generating color?

design seeds vs. palette generators


design seeds vs. palette generators


design seeds vs. palette generators


design seeds vs. palette generators


am i color color obsessed? without a doubt. i have had a lifetime rich with a love of color, and i am fortunate to have had a 20 year career specializing in color design, trend, and forecasting. this love for color and years of experience have culminated in Design Seeds.


with the popularity of the Design Seeds site, i have seen some “interesting” things develop online since May 2009. one in particular is the infamous “color palette generator.”


my thoughts on these generators? run. run in the opposite direction, and for the love of color, do not use them.


why? well, i wanted to clearly illustrate for you “me vs. palette generator.” in the images above, i had taken *the exact same photo* used to create Design Seeds and ran it through the most popular online color generator. you can see the very different results. with the generator, key colors are completed excluded, and some palette results have quite unfortunate colors not even “seen” in the photo. there are also instances where there are certain “emotional” colors the image inspires, and the software completely misses or limits them in the palette.


why does this happen?




in having established i love color to a degree that may be considered wrong, you can understand what drove me to create Design Seeds. it is an outlet, a way to share my passion, and utilizes years of experience. how do i go about creating the palettes? in a nutshell…


1) Seeds are created to communicate color trends, or sometimes to simply share color harmonies i find beautiful or am moved by.


2) i always choose an inspiration image that conveys the color in an appropriate emotional tone, while being within the ethos of Design Seeds … which comes first the, image or palette? well, that is a bit of a “chicken or the egg” question. i gravitate towards subject matter to photograph because it has color i want to convey … but i often serendipitously discover unexpected combinations as i work with the image.


3) when i create the palettes, i am utilizing years of experience working in color for creating the final harmonies, but i am ultimately driven by my gut instinct.


4) i do not use all the colors present in a photo to create a palette. there is a process of analyzing the feel of the palette, what emotion the color harmony should have, and then determining what colors detract or enhance all these considerations.


5) when i create Design Seeds, i mix each swatch individually … *never* using a color dropper or picker because they are simply inaccurate.


Hopefully summarizing my process adds a bit more insight that working with color is an balance of experience, emotion, talent, and gut instinct.


YOUR EYE FOR COLOR IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN ANY EYE DROPPER OR COLOR PROGRAM. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS, and i encourage you to be discerning about what is quality color work as color palettes have become increasingly popular the past few years. when thinking about color, consider WHAT COLORs YOU SEE, the harmonies, and how they INSPIRE OR MOVE YOU.



since this is a very popular post, i updated it on 10.23.14 with newer palettes and an updated process (such as using my own images) that reflects changes since the original post. i also included more information to answer questions i have frequently received since 1.20.12.



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  • Carrie

    Your palettes always seemed far superior to others online. Now I know why. Your sense of color and artistry are expressed by your gorgeous palettes. Please, please keep up the beautiful work for your numerous fans!

  • jessica

    thank you Carrie…very much appreciate your comment! your generous words inspire me back to keep on creating.

  • jessica

    appreciate your comment Marie … it really does come down to the human eye … & the more we us it, the stronger it gets. no software or program can replace that talent :)

  • Nicole Zenner

    I echo Carrie’s words. I absolutely love your palette’s. Every day, an inspiration.

  • jessica

    thank you Nicole <3

  • Ashantai Yungai

    I agree with what Carrie said and couldn’t have said it better! I’ll keep saying this: Pantone has nothing on you! :-)

  • O-chica

    Now I understand why I fell in love with your work. Thank you, for this post and constant flow of amazing palettes.

  • jessica

    thx so much Ashatai :)

    appreciated … thank you o-chica!

  • Melissa Jaine

    What a wonderful post, so interesting. Thank you Jessica. My respect for you (which was already high) just doubled. :)

  • Natasha Williams

    Thank you for sharing your process and inspiration. It is so wonderful to learn what drives your passion. Very motivating!

  • jessica

    appreciate your comments Melissa Jaine and Natasha

  • Airees

    Thanks so much Jessica for sharing this. Your blog has been my inspiration in my work and i truly admire your talent and for being generous in sharing them. I have high respect for you. Keep up the good work!

  • airbrush makeup videos

    Art is the colors and textures of your imagination. ~Meghan, Los Cerros Middle School, 1999 /

  • Randi

    Love your palettes. Glad to see your process explained. Hope to learn more!

  • Kathryn & Olivia

    Color and light have always been my blood and then design…I never use a color generator because i trust my eye and my heart and that is why Design Seeds is so exciting for me…because intuitively i am drawn to your boards and not color cards etc. I also love the moods and feel i get with your boards because of the pictures you put with them. I can’t thank you enough for your passion and bringing it to life so beautifully.Your passion mirrors mine! Linda

  • Kathryn & Olivia

    Color and light have always been my blood and then design…I never use a color generator because i trust my eye and my heart and that is why Design Seeds is so exciting for me…because intuitively i am drawn to your boards and not color cards etc. I also love the moods and feel i get with your boards because of the pictures you put with them. I can’t thank you enough for your passion and bringing it to life so beautifully.Your passion mirrors mine! Linda

  • Jean Burroughs

    I have an OCD for color. I can’t think of anything I’d rather have as it is the driving force of my life. I save every palette and sometimes just sit and look at them. What a high I get from your talent. Jwan

    • jessica

      thank you Jean … i appreciate your comment & kind words! i never dreamt my passion for color could be actualized as it has, i am extremely grateful.

  • Yussra

    I always had this crazy passion for colors, I never thought one could translate such passion into something so wonderful. I must say your projects are pure joy to me. Thanks big time for putting such an amazing effort to bring that lively website. Keep up the inspiration!

    • jessica

      thank you Yussra … i very much appreciate your thoughtful comment and kind words!

  • Stephanie Corridori

    I’m fascinated by your talent and process. From one color lover to another, keep up the amazing work. You are an inspiration!

    • jessica

      thank you Stephanie…i appreciate your comment & support

  • Sarah

    I have used a few of the palette generators out there when picking fabrics for quilts. Does what you illustrated about the eye dropper tool hod true when its picking from a picture of a swatch of fabric?

    • jessica

      hi Sarah … i am a little unsure of your question, but from my understanding of what you are asking it indeed holds true. all images are pixelated (whether a photo of nature, print, or fabric) … & color software / eye dropper tools all share the same inaccuracies in their ability to “match” compared to the human eye and how we see color.

  • Paul

    What an interesting process! I would love to see how you “mix” your swatches from an image in illustrator. Perhaps you could explain that process in depth! Very cool.

  • Amy

    Wow! I love this. I’ve been designing websites for years and I have often chosen colours by ‘picking’ from photos – a long and often unsuccessful process. I feel very informed by this post and inspired by the lovely way in which you create your colour palettes. Thank you! x

    • jessica

      thank you Amy! …i appreciate your comment & feedback!

  • Maggie

    I can not be more grateful for the time and effort you put into creating such beautiful palettes. I simply feel inspired when I look at these pictures:)

    • jessica

      thank you so much Maggie <3 …i very much appreciate your comment and kind words!

  • Gabriel Mott Colors

    I love your explanation for why color pickers miss the color! Color is relative. :)

    • jessica

      thank you Gabriel!

  • Sharon Crosby

    I have always been amazed by how you seem to get the “essence” of the colors from photos. I think it is probably because you have such a passion for color.
    I still like using color pickers and generators for creating palettes for fun…but from the first times I’ve used them I knew they were missing the boat a bit. They really miss getting that “divine essence” from the photo like you do. I’m not sure if I could create good palettes doing it the way you described, but I am sure it will really help me to at least try and really see colors better.
    Thank you so much for sharing your process. I love being inspired by your palettes and now I am inspired even more by this post. :)

    • jessica

      thank you for your very thoughtful comment & kind words Sharon <3

  • Craig Lindstrom

    I really like your color palettes, A lot of your designs seem to favor the red-to-blues. I was once at an art gallery with a good friend who is an artist, while there I was showing him the paintings that really struck me. I couldn’t find any similarities in the subject or style, I commented as such to him and he responded that I like a color palette, once he pointed that out I started noticing it. My favorite palette is in the red-to-blues, maybe that is why I’m so drawn to your posts. I really love your work.

    • jessica

      thank you Craig! …i appreciate your sharing a very cool / personal experience w/color.


    Perfectly explained, Jessica. What I love about your work is that you’ve managed to create palettes that capture the essence of the images. I always find myself searching for the colors you present and then getting happily lost in the subtlety and nuance of each image. What you really are doing for us, especially for creatives, is encouraging each of us to stop and ‘see’. There are so many details that we can miss if we don’t take the time to explore. Design Seeds has been a part of my creative exploration since its beginning and I’m a proud fan boy to the end!

    • jessica

      thanks so much Brett! very much appreciate your kind words about my approach, and am grateful that i can inspire you to consider / take a closer look. i have so much respect for your work and ethics … i am very fortunate to have had your support all these years.

  • tractorgirl julie

    Thanks so much for such a great explanation of your process Jessica! Your examples so clearly demonstrate the superiority of the human eye.

    I would also add that when you build your own colours, it’s important to understand how those tools work (colour itself, as well as the tech) so you get the result that you’re after – skills that you use masterfully.

    • jessica

      thank you Julie … i appreciate your comment and kind words!

      you know i am not a fan of color theory. having had to study it far too in depth, i find that it is too academic / limiting. if by theory you are talking about the just the basic principles of mixing hues … then i 100% agree.

      as far as the technical side of what i do … i believe it is most important to understand chroma / saturation in particular. this eye / understanding is critical in balancing a palette. there are so many dynamics you can create with hues and tones … understanding how they play off each other and the effect it creates is critical. it is like any art … practice. practice. practice.

      & your point about actual technology is important. for example Photoshop and Illustrator *read* colors quite differently. i am always working while considering how the software reads the colors, and how they shift to going online.

  • Elizabeth

    I love your love (of color)! I never thought to express myself this way, and cannot help but feel like we share this same love interest, at least to a certain extent. My only question/concern is what do your home and work areas look like? How often does this change? Do you also have spontaneous, and quite often simultaneous, “color-splosions” in your creative/home/work/technological/vehicular spaces? If not, hooray for you! If so, are you fortunate enough to be equally blessed/cursed with plenty of delightful Type-A sorts, bless their Math-tastic hearts, to pull you out of the colorful rabbit holes you create and craft so beautifully?