Use an Inspiring Picture to Find the Perfect Palette

Picking out a color palette is one of the most fun (and important!) parts of home decorating. How can you get started? First off, look for things that inspire you. It could be a classic piece of art, like Van Gogh's Starry Night. It could be the color of the Balinese ocean. It might be the brilliant orange of a flower from your garden. Inspiration can strike anywhere; just keep your mind (and eyes) open. Pinterest can be a great place to find images that move you in some way.

Once you've found your inspiration, there are hundreds of tools otu there to help you generate a color palette. If you have an image you like, you can use ColorHunter to find some of the key colors in that picture. 

Here are three of my favorite online tools for creating a color palette based on an inspiring image - in this case, this absolutely gorgeous photograph of butterflies.

Adobe Kuler

This tool is so fun to play around with, although there is a bit of a learning curve. Because I love many of the elements in the butterfly photo (the emerald greens of the leaves, the grays of the sky, and the browns in the bark), I clicked on the camera icon in the upper right corner and uploaded my inspirational photographic. From there, I could choose a color palette based on Color Mood, including colorful, bright, muted, deep, dark, and custom. My personal favorite for this photo was the "Colorful" palette, although I'd want to incorporate the last two colors from the "Muted" palette, as well.

Colorful Palette

Muted Palette

You can also switch to color wheel mode to design your own palettes based on your image.

Color Palette FX

Color Palette FX is one of the easiest tools out there for creating a color palette from a photo. Just upload your picture, and you'll see a range of colors inspired by that photograph. Pick a shade that you like, and in the bottom left you'll see the color, along with the hex value and RGB values. It also uses the color wheel to find that color's complement, as well as the triad rule to show additional colors you may want to use in your palette. I selected the light green shade from the palette it gave me.


ColorExplorer is the most versatile of all the tools, and is my personal go-to for creating color palettes. Upload your photo, and the tool will extract colors from it. Click on a color you like and choose "Use with ColorMatch." Change up the color matching algorithm to look at different palettes. Click on any color in the palette to make it your new base color. You can also change the hue, saturation, and lightness of the palette. My favorite algorithm for this photo is ColorExplorer Sweet Spot Offset.

Whether you're starting with a photograph you love or you've already got a color picked out, there are hundreds of tools available to help you find the perfect palette for your room or house. And of course, if you're ever traveling to High Point, North Carolina, I am available to consult with clients on patterns, textures, and colors that would go best with their personal aesthetic. A great deal and good advice? What more could you ask for?