Monday, February 13, 2012

Extracting an Interior Design Color Palette in Gimp

A few days ago, I learned how to create an interior design color palette from an image and I thought this info might be useful for others. How many times have you seen an image of a room and wished you knew the colors the decorator used? For me, the answer is lots.

And away we go.

I use photo manipulation / editing software called Gimp, which is very similar to Photoshop. The biggest difference is that Gimp is free. Free!  You can download it here

Open an image of a room that you love with Gimp. I fell for the colors in this one.

Cheery little space.
There are so many things to love about this room. The creamy white walls, aquamarine bench cushions, sandy-colored floor tiles, all punctuated with a soft yet bright yellow. And of course the cute pup!

You may not realize it, but oftentimes a room is appealing because of the overall presentation, and not just the main fixtures in the room. If you only pulled the colors of the walls, cabinets, floor, countertop and bench cushions, you wouldn't have all of the components that make this room a thing that resonates beauty. So yes, the colors should include the pup. :-)

In the upper toolbar of the image in Gimp, click on "Colors" then "Info" then "Smooth Palette." A new window will pop up that looks like this:

Each detectible color in the original image is arranged in neat columns for you view in an orderly fashion and select for your personal palette.

The next thing I do is create a new file. I usually make it 640 by 480 pixels. Click on the upper ruler and hold down the mouse button, then drag down into the body of the image. A line will come down from the bar and land wherever you release the mouse button. You can move it if you don't like the position. Repeat that step a few times to make horizontal dividers. I usually make three dividers, which gives me four spaces. Then repeat the whole thing from the left ruler to make vertical dividers. The rulers on the top and side will help you place the guides evenly.

Once the guidelines are set where you want them in the body of the blank image, use the square select tool in the upper left of the separate toolbar (where the paint brushes, bucket fill and other tools are located) to select one square of the grid. The guidelines in the image will act as a slight bumper to help prevent the drag from going past the lines and bleeding into the next section. You can drag the tool past the guides, but if you get close and release the mouse button, it will outline only the selected square. The highlighted square will flicker around the perimeter, showing you that it is selected.

Using the eyedropper tool, select a color in the striped palette that you like. Fill the selected square with color from the dropper tool using the paint bucket or a paint brush tool.

Fill each square with a different color that you like from the palette using the square select tool, eyedropper tool and paint bucket or paintbrush.

These are the colors I picked.

You probably don't want to create a grid that shows every single color in the image. That would be gigantic. I already have a pretty good idea of the wall color since I used a similar color in my downstairs bath, so I didn't think it was necessary to add it to this palette. But I especially wanted the yellows, aquas and greens. 

The main grid will not have the white dividers between the colors, but that's easy to add after you fill the squares. On the upper toolbar, click on "View" then "Show grid." A tight grid will appear, covering the whole image. Choose the square select tool again and select along two parallel grid lines between two colors, then fill the selection with white. Repeat at the edge of each square. 

Once you have one large palette, you can modify it very easily (and save it with a new filename) to make new palettes. The fuzzy select tool will capture one color at a time in the grid, which is easier than using the square select tool. Click on a colored square, select a color from a palette and replace the color in the fuzzy selected area with the new color. 

And there you have it. The next time you see a picture of a room that makes you go gaga, pull the colors you want to remember and make a palette to help you reproduce whichever elements of the room you like. 




  1. Awesome! Thank you! I just downloaded GIMP the other day, and just found your blog today. Love your style - thank you!

  2. Awesome on both counts! Thank you :-)

  3. Love it! Color Palette Generator creates color palette from any image

  4. This is very useful tip. Thank you so much.