I Always Use These 5 Free “Go-To” Color Scheme Resources.

By Zack Rutherford


Mar 23, 2015 


What to do when the well runs dry? It’s important to have more than a few sources of inspiration when you’re out of ideas for your latest client’s color scheme. Spitballing for a new project can be a difficult process all its own, but add in a bit of “designer’s block” and you’re in for a string of long nights filled with copious amounts of caffeine, cigarette butts, and creeping creases of consternation cutting ever-deeper into your once youthful forehead.


  1. To prevent premature ageing, you have two options:
  2. Expensive plastic surgery.


Colorful color scheme resources which will get your creative juices flowing again in no time.


Seems like an easy choice to me.


What’s that you say? You don’t have any such resources to go to in your time of need?! Heavens to Betsy, why didn’t you say so? I can help you out with that. I’m a blogger after all, and by nature we’re filled with wisdom imbued by hours of tedious research, and a wealth of free time spent for your benefit, scouring the internet for the slightest sign of inspirational flotsam and jetsam.


Allow me to share with you my 5 favorite color scheme resources, which just so happen to be free.



1. Tumblr.




Didn’t see this one coming eh? Why would you? Tumblr is for overly emotional bloggers, exceedingly stoned high school kids, and obscure television show fandoms. What does it have to do with color schemes and web designs?


More than you might expect.


The famously popular microblogging site is actually a magnificent resource for creative types of all kinds. With an intuitive dashboard that allows you to follow an unlimited number of other bloggers focused on everything and anything under the sun, color schemes are hardly out of the ordinary realm of topics.


This site isn’t solely focused on design or branding, but the diverse points of view combined with the snapshot system of following and reblogging interesting artists and posts serves as an ideally ADHD, creative,  and adrenalin-enhanced injection of imagination that’s guaranteed to get blood flowing back into the brain. Check out the Pretty Colors blog if you’re looking for something simple, sexy, and monochromatic.


Highly searchable categories make it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for when it comes down to specifics, and there’s always that popular social option that allows you to bounce ideas off of your fellow web designers as well. All-in-all it’s a thriving community of the artistically inclined, and if nothing else, it can be great for a laugh between color scheme searches.  



2. Color Scheme Designer.


Color Scheme Designer 

Color Scheme Designer is an incredibly functional and effective web-based palette generator. The interface is intuitive, intelligent, and a lot of fun to experiment with. This might surprise you upon first glance, because Color Scheme Designer looks like any other palette generator. It truly outshines competitors though, with its range of unique features.


Tetrad, triadic, accented, monochromatic, complementary, accented analogic, and any other color schemes you can think of are only a few clicks away. Perhaps most impressive is Color Scheme Designer’s vision disorder simulator. The simulator recreates your color schemes through the filtered eyes of a person with a visual disability such as color blindness.


Using this web application is more fun than work, as any artistic endeavor should be. Messing with the variants and making multiple changes almost at the speed of thought makes this app convenient, usable, and ultimately a really enjoyable experience.


You can also test out a color scheme before implementation by previewing its looks on a mock up website. This is super helpful when you’re testing out ideas for a new website design. To top it all off, Color Scheme designer allows you to export your palettes in a variety of formats, including:


  • Photoshop
  • TXT 
  • GPL
  • XML


And just like every other glorious resource on this list, Color Scheme Designer is a 100% free resource. It doesn’t even require a signup. Check it out the next time you’ve got some time to kill and a page to fill.



3. Color Rotate.


Color Rotate


Color Rotate is another intriguing web and mobile application that boasts an intuitive, imaginative, and agile interface designed to interact with your perceptions in an interesting three-dimensional colorscape that’s as fun to play around with as it is unique in delivery and presentation. It’s a subsidiary of Idea.org, designed specifically to enhance public knowledge about color, as well as improve methods of working with color.


The 3D color wheel is what really sets this web application apart, as it allows your eyes to see the direct relationships that the disparate colors in your schemes have with one another in a potent visual format. It serves to further connect the dots between color theory and subjective aesthetic sense by helping you concretely visualize the connections. The controls are multifaceted and highly practical, with multiple joysticks that affect single colors, color blends, hues, ratios, brightness, saturation, and a plethora of other chromatid characteristics.


You can search through pre-made palettes by other Color Rotate users. The search function itself is simple, straightforward, and unassuming. It works as you might expect: these user-generated palettes can be sorted by author, age, or title. There’s even a bit of social sharing involved as you can post your finished palettes on your Facebook wall as a widget.


The application is available in both web and iPad formats, but it can also be integrated with Adobe Photoshop. Though the plugin isn’t free like the applications.


If all that weren’t enough already, the Color Rotate website also has a wealth of educational resources for anyone looking to improve their knowledge of the nature and psychology of colors. And any questions you can’t find the answers to all by your lonesome can be addressed to one of your fellow Color Rotate community members.



4. Pinterest.



Hah. I keep shocking you by including these wacky social media sites, don’t I? Well, I shouldn’t be. It’s just one big online community, and that means all walks of life are represented, including web designers.


Regardless, Pinterest, arguably the most visual of social media sites, can indeed be a boon to web designers looking to cash in on some color scheme inspirations. And since the boards come from a community of over 70 million users, you can count on a near-infinite source of inspiration to draw from.


You can follow boards about general color schemes, those specific to websites, and just about any other design specialty you can think of. There are plenty of interesting boards and pinners to follow, and more than a few pins to pin. It has all the same benefits I’ve already enumerated about Tumblr, but without any of the whiny, emo, live blogging BS. A lot less of the inebriated teenage element as well. Although, they may just be hiding it better…


At Pinterest, it’s all about the boards. And there are a ton of them. A quick search on Pinterest with the keyword “color schemes” results in hundreds of boards from just as many users, each with hundreds more pins exemplifying original, distinctive, and outstanding color schemes.


Here are a few of my favorite Pinterest boards concerning color scheme:


  • Fresh Color Schemes from American Freight Furniture. This board has almost 10,000 followers, and 1,377 different pins. It features bold colors aimed toward interior design, but the schemes are featured in interdisciplinary imagery that’s applicable in any number of formats, including website design


  • Color Scheme by Aspidistra Flying. Not nearly as popular, with only 213 followers and 46 pins. But this is my list, after all, and I like the vintage, comedic, and straight up medieval color scheme examples that this board has to offer. 


  • Color Scheme by Lind Vich. All these creative names for the boards may cast the pinners in a bit of disparaging light, but I encourage you to remember that these folks appear at the top of the search results. This board may sound nondescript but with 1,400 followers and almost 600 pins, Ms. Vich must be doing something right.


You can quickly get lost in the shuffle from board to board, but there are definitely a few hidden gems like these within the users on Pinterest. Not to mention once you become a user yourself, you can advertise your own inspiringly iridescent color scheme preferences, never mind your design work as a whole. In fact there’s a great deal to be said for marketing your personal brand of website design on Pinterest, but that’s a topic for another day.


You can actually check out my next resource on this list on Pinterest. Design Seeds is an affluent and active brand name on multiple social media markets.



 5. Design Seeds.

 design seeds


Designseeds.com is a bit of a departure from the web tools and social media sites that I’ve covered so far in this list. Instead, this is a sedately relaxed blog focused on color scheme and web design. This blog differs from the other items on this list from the single, foreign, yet still subjective perspective.


The website is the work of the love, pride, and passion of web designer, Jessica Colaluca. She daily blogs a new five-color palette. These come in the form of four different—yet strikingly similar—images, objects, or photographs. These are accompanied by a short journal entry that explains the source of her inspiration.


She’s been keeping up with the blog for so long at this point (since May of 2009), that it’s become quite the resource of color schemes in its own right. Not as exhaustive, or nigh on infinite as may be the case with either Tumblr or Pinterest, but what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in creativity and a superior sense of aesthetics.


You can also search her blog by color or theme, giving visitors plenty of options to seek the precise brand of inspiration they may be looking for. Another particularly notable section of her blog is the Fresh Hues section.


Here Jessica shares her “Mood Boards,” the images that are based on her color palettes. These are highly stylized, intensely attractive, and oddly intellectual color offerings that make you swoon with artistic whimsy as much as they make you contemplate the way color interacts with the human psyche.


The Fresh Hues extension also features additional images that inspire even more ponderings on color, in a section called brushstrokes, and an inspirational quote section, dubbed simply: “Words.” Only a woman after my own heart could combine color and prose under a single blogging banner.


I can’t put enough stamps of approval on this color blog. It paints with a brush that few possess, with a vigor and verve that’s rare even among other artists. Take a look and enjoy all of the various tones, tints, and tinctures you can handle.


Color is one of those magical sensations that boost moods, alter emotions, affect psychologies - it can, quite literally, change the world. It’s a powerful yet subtle force that, forgive the pun, colors the way we live our lives. Understanding that, and putting it into use in our designs, gives us the collective power to alter our spheres of influence. And to alter them for the better. Whether it’s to achieve our business goals, brighten our visitors’ moods, or just for our own selfish satisfaction in our work, doesn’t actually matter.


What matters is that we make the world a little prettier, one web page at a time. Where do you go for your color scheme inspiration? There can never be enough in the way of chromatic stimulus, so throw your two cents into the comment section.

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