For designers and graphic artists of all types, color is a key component of the job. How do you manage those colors? How do you determine the right one? How do you hone in on exactly the hue you want?
Turns out, there are free and open-source apps 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 app’s name 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 that. Alternatively, you can select your own color from the color wheel and copy and paste the corresponding RGB numbers or hexadecimal values into a separate app.
There may come a point in your project when you need to use the same colors more than once. Color Picker lets you save colors to refer back to later.
This feels like a pretty standard and feature-complete GNOME app, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for everyone. Other apps have been quicker to port to GTK4 and libadwaita. If you want a more modern look, you may want to check out the next option.
Okay, all those features from Color Picker? Eyedropper has them too. But the difference between the two apps doesn’t merely come down to the use of newer code. Eyedropper comes at the task of managing colors from a different angle.
Instead of a color wheel, Eyedropper gives you a palette of colors in different shades laid out in a grid. And rather than having to manually save colors, the app does that automatically, presenting them on the right-hand side.
Eyedropper prioritizes helping you copy and paste colors in various values. You have hexadecimal, RGB, HSL, HSV, and CMYK. If you don’t know what these letters mean, that’s fine, you don’t need to bother with those fields. But if you do know, there they are.
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 might you want to pick Pick over the other options?
Pick doesn’t merely remember your colors, it helps you remember where those colors are from. Each color pairs with a screenshot of the area of your screen you selected.
There’s a big caveat. Pick doesn’t yet work with Wayland, the default display server on Ubuntu, Fedora, and many other distros. 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 yet switched to Wayland, Pick is likely to work just fine.
Palette, which also goes by the name Color Palette, is a tool for designers creating GNOME app icons or other GNOME-related art. The tool provides the GNOME color palette set forth in GNOME’s design guidelines.
That gives this app a limited use case, but if you contribute to the GNOME ecosystem or happen to love GNOME’s color choices, here’s a tool for you.
Say you like the look of Palette, but you need something a little less niche. Swatch lets you create your own color palettes. The app can save more than one at a time, so you can jump between multiple projects.
You can give each palette a descriptive title, to help you keep up with what you’re using each set of colors for. You can switch between different view types and select colors manually or pick from an area of your screen.
If you use GIMP, Swatch is a good companion. You can import and export palettes between the two apps.
Many of us don’t give the technology behind color representation much thought. How it appears on our screen is how it’s supposed to look. Right?
Turns out, color management can get rather complicated. Many designers or gamers purchase monitors based on how accurately they display colors. If you work with printed materials, this is information you’re likely going to need to know. Capturing an image, displaying it on screen, and then printing it out utilizing identical colors throughout the entire process can take active effort.
GNOME Color Manager provides you with technical information about the color profiles on your system. This helps you calibrate your monitor, printer, and camera to get colors just right.
If you feel this list has been very GNOME-heavy, that’s valid. It has been. So here’s one for KDE Plasma fans.
Like many KDE apps, KColorChooser is sort of a one-size-fits-all tool. You can select colors from different parts of the screen, select them manually, and copy different values. You can save the colors you’ve selected before. You can create your own color palettes. Some even come included, such as those used in KDE’s Oxygen theme.
No, there aren’t as many KDE-oriented options to pick from, but there’s a solid chance this app does what you need. And if not, GNOME apps run just fine on the Plasma desktop.
More of the aforementioned apps assume you have some sort of design experience or knowledge of your own. This is less so with Colorway. You don’t need to know what colors complement one another. If you select one, Colorway can select a suitable matching color automatically.
If that’s basic, you can turn up the complexity. Colorway can determine a suitable trio of colors, or it can pick four that work. You can also select four shades of the same color if you’re going for the monochromatic look.
All of this makes Colorway a fun app to play around with, even if you don’t yet have a real use for it. The app itself is a bit playful, with the app window sporting a gradient rather than a solid color.
Okay, what more is there to do with palettes? I hear you. But there are just many different ways to organize your sets of colors, and there’s ample reason Emulsion might be your favorite one. It’s a great-looking app that’s pleasant to use.
As simple as these apps already are, Emulsion does a good job of simplifying the task of viewing palettes even further. The app displays multiple palettes at one time, helping you see your full collection at a glance. You can add colors using whichever method works for you, select however many colors you want, and give each palette a name. You can also import palettes you’ve found elsewhere.
Do you primarily design web interfaces? Or maybe your work focuses on the growing number of tools that use offline CSS to manage their look and feel. GNOME falls into this category.
CSS uses three different notations for referring to color: #rgb, rgb(), and hsl(). ColorMate is a tool for converting between these three notations. It’s a niche tool and a useful one.
Using Linux to Pick and Manage Colors
Linux may not be the first operating system that comes to mind when thinking of a platform to base your design workflow around, but there are reasons to consider it. Most apps are free, the software is unlikely to change on a whim, and there’s a good chance a tool you depend on will stick around for years to come.
There are varied types of design-oriented apps available, and the number is growing. Whether you’re designing websites, managing photos, or drawing pictures, there are free and open-source tools for the job.