The 5 best colour search tools for designers

Have you ever felt the lack of a sophisticated and intuitive way to search for colour inspiration? If so, you'll find a remedy here.

Whether you're looking for free or stock photos in a specific colour palette, or a CSS code shortcut for the perfect gradient, these five tools are the ultimate resources for searching, manipulating, and creating colour palettes on the web.

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01. Colrd

Colour search tools

You can get a snippet of any color or gradient's CSS code, plus RGB and HSL parameters

Why it's great

Colrd offers a unique way to search with colour by dividing its database into sections for solitary hues, multicoloured palettes, gradients, patterns and images, all of which are available for download. But the truly nifty feature it offers is a snippet of any color or gradient's CSS code, and RGB and HSL parameters.

How it works

After selecting the type of image you want to look for, you can scroll through popular examples or enter a search. The interesting part starts when you’ve selected a palette; you can view the CSS code, save it to an online collection, or edit it via a group of sliders of suggested similar colours.

02. Color Explorer

Colour search tools

The Color Matching tool is probably the most sophisticated of its kind

Why it's great

Color Explorer offers the tools for creating palettes and extracting hues from uploaded images. But it goes beyond the norm by letting you browse through color libraries like Websafe Colors, RAL, or TRUMATCH, and the Color Matching tool is probably the most sophisticated of its kind.

How it works

The Color Matching Tool allows you to make a palette using sliders that control RGB components, and hue, saturation, and lightness. Then you can choose from different combination algorithms like Spit-Complementary or Analogue colors to watch your palette morph into a series of inspirational variations. You can also use the site to convert palettes to different colour systems and run analyses for web readability.

Each of these sites provides a vast compendium of images, flexible search options, and uniquely useful tools. Using a combination of them should ensure that you’re never short on colour resources for any project in your future.

03. Designspiration

Colour search tools

You can narrow your colour search results with categories and search terms

Why it's great

This comprehensive inspiration collection is especially useful if you want images from all categories of design, in all different styles. And you can search with more than just a colour palette, so it's especially helpful for a project where you need the added finesse of narrowing results with categories and search terms.

How it works

After selecting up to five hues from a useful full-page palette (which gives you the chance to really see what colors you’re looking at), the site will generate a display of all the images in its database with that colour combination. The hex numbers are prominently displayed, and you can click on them individually. Images can be saved to your collections on the site.

04. Shutterstock Spectrum

Colour search tools

You can filter images by their colour balance and brightness

Why it's great

One of the best ways to find high-quality stock images in the right color, Shutterstock Spectrum has a particularly nice interface because the images are displayed on such a large scale.

How it works

After using the slider to determine your colour search, you can further specify a keyword that determines the subject matter with impressive accuracy. An intriguing option allows you to filter images by their colour balance and brightness.

05. TinEye

Colour search tools

If you’re looking for an exact colour, you can enter the hex number in the URL

Why it's great

This site uses a database of 10 million Creative Commons images harvested from Flickr to let you explore colour combinations. It's probably the fastest way to get free images in the perfect colour combination, and it's also just a fascinating and intuitively designed tool that's a pleasure to use.

How it works

You can select different combinations of colours to preview, and watch images that share the same colour palette populate the grid on your screen. In order to change the distribution of each hue, you just drag the colour dividers, which will display the percentage that they’re being used at. Colours are easily tweaked or removed in the same panel. If you’re looking for an exact colour, you can enter the hex number in the URL.

Words: Luke Clum

Luke Clum is a designer and web developer from Seattle. Follow him on Twitter @lukeclum.

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