Cool Colors: Kuler for iOS, free dekeDiagraming, and Other Stuff

Color. Such a compelling visual attribute that Sir Isaac Newton, smart guy with a lot of important things to think about, stuck a bodkin in his eye to study the colors it would produce. Oh, by the way, a bodkin, according to Wikipedia is a long, blunt, sewing needle kind of thing. Well, plague was raging, so I guess sticking a metal stick in your eye in the name of science wasn’t such a big deal.

You my friends, don’t have to go to such extremes to consider the wonder of color in your surroundings. In fact, this week, Adobe released a (free) version of its Kuler (Kool-er) application for iOS (and updated the web version). Kuler allows you to create five-color themes that you can save, share, or (with the impending release of Illustrator CC) sync. And the new app allows you to extract those themes directly from the world around you.

For instance, you can take a photograph—like this one I shot at Frama Coffee in Marfa, Texas, specifically for its interesting combination of color—and then create themes based on the colors within. You can use one of Kuler’s five preset theme-templates, like these:

Or because, I’m a notoriously cold woman who likes her colors cool, I can drag the little circles around to create my own Custom set of colors. Like this:

Of course, you needn’t have an existing photo, you can actually just point your phone at anything you like (lunch, maybe) and get an instant color scheme courtesy of Kuler.

Or you can just create a color scheme based on a chosen color from your own imagination, based on familiar (to Adobe Illustrator users) harmony arrangements.

For instance, starting with that avocado-ish color in the middle, I can set the theme to Complimentary, and I’m rewarded with a Kuler collection that comprises two variations on avocado and two on its opposite, which are a little too purple to be called grape. To create a Custom theme, you can use the color wheel for the hue and saturation, then spin the outer dial indicator to set luminance (brightness.)

What, you ask yourself, do these themes mean? Well, it just so happens Deke explained that in his Illustrator One-on-One: Advanced course. Check out this video:

If you’d like to watch the whole Color chapter (or the whole course, or our friend Mordy’s Illustrator Insider Training: Coloring Artwork course, or all of it, you have a whole week!), you can get a free week’s trial at You’ll be on your way to veritable Newtonian color genius without needing a trip to the opthamologist.

Regardless of how you choose to create your fab five, you can share that collection online with the world at large on the Kuler web page. You can also sync those palettes with Adobe Ideas automatically. And, while you wait for the ability to sync with Photoshop and Illustrator, you can download your themes as .ASE files and load them into PS or AI via the Load Swatches command in the Swatches panel flyout menu.

And if you’re wondering where in the world wide rainbow I came up with that horrific (but interesting) Newton story, check out this RadioLab episode about Color. It’s got everything, superpowered shrimp, human mutants, and the acquisition of explosive color pigments. You know, in case the idea of a genius poking his own eye in the name of science isn’t enough colorful drama.

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