layer and choose Convert to Smart Object.
Step 3: Apply a Mosaic Filter
If you’re working with my template, Mosaic Filter has already been applied for you. You can resize the size of squares by double clicking on Mosaic filter layer in Layers Panel. If you choose larger number, colours will blend together and might not be as bright.
If you don’t have a template, apply your own filter. On the taks bar click Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic and adjust the cell size so that you get a nice selection of squares to choose from. Not too many, not too few. I’m going for about 30. Make sure the Preview box is ticked. When you are happy with your adjustment, confirm OK.
Step 4: Sample Colours and Create Swatches
Delete all current swatches one by one by holding down ALT (an icon of scissors will appear) and left clicking on each swatch.
Grab the Eyedropper Tool and sample colour that you want to add to swatches. Make sure you have an option Sample All Layers selected. Colour will appear as your foreground colour.
If you are not using my template, continue to the following step. Otherwise find a group of layers called Colour and expand it. Find layer called Accent1 and double click on it.
Smart Object will open in a new tab. Hold down ALT key and press Backspace to fill the whole layer with foreground colour.
Press CTRL+S to save changes and CTRL+W to close the layer. Repeat for other Accent layers. There are six of them but you don’t need to use all of them.
Step 5: Fine Tune Your New Scheme
Find a group of layers called Colour Scheme and double click Hue/Saturation layer. By dragging sliders for Hue and Saturation you can experiment and fine tune your colours till you are completely happy.
Dark and light background is created using Erica Schoonmaker’s simple technique for creating harmonious colour schemes. The first colour of your colour scheme is applied as an overlay over neutral grey. You can adjust of this overlay layers, till your greys look good.
Step 6: Saving Swatches
Grab aEyedropper Tool again and sample colours from the top part of the template. Click New Swatch icon in Swatches panel. Name the colour in the pop up window and confirm OK. Repeat for all your colours including the light and dark grey.
Save your swatches by choosing Save Swatches… command from Swatches panel menu.
Step 7: Congratulations!
Congratulations, you’ve done it!!! You sucessfull created a colour scheme in Photoshop. Now it’s time to apply your new colour scheme to your awesome project.