Whether building a blog, creating a design or making a social media image, deciding on a color palette is an important choice during the process. While I’ve provided a printable on 30 popular color palettes (see my article “Best Complementary Color Combinations For Websites), you’ll still need that palette available in whatever editing software you use to create or edit images and graphics. One popular free program I like is Inkscape and it’s super easy to create color swatches and palettes, also referred to as “Inkscape swatches”. It’s simple to create color swatches and smart to install them as Inkscape swatches for brand colors used on your blog, logo or social media images. When you install swatches it helps retain exact same colors for future creation and editing, keeping the overall look of your images recognizable with your or your client’s brand.
Strangely, You need GIMP GPL files for Inkscape Swatches. Go Figure
Since Inkscape swatches as saved as flat text GIMP GPL files, you can organize by using a naming convention. For example, you could be creating a client’s logo and name the GPL file as clientA.gpl. A simple naming convention helps with remembering what the color palette was used for; that can save time later on if you need to re-use it. But enough on organization of your Inkscape swatches. Let’s look at how easy it is to install swatches, aka color palettes into Inkscape. It’s simply a matter of creating the flat GPL file of the colors and placing the file into the Inkscape palettes directory.
Pick color palette combinations
As with any good design, using color palettes that complement and look great together is key. There are two ways I like to find color combinations prior to creating the Inkscape swatch or color palette GPL file. The first is to go online to a site like Palettron also know as “The Color Scheme Designer” and pick color combinations. Once selected, download the result into a GPL file that can then be saved as an Inkscape swatch file. This is the common method that many use. While this is easy; the color combinations will work, I’ve found a method that I like better. I simply like to find photos that I like and are eye-catching, then I pick colors from the image that complement each other. This method has the advantage of seeing how the color combinations already look together in the picture. Personally, it helps me better decide whether I want to work with those colors or not. It’s not perfectly matched like Palettron color designer, but I’ve found combinations I wouldn’t have thought of that look really really good together.
Color palette minimums (2 to 3)
The other pro to using this method is that Palettron defaults to 4 colors; while you normally only need 2 to 3 for website design, you may want more if you’re working Inkscape designs for artwork or illustrations. Plus when pulling color from photos you like, you can play with which shades of color combinations go best together. So I actually end up with 5-7 colors and then selecting the ones I want from the color palette depending on what I’m working on.
Overall Inkscape Swatch Creation Process
Now it’s pretty straightforward to import the image into Inkscape, picking the colors and saving them as rectangle objects. The selection of colors then is saved into a GPL file Once the file is created, it can be placed into the palettes directory in Inkscape. On a Mac simply use the Finder > Go > Go to Folder command and search for “Inkscape/palette” (without the quotes). On Window perform a similar search from either the run command or explorer.
So let me demonstrate how to easily make an Inkscape swatch (aka color palette) that could be used to create a cool text design, say a logo.
Inkscape Swatch Color Palette Steps
- First using File > Import, I’ll import a photo into Inkscape.
- Next, I’ll make 5 to 7 rectangles directly below the image. The number of rectangles is based solely on how many colors I decide to pull from the image.
- To make the rectangles I simply make the first one and then duplicate it as many times as I want. Right-click the rectangle, select duplicate or use the CTRL – D command. Since I have snapping to corners turned on I can align up my duplicate rectangles below the image.
- Now I select the first rectangle by clicking it then select the color picker (from the vertical toolbar on the right or by using F7). Clicking anywhere in the photo will put that color into the selected rectangle.
- I repeat step 4 for each blank rectangle until I’ve created a color palette I like. Using the photo, I can reselect rectangles and then reselect areas of the photo. This lets me see how the color palette changes. Once I’m happy with my color palette its time to save it to GPL format.
- I select all the colored rectangles than go to File > Export. I’ll save it with a name that makes sense like I previously mentioned; the save file will be in a format of GIMP GPL The resulting file is readable either in TextEdit on Mac or Notepad in Windows (sorry I didn’t have Linux handy to test but am sure any editor like cat, vim or gedit would work too).
- Now as I mentioned I’ll open Finder, select Go > Go to folder and type “Inkscape/palette”. Once inside that folder/subdirectory I copy my GPL file and restart Inkscape.
Check out the video here.
Restart to View the New Inkscape Color Palette
To use the new color palette I simply reopen Inkscape. At the bottom or the workspace to the right of the default, Inkscape color palette is a small sidewise arrow. Clicking on that brings up all the color palettes including both those that come with Inkscape as well as added ones to the palette folder.
Let’s Take Inkscape Swatches One Step Further
You can make color palettes aka Inkscape swatches for anything your working on. As an example, say you’re making a logo for a client called “John’s Cycle Shop”. Make a color palette for John; call it “johns-shop” and save it as a swatch. If you end up making a lot of swatches for various clients you can always remove the swatch from the palettes area (so you don’t get too many in the folder that Inkscape uses) and instead keep it long-term in an archive folder outside of Inkscape. If the client ever comes back to you for more work you simply put the color palette back into Inkscape where you can use it again.
Now here’s the cool part>>>>>
I’ll use my swatch file to pick out colors for my logo design and then apply one of the Inkscape filter effects I offer on my site.
SO you know:
Inkscape swatch file use: Fire
Fonts used: FORQUE, Stint Ultra Condensed
This total effort took more time to pick a photo, fonts and write this article than to actually make the swatch and logo. The swatch and logo were made in less than 10 minutes. This process works particularly fast with text designs; obviously, if you’re making graphics that design time increases.
EXTRA FREEBIE ALERT !
If you’re looking for an even easier way to do this, I offer 60 free Inkscape swatches already premade.
They come a 1 zipped file. Simply unzip, place the GPL files you want to use in the palettes folder and start designing. I’ve included the jpg files to show what the swatches look like so you know what colors each swatch has. Go to my
If you’re interested in how to easy peasy add Inkscape filters to your text designs while using your new Inkscape Swatch files, I’ve got you covered on that too. Check out more about Inkscape Filters and the Inkscape Filter SVGs I offer that make this process super easy and fast.
Plus, I use my Inkscape Swatches to create a cool Inkscape Pattern in this article ” Creator Pattern Tutorial – Inkscape Patterns”.
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