For designers and graphic artists of all types, color is a key part of the job. How do you manage these colors? How do you determine the correct one? How to fine-tune exactly the shade you want?
It turns out that there are free and open-source applications available to handle each of these tasks on Linux. And the options available may be more diverse than you think.
When it comes to Color Picker for GNOME, the name of the app says it all. Or so it may seem.
Do you want to select a color from another window or image on your screen? You can do it. Alternatively, you can select your own color from the color wheel and copy and paste the corresponding RGB numbers or hex values into a separate application.
There may come a time in your project where you need to use the same colors more than once. Color Picker lets you save colors for later reference.
It looks like a pretty standard, full-featured GNOME app, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for everyone. Other apps were quicker to port to GTK4 and libadwaita. If you want a more modern look, you can check out the following option.
Alright, all those Color Picker features? Eyedropper has them too. But the difference between the two apps isn’t just about using newer code. The pipette has the task of handling colors from a different angle.
Instead of a color wheel, Eyedropper gives you a palette of colors in different shades arranged in a grid. And rather than having to manually save the colors, the app does it automatically, presenting them on the right side.
The eyedropper prioritizes by helping you copy and paste colors in different values. You have hexadecimal, RGB, HSL, HSV and CMYK. If you don’t know what those letters mean, that’s fine, you don’t need to worry about those fields. But if you know, they are there.
Do you listen to the Bad Voltage podcast? Co-host Stuart Langridge happens to be a developer and Pick is one of his creations. That fun fact aside, why would you choose Pick over the other options?
Pick doesn’t just remember your colors, it helps you remember where those colors came from. Each color associates with a screenshot of the area of your screen that you have selected.
There is a big caveat. Pick does not yet work with Wayland, the default display server on Ubuntu, Fedora, and many other distributions. You can always switch back to X.org if you really want to use Pick. And if you’re on a distro like elementary OS that hasn’t switched to Wayland yet, Pick will probably work just fine.
Palette, also known as Color Palette, is a tool for designers to create GNOME application icons or other GNOME-related art. The tool provides the GNOME color palette defined in the GNOME Design Guidelines.
This gives this application a limited use case, but if you contribute to the GNOME ecosystem or like GNOME’s color choices, here’s a tool for you.
Suppose you like the look of Palette, but need something a little less specialized. Swatch lets you create your own color palettes. The app can save several at once, allowing you to switch between projects.
You can give each palette a descriptive title, to help you track your use of each set of colors. You can switch between different display types and select colors manually or choose from an area of your screen.
If you use GIMP, Swatch is a good companion. You can import and export palettes between the two applications.
Many of us don’t give much thought to the technology behind color representation. The way it appears on our screen is what it is supposed to look like. Right?
It turns out that color management can get quite complicated. Many designers or gamers buy monitors based on how accurately they display colors. If you work with printed materials, this is information you will probably need to know. Capturing an image, displaying it on screen, and then printing it using identical colors throughout the process can take active effort.
GNOME Color Manager provides you with technical information about your system’s color profiles. This helps you calibrate your monitor, printer, and camera for perfect colors.
If you think this list has been heavy on GNOME, it’s valid. It was. So here’s one for KDE Plasma fans.
Like many KDE applications, KColorChooser is a kind of unique tool. You can select colors from different parts of the screen, select them manually, and copy different values. You can save the colors you selected before. You can create your own color palettes. Some are even included, like those used in KDE’s Oxygen theme.
No, there aren’t as many KDE-oriented options to choose from, but chances are this app will do what you need. And otherwise, GNOME applications run perfectly on the Plasma desktop.
Most of the aforementioned apps assume you have some sort of design experience or knowledge. This is less the case with Colorway. You don’t need to know which colors complement each other. If you select one, Colorway can automatically select an appropriate matching color.
If it’s basic, you can increase the complexity. Colorway can determine an appropriate color trio, or it can choose four that work. You can also select four shades of the same color if you go for the monochrome look.
All of this makes Colorway a fun app to play with, even if you don’t really need it yet. The app itself is a bit playful, with the app window sporting a gradient rather than a solid color.
Alright, so what more is there to do with palettes? I hear you. But there are lots of different ways to organize your color sets, and there are plenty of reasons why Emulsion might be your favorite. It’s a great app that’s fun to use.
As simple as these apps are already, Emulsion makes the task of visualizing palettes even easier. The app displays multiple palettes at once, helping you see your full collection at a glance. You can add colors using any method you like, select the number of colors you want, and give each palette a name. You can also import palettes that you find elsewhere.
Do you mainly design web interfaces? Or maybe your work focuses on the growing number of tools that use offline CSS to manage their appearance. GNOME falls into this category.
CSS uses three different notations to refer to color: #rgb, rgb(), and hsl(). ColorMate is a conversion tool between these three notations. It is a niche and useful tool.
Using Linux to Choose and Manage Colors
Linux might not be the first operating system that comes to mind when thinking of a platform to base your design workflow on, but there are reasons to consider it. Most apps are free, software is unlikely to change on a whim, and chances are a tool you depend on will stick around for years to come.
There are different types of design-oriented apps available, and the number is constantly growing. Whether you’re designing websites, managing photos, or drawing pictures, there are free and open source tools for the job.