Creating Digital Color Palettes

By Kate Riley June 5, 2012

You know how you take a picture of a colorful scene or stumble across a space you see online and you just fall in love with the color palette?  It happens to me all the time.  Often it’s an image I’ve snapped while I’m out and about, other times it’s a striking room, tablescape, or vignette I store in my inspiration files on Pinterest.  Well, there’s an easy way to create a digital color palette from your inspiration images in a few steps.

I’ve sung the praises of Pixlr here and here – it’s a online photo editing program very similar to Photoshop Elements (not a paid or sponsored post, I just dig it!).  Pixlr has a great tool you can use to pull colors from your favorite photos to create digital color palettes.  If you’re in need of inspiration for a room redesign, here’s a fun way to do it.

creating digital color palettes


I shot the above image of some cute little kids playing on the beach in So Cal a few weeks ago.  I loved the whole scene, especially the oranges, corals, and blues and the sandy colors too – the perfect summer scene.  To create the color palette you see to the right, I followed these simple steps.

Step 1: Open Pixlr and open your image.

open image in pixlr


Step Two: Click on the large rectangle where the blue arrow is pointing to trigger the color generator.

trigger color selector

You’ll notice that the color selector pops right up with several choices (seen below).

up pops color selector


Step Three: Select the IMG tab and you’ll see all the colors from the image instantly appear under that function.

select img for colors

Pick a color from any of the selections and notice how the hex triplet number pops up too (for those savvy in HTML this is a nifty tool for selecting colors for web fonts or web pages).

pick a color

Select the color with the arrow key and click “OK”.


Step Four:  Select the Paint Bucket Tool on the toolbar shown below.

select paint bucket tool

Go up to “file” and select “new image” and an Untitled image will appear.   Drop the paint bucket color directly on top of the new image.

drop paint bucket on untitled image

Save the new image as your first color.

save image color coral

Continue repeating steps Three and Four to generate as many solid color images as  you like.


Step Five:  Create a collage with your inspiration and color images.

PicMonkey is a lot like the old Picnik and it has many collage choices.  Photoscape is also great, but only for PC users.  Select a layout you like then drag your images to the location you want it to create an instant color palette with your image.

picmonkey collage2


You’re done, sweet!

beach umbrella color palette


Want to see six more examples of inspiring color medleys?  Don’t miss my latest post on the My Colortopia blog on discovering fresh summer color palettes with more  images taken from other summer outings!




  1. I will definitely be tying this! Such a great inspiration point. On a side note… I was thrilled when I logged onto Pinterest yesterday and saw that you pinned my diy table runner from Style Me Pretty! I love your style so I’m so glad you loved it!

  2. sherwin williams (and others) have a tool called “chip it!” to do this for you from a web image. It creates a palette with paint chips providing the SW colour name. It’s convenient for its one click process- however, not sure how it works for your own photos since it’s a web tool.

    • Hi Cindy, I love the SW tool too and yep, you can use your own photos!

  3. Thanks for all the Pixlr tips! I use this tool a lot, so you’re tips are extremely helpful!

    Quick question – Do you know if Pixlr has an “arrow” tool, so you can add arrow shapes to an image? I can’t seem to find it!

    • Hi Jenny, I don’t think Pixlr has an actual arrow shape tool – I use Microsoft Paint to make them straight but you can do it freehand style with the Brush tool!

  4. Kate I love you!!! Seriously girl, you come up with the greatest stuff to help others out. I will be doing this for sure. Such a great way to get color inspiration out of an actual photo. Thanks for sharing the step by step. I’m off to play around with it now. ;)

  5. I had no idea you could do this! Great tip. I may have to start making all sorts of fun color palettes now! Thanks for the step-by-step:)

  6. Thank you for all the tutorials you give! Could i ask you a simple question?
    How do you add text to a picture like how you put Centsational Girl on your photos?

    • Hi Lindy, you can add text or watermarks to phots with a number of programs from Picasa to PicMonkey to Photoshop if you can find the text button or tool. I like Picasa, it’s quick and easy and reads any font installed on your computer or laptop!

  7. Kate I love you!!! You always love to help others. This is an amazing tool to use!!! I can’t wait to try this out. So much fun!!! I kept wondering how people were doing them on Pinterest.

  8. this is awesome. i use designseeds all the time but i like the idea of doing my own, instead. thanks!

  9. Kate! I hopped over to the colortopia blog…and saw your post on summer color palettes…where oh where is the shop where you took the picture of the hat and bag in the storefront?!?! Thanks!

    • Ha! Great hat right Pickles? I spied it in a window in Carmel last year, loved it!!!

  10. Hi Kate

    These tips are great and appreciate your recommendation earlier in week for the online photog class…but your posts on photography are super also…might you consider a button/tag along your header bar just for these posts? I retread a lot of them,

  11. what a brilliant and easy idea! Thanks for the awesome step-by-step instructions. I’m still mourning over the loss of Picnik, but Picmonkey is growing on me…. :)

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