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When using an application or browsing a website, few people ever pause to consider the colors used. If they do notice, it's usually because the designer got something wrong--either a jarring combination, or a lack of contrast that makes text difficult to make out. But for the designer, picking the right colors to use is not an easy task, especially if the brand already has a base color which they must use. ColorSchemer Studio ($50, 15-day free trial) offers multiple tools that aim to make it simpler to come up with attractive, usable schemes.
At first, ColorSchemer Studio may feel a bit overwhelming. There's no Wizard you step through to get to your perfect scheme. You start by selecting a Base Color that would serve as the anchor point for your scheme. You can select it out of a library of named colors, feed it in directly as an RGB or HSL value, or use an eyedropper to pick it from anywhere on your screen.
Once you have a Base Color you can easily tweak it with RGB and HSL sliders, or using handy buttons that let you quickly change saturation and brightness. Fortunately, you don't have to go through this entire song and dance for every color on your palette (although you can, if you really want to). Extrapolating a palette out of that single color is what ColorSchemer studio does best.
You can start off by using the Color Wheel, which lets you quickly find matching colors as Complements, Split-Complements, Triads, Tetrads and a bunch of other color-theory terms. If you require finer control over your palette, you may want to use the LiveSchemes feature. Here you start off with your base color and add harmonious colors, but retain full control over each hue. Also, moving your Base Color moves all harmonious colors along with it, so your scheme retains the exact same color relationships while using different hues.
ColorSchemer's Mixer feature allows you to reach from color A to color B via a succession of colors arranged either on a gradient or as steps on a color wheel (clockwise or counter-clockwise). As you may expect, you get to set the exact number of steps from A to B (i.e, how fine the gradient is going to be).
There are several other color selection tools, but even with all of them at your disposal, you may not be completely happy with the color scheme you end up with. Perhaps you can draw inspiration from some other designer's palette (or just use it). ColorSchemer's GalleryBrowser feature hooks right into ColourLovers, which is a community of designers sharing and rating palettes, patterns and individual colors for other people to use. You can use this feature to pull countless beautiful schemes right into the app and tweak them as needed.
When a scheme is presented as a few color swatches, it is not always easy to imagine what it would look like on a finished layout. The QuickPreview tool offers a plethora of pre-baked layouts ("Blog," "2-Column" etc.) letting you drag-and-drop colors out of your scheme to see how they really work together.
At the end of the process, when you finally have that perfect scheme for your project, ColorSchemer can easily export it into numerous formats, including HTML, CSS, ACO (Adobe Photoshop Color Palette), and just about any other palette interchange format imaginable.
ColorSchemer Studio is nothing if not comprehensive. With its many tools, you can spend hours tweaking colors and mulling over your choices. If you're the type of designer who feels the need for fine-grained control over color, this is one of the best tools around.
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