Sneak Peek: ColorSchemer Studio 2, pick your palette
As part of my trade, I work a lot with colors. ColorSchemer Studio has long been a valuable tool in my toolkit for picking out color schemes based on solid color theory. It had its shortcomings, though, and some other tools had surpassed it, both on the desktop and on the iPhone. However, I got a sneak peek at the up-and-coming version 2.0 of ColorSchemer Studio, and I'm willing to say that it's poised to regain its lead in the field.
ColorSchemer Studio 2 adds an amazing number of new features, and improves on just about every aspect of the existing toolkit. Firstly, I want to highlight that it can now work entirely in the CMYK gamut, if you choose. Screen colors are adjusted to a CMYK profile, and there are export options to match. That's a big deal for those who take their colors off the screen and into the real world. Even though many modern presses can actually get better color from an RGB file, CMYK still rules in the world of offset printing. While it's a huge step for this app, it's not the coolest part ... read on for an in-depth preview.
The toolset has expanded significantly. There has always been a QuickPreview function, which let you drop colors into a basic web-format layout to see how they'd mix in different ratios on the page. The QuickPreview in 2.0, however, lets you choose from 13 different layouts covering the range from web layouts to print layouts, and even some stripe combinations for overall blending and contrast assessment. Speaking of contrast, the Contrast Analyzer has been amped up as well, and you can get suggested contrast colors for text and background right in the "Favorites" sidebar.
The "Favorites" sidebar now allows for grouping, which is great for organization, but especially handy because of what I consider to be one of the coolest of the new features: direct integration with COLOURlovers. You can browse color schemes from the COLOURlover's community-driven website, right from inside ColorSchemer Studio. Find a palette that looks promising? Click a button to add it as a group to your Favorites, and then tweak and mix the colors to your heart's content. I'm told this is just the first step in further integration.
The tweaking and mixing parts are much improved, too. The "Matching Colors" section of ColorSchemer offers the usual color wheel (with a new Spectrum Palette picker) and your standard color theory harmonies (compliment, triad, split compliment, tetrad, etc.). One tab over in the interface, though, is the LiveSchemes tool, which is a palette-building monster. Pick your base color and add a couple of secondary colors to create an initial harmony. Each individual color can be adjusted, and they're tied together with lines on the spectrum wheel. Once your harmony is set, move the base color to adjust the others in tandem, modifying hue and saturation of the entire palette with ease. Each color "spoke" can be expanded based on harmonies, and soon an entire palette manifests right on the spectrum wheel. One click and a new group with all of your new choices is in the sidebar, ready for export.
There's also a souped-up color mixing tool, and a tab called "Variations" which lets you view various schemes built off of your current base color, based on gradations of Hue and Saturation, Hue and Brightness, Saturation and Brightness or Related colors. You can control the intensity of the scheme, from very close relatives to long steps that take you all the way around the spectrum.
ColorSchemer Studio 2 can export in many formats. ASE (Adobe exchange format) and AI (Adobe Illustrator palette) are invaluable to me. You can also output HTML color tables and CSS stylesheets, for those palettes headed for the web. ACT, CLR, ACO, GIF and PNG images ... you'd be hard pressed not to find a format you could work with in any project. You can also instantly copy HEX or values for any individual color.
The details are important, too. From incremental adjustment tools on the existing RGB and HSB sliders to drop-down color information in the sidebar color list, there are too many refinements to fit into this piece. Check out the gallery for a preview, and stay tuned for the release in early December, when TUAW will have a few licenses to hand out to our readers!