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Computer as a Color Tool

Often we see a photograph, a flower, leaf or other image that has breathtaking colors. We may want to try to recreate those colors, but never seem to quite get it right. The two images shown here are of the American flag. The first image is the regular photograph. The second one has the individual colors in the photo selected.

We would say there are three colors in the flag — red, white and blue. Yet, when you see an American flag blowing in the wind, your eye perceives so many more than just three discrete colors.  The play of light and shadow and the transparency of the flag translates our glorious red, white and blue into dozens of shades and hues.

I often use my computer to find the colors in an image such as this and then work with those colors in a quilt project. This is how I do it using Adobe Photoshop. Other image editing software will work in a similar way.

  • First, if I’m not using a digital image, I scan the picture or object at a very low resolution (the dpi or pixel setting). When I want to see individual squares of colors, I set the dpi to a very low number.
  • If you already have an electronic image, open it in your photo editing software and set the resolution to a very low number such as 8 or 10 dpi.
  • Next, use the eye-dropper tool to select a color from one of the squares.
  • Then, make a selection box below the image and use the paint bucket tool to fill that selection with the color. I continue making boxes and filling them with the colors in the image.
  • Finally, I rearrange the boxes in a shaded order and I have a palette of colors to refer to when selecting fabrics for my project!

There are also some wonderful automatic “palette generator” tools on the web. They will pull colors from an image that you upload from your computer. Use an online search engine to find automatic color palette generator or try this one: