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The colors that are used on a website have a subtle but powerful effect on the way a brand is perceived. Blue is a popular choice for banking or law sites because it projects a sense of security and calm, while red is frequently seen on sale banners, because looking at it makes viewers feel more energized. And these reactions aren’t just guesswork or speculation. Studies have been done to show, for instance, that the color yellow causes peoples’ metabolism to speed up, and their serotonin levels to rise.

But while it’s obvious that color can have a powerful impact, it can also be hard to harness that influence. While most basic colors are fairly reliable in evoking ideas or feelings, it’s difficult to pinpoint anything other than general perceptions. So it’s important to be able to experiment with how colors work together in different palettes, proportions, and applications. Luckily, there are tons of sophisticated tools out there for finding, editing, and perfecting the right color palette for any project.

1. Designspiration is a great source for finding color inspiration in every type of design.

Designspiration

If you don’t have many preconceptions for what your color palette needs to be, this site is a great place to begin. You can browse through an inclusive assortment of images that are pulled from all areas of design (logos, packaging, architecture, and more) to find and save color schemes that appeal to you. Or go a step farther and use their color searching tool: after choosing up to five hues from a palette, the site will generate any results that share that combination of colors. Results can be refined by categories or keywords.

2. For a task that’s just as much about patterns or gradients as it is about color, try using ColRD.

ColRD

This site also has many different categories to browse through, but the focus is narrower: rather than being a source for generalized inspiration, ColRD has divided its offerings into palettes, gradients, and patterns, as well as images.

All of the images on the site are freely downloadable, or you can save them to your online collection. But where ColRD really shines is in its palette and gradient sections, both of which allow you to edit the entries through a group of sliders controlling the RGB spectrum as well as the luminance, saturation, and hue. You also get access to a CSS code snippet, making it especially useful for working with gradients in web design.

3. Use Color Explorer for working exclusively and comprehensively with color palettes.

Color Explorer

This site offers a plethora of options for finding the perfect color palette; you can browse their library and edit from there, or you can upload an image and extract hues from it. Their virtual color libraries allow you to pinpoint the hex codes for a project that requires using exact colors. Best of all, their Color Matching tool allows you to quickly create harmonizing palettes based on classic color theory methods such as the complementary or triadic systems.

4. Or try Adobe Kuler for a simpler, more streamlined way of working with palettes.

Adobe Kuler

If you don’t need of a wealth of tools, but are looking for a simple way to find and edit color palettes, Kuler offers a simple interface, tons of palettes, and integration with your Adobe Creative Suite. You can search palettes by name and subject, but it’s especially useful for searching by hex number, which is great for when you already have one or two hues already picked out.

5. If you have a color palette in mind but need to find complementary stock photography, use Shutterstock Spectrum.

Shutterstock Spectrum

The quickest and most intuitive way to find stock images by color, this site is a cinch to use: after entering your keywords, you can alter your selections by color using an RGB spectrum slider until you’ve found just the right photo for your needs.

6. Or if your project calls for using free photography, a useful alternative can be found in TinEye Labs.

TinEye Labs

Use this website as a shortcut to finding just the right color combinations within Flickr’s creative commons imagery. The interface lets you get even more specific than with Shutterstock Spectrum; not only can you choose up to five colors to search with, you can also specify the ratios between colors that you’d like represented. However, the site offers no means of further refining by topic.

Color is a complicated topic that needs a lot of investigation to get just right. But by using a combination of these sites in your work, you should be well on your way towards achieving just the right palette for the affects you hope to achieve.