How to turn one colour into hundreds of interesting palettes

Colour theory is about how we, as humans, perceive colour; and the visual effects of how colours combine, match or contrast with each other. Now, you may think that you have a keen eye for colour, but coming up with different yet interesting palettes can become difficult over time. The good news is you don’t have to be an expert in colour theory to be able to create a myriad of colour palettes in one sitting.

This interesting trick by Greg Gunn, illustrator, animator and Creative Director of design education platform The Futur, shows you how to turn one swatch into hundreds of unique colour palettes. He does, however, state that his technique is not meant to replace actually learning a bit about colour theory. In fact, colour theory can help you build your brand and that will, in turn, help you get more sales. Consumers will decide whether or not they like a product in 90 seconds or less; 90% of that decision is based solely on colour.

Colour palette design tutorial

In the video above, Greg demonstrates his technique on Adobe Photoshop CC 2020, by first selecting a hue from the colour picker. When doing so, however, make sure the first colour you choose for your palette isn’t too saturated or dark. Something that isn’t too low or too far on the right of the colour window would be perfect.

Imagine an arc starting from one extreme corner to the other
Video screenshot via The Futur Academy

Greg then asks that you imagine an arc starting from one extreme corner to the other, such as from the top left to bottom right, passing through your first choice. You’ll not only be picking highlights and shades from this arc, but tweaking their hues so they look redder, more orangey, greener, and so on.

Pick highlights and shades from this arc and tweak the colours
Video screenshot via The Futur Academy

After which he triples an existing palette of nine colours by making them lighter and darker, adjusting their lightness and saturation for a more diverse variety. You can create a new set of pastels by adding more lightness and lowering the saturation. For the lower third of the palette, you’ll want to do the opposite by lowering the brightness and cranking up the saturation.

Triple the existing palette by making them lighter and darker
Video screenshot via The Futur Academy

Finally, he selects individual colours from all three rows, combining them to create wholly new colour schemes. You can watch Greg walk you through his whole incredible process in the 11-minute tutorial above or click here to check out Shutterstock.