5 Great Tools for Finding Color Inspiration

There are so many great resources available to designers that help inspire and improve efficiency, but often, color inspiration and color search abilities are overlooked in web design resources. After all, it’s often just important to find an image, gradient, or palette as it is to find one with the right subject.

What’s more, color can be one of the elements that designers forget to focus on, in favor of the typography, layout, or imagery. And yet a gorgeous color palette can make the difference between a bland and a strikingly original design.

So if you find yourself in need of a color inspiration boost, not only will this roundup of great sites provide you with all the palettes and images you could ever wish to see, they’re also great resources for manipulating, creating, and sharing color.

Find the right palette, pattern, or gradient

5 Great Tools for Finding Color Inspiration

Colrd has a database of single colors, palettes, gradients, patterns, and images, but some of these categories are more useful than others. Choose a palette to edit with sliders that suggest similar colors, note the hex numbers, or view similar results.

Best Feature: A CSS snippet is available for recreating each of the gradients, which makes this site particularly useful within that section.

Downside: Other sections (particularly the single-hued one) are of limited use, and search results are difficult to narrow down by anything other than popularity.


Manipulate and explore colors

5 Great Tools for Finding Color Inspiration

Color Explorer is the destination for working with pure color, ignoring the intermediaries of patterns, gradients, or images. You can import and alter your own color palettes, explore standardized color libraries, analyze and convert hues, and much more.

Best Feature: Their Color Matching algorithm allows you to create various related palettes by selecting different combinations based on color theory, such as split-complementary colors.

Downside: Should you be searching for inspiration that goes beyond simple color, this isn’t the site for you.

Search through a comprehensive collection of design imagery

5 Great Tools for Finding Color Inspiration

If you’re looking for a site that focuses on beautiful images rather than strict color palettes, head to Designspiration. You can choose up to five different colors in their clean and simple interface, and then view all the images in the site’s database that match the color combination you’ve selected. The hex numbers are listed as titles above.

Best Feature: It’s got a diverse list of categories, ranging from business cards to posters to architecture, so it’s particularly useful if you want to be able to refine your results by the type of design imagery.

Downside: Content is user-generated, so you might see some repeats in your results.

Color search through stock photography

5 Great Tools for Finding Color Inspiration

Use Shutterstock Spectrum if you want a simple shortcut to finding quality stock photos in the right color palette. Results are found by choosing a color with a slider, and then specifying the topic of the images.

Best Feature: Within a color search, you can choose to view photography in the same color range, but with progressively lighter shades.

Downside: You can only choose one color, as opposed to the multi-hued selections you can make in other sites.

Get the perfect palette in open-source photography

5 Great Tools for Finding Color Inspiration

Tineye operates along the same lines as Shutterstock Spectrum, except that it culls its imagery from the creative commons. Using a panel of up to five colors, you can adjust the percentage of each; your image results will fluidly reflect the changes you make to your palette.

Best Feature: The ability to stipulate the weight of each color gives you perfect control in finding the exact combination of hues.

Downside: There’s no way to narrow results by topic, so if you need an image in the right color palette and of the right subject, you may be in for a lengthy search.

As you can see, each of these sites has a particularly strong point; a powerful tool that works exceptionally well for a specific need. And using a combination of them all should give you the right resource for any situation when you find yourself lacking in color inspiration.

About the Author:

Rob Toledo loves CSS3, no longer supports IE7 or lower and still prefers Firefox over Chrome, despite pressures from his management to switch. He can be reached on Twitter @stentontoledo

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