I spent a large part of today trying to wrap my head around colours and design. If you aren’t using IE<8, you can see it here.
A number of days ago, I was playing around with Paint Shop Pro, and I found a great way to make pop art. Just use a median cut a few times, reduce to 256 colours, scale it down to something like 800 pixels wide, do a bunch more median cuts, and try dithering with different modes of 8-bit reduction. Eventually, you can push the image to where the best sixteen colours are, and you’re left with a poignant picture with a certain style and look.
Once I had done that, I realized I had a pretty good palette, and decided to use that for a site.
Tonight, then, I spent a few hours trying to give different things different colours, based on that source image. Eventually, I decided a few things:
- It’s very hard to use dark colours on a site, and most images yield a palette of darker colours.
- When reducing colours in that way, most programs will introduce a lot of greys. Grey is very neutral, which would mean several similarly-unsaturated hues could be replaced by one shade of grey. Greys aren’t really something you want to use a lot of, when you’ve got lots of colour.
- Whites are most usually cut out, unless most of the original image is white. Highlights are very important, in web design, so having all the bright points cut out doesn’t help.
- I find myself lacking all sorts of colours. Sometimes, a complementary colour works best as a highlight for something, but the palette might not contain any complementary colours.
- Often, you’ll get groups of similar colour scattered around the image. In the palette, though, these are all grouped together (and I have them ranked by brightness). This is only handy if you have two or more completely different areas on your page (a set of colours for the header, for example, and one for the body. Maybe another for the sidebar).
It’s something I’ll be experimenting with, but I don’t think it’ll prove itself to be fruitful, in the long run; I can’t imagine anyone with experience in design (and especially painting) relying on something like this.
I do recommend it, though, as an exercise into exploring the different colours in nature. Take some pictures, give the colours an Optimized Median Cut, and see what’s most common.