by phil on Thursday May 25, 2006 9:15 AM

How does one develop the ultimate color stripe?

You can either:
a) Use your intuition
b) Use a color scheme generator

My experience with color scheme generators is that they tend to produce color schemes that fall into discrete and boring categories. For example, you get a lot of pastel pallettes, or you get consistently bright super-harmonious primary-like colors, a la Nintendo Famicon or kid toys. Actually, that above generator that I linked to seems pretty good and I'll have to explore that.

I was at Modern Book in Palo Alto and saw a book, on the cover of which were a figure eight drawn with a line that looked exactly like this:

I was so stunned by the color combination that I spent a couple minutes staring at it and memorizing the color scheme. And you know how hard it is to memorize distinct and subtle differences between colors, but believe me, I brought out the big guns of self-articulation when I worked at it.

Googling around apparently The Art of Color seems to be the tome-to-get on color theory. I liked the subtitle: The Subjective Experience and Objective Rationale of Color.

Me, being the evolution-nut I am, I looked into The Evolution of Color Vision which I'll have to get to later (the theory being that, for example, red does things to us just as cherries among a sea of greenish-yellow plains would do something to our ancestral apes). Instead I read something more accessible about color theory.

The other common strategy is to look to nature. That's not bad actually. But I think then all you'll get are "nature-palettes" which is fine if that's your thang.

I think it goes deeper than that, into the nature of what we notice in nature. So I took a mental snapshot of my frosted glass table with calculator and myself wearing a lime green shirt, and thought about what was the fundamental colorized message of that screenshot. i.e. In only 7 strips of evenly sized colors laid out top to bottom, as a longer rectangle, how could I communicate the same aesthetic that just looking at my desk gave me:

I'm pretty happy with that. Keep in mind, that's not a replica of my desk, but I extracted what was the most beautiful elements expressed in a single scene captured by my mind's eye.

The default is great too, lol. no-color color = pure shape, form, universe, void

But I think stumbling upon a color combination that catches your eye is still a good heuristic. Like how I found that 8-book above. For example, I saw this spectrum:

And I liked how the red tappered off logrithmically into the darker red. It's like that fricking CHERRY. yumm. So I just extracted that and tried that.

Not bad. I can almost eat that.

However, in the strips created above they don't rise to the level of the 8-book one I mentioned above. I've TRIED creating strips before, but all I get are things like my desk one or stuff like the scheme generator. They all get this flat harmony. While as the 8-book one uses a wide range of weird colors and still pulls it off. DAH!

There's an artist, though, a TON more obsessed about this than I am.

Mark. Rothko.

Albeit, he's kind of an egotist: On one of the captions for his paintings that I saw said something along the lines of, "The reason why some people break down and cry in front of my paintings is because I am fully hitting on the pure emotion. This is agony, or this is ebullience."

People cry in front of paintings? What's wrong with them?

Rothko is a genius though.

From Original Rothko 1950

From Original Rothko 1949

Pretty satisfied with the results. The bottom especially, it actually has a message beyond "ooh, harmony, pleasant!"


adwords said on May 26, 2006 3:12 AM:

hey why don't you use a different ad format like horiz?

vitium said on May 26, 2006 7:42 AM:

You could have look at colour lovers (, a site I check regularly when I start designing. There are some nice colours and palettes in there.

Philip Dhingra said on May 26, 2006 2:07 PM:

That's great, thanks!

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