Monday, 28 April 2014

How to choose colour palettes

When I was studying Textile Design at University, one of the aspects that I found most difficult at the time was picking the colours for my collections.  I even ended up designing a black and white collection so I didn't have to choose a colour palette.  My tutor didn't teach me the best way of finding a colour palette either, so I didn't get much help with it!  He told me to pick a design I liked the colours of and to just copy them, it's not very inventive and didn't help me see how colours work well together.

I'm happy to say that I am no longer scared of coming up with beautiful colour palettes!  I started out with my tutors way of choosing palettes, because that was the only way I had being taught.  I now have a bit of a different way of doing this, although it still incorporates parts of what my tutor told me.

I don't know whether everyone works this way, but I begin with all of my motifs in black and white.  I'll work on the composition before I introduce colour into my patterns and illustrations.  However once colour is added some of the motifs need to be rejigged to make sure the pattern flows and the colours are equally distributed so your eyes aren't drawn to one particular piece.

On occasion I use websites such as Design Seeds and Colour Lovers which are jam packed full of lovely colour palettes.  I prefer to use this method though:

I will pick out quite a few patterns and illustrations where the colour palettes really catch my attention such as these:

Then I'll compile a big palette from all of these colours and make up my own colour palette from these.

There will often be quite a few single colours that will jump out at me, then all it takes is a little time to test out different colours until they all click together.

My eye for colour is so much better now, and I'll never use a black and white palette in my collection ever again!  I love colour too much!


  1. Interesting post! Thanks Emma - I still struggle with colour even though I love it, I often find I tend to gravitate towards neutrals. I will give this a try. I love all the colours above! Julie

    1. I know exactly how you feel Julie, picking colours can be really difficult sometimes and then happen so easily at others. I think it's easier when you have a block of colours to play around with, like above, otherwise it can be a little overwhelming when you have the whole colour spectrum!

  2. Very good indeed! I love your final colour palette, although having some similar tones, it looks full of light. When I was designing for Pepe Jeans, we used to develop our own colour palette based on trends and colours that could highlight the overall. Then the collections and the patterns were based on this palette, because some prints were only 5 colours maximum.
    so interesting to see how other people work and I find really useful Design Seeds palettes too.
    Enma, Thanks for sharing this post :-)

  3. Hi Emma Frances What a refreshing way to go about picking out colors. I love it. Another great way to do it. thanks MJ

  4. Will definitely be trying this idea out - thank you for sharing

  5. What a great way of pulling colors together for a collection. I too am intimidated by color at times, and have struggled picking just the right ones. Thank you for sharing your technique! I will certainly give it a try!