design · Geometric Drawings · geometry and paper

What to do about Color Combinations


Steal them.

Since I started decorating my own papers with geometric designs (as well as decorating geometric designs) I’ve been flummoxed about color combinations. Some of the decisions I’ve made have been truly horrible. Sometimes they’ve not been so awful, but, even then, it takes way too long to come up with color combinations that look good to me.

I suppose I could take an on-line class about color theory, but somehow I’m just not drawn to do that just now. Abode has a palette-sharing site, but it’s not supported in the version I use. Recently, having spent way too much time having way too little success, it finally occurred to me to try out dipping directly into the palettes of painters who use color in a way that sing to me.

Geometry and Georgia O'Keefe
Geometry and Georgia O’Keefe

I probably wouldn’t write about this if  I could do this only in Adobe Illustrator, since this info would be totally useless to most people. I noticed, though, that more and more people in my circle are using Inkscape, which is a free graphics program, and it turns out that dipping into the palettes my favorite painters is even easier to do in Inkscape than Illustrator.

Fra Angelico
Fra Angelico

Here’s what to do in Inkscape. Find a painting you’d like to dip into. Save it to your computer. Drag and drop it into Inkscape. Select the shape or area that  you want to color. Press F7 or choose the eyedropper tool (second to the last tool from the bottom on the left side) and click on the color on the painting that you want to use. That’s it.

Vectorizing the Image in Adobe Illustrator
Vectorizing the Image in Adobe Illustrator

To do this in Adobe Illustrator, it’s bit more complicated. Place the image into the Illustrator file, then vectorize it  in Image Trace. I generally use the high fidelity photo setting in image trace. This separates the painting into regions, which if you zoom in really closely looks abstract and totally cool (in Inkscape, getting this close just looks blurry).

Up-close O'Keefe
Up-close O’Keefe

Just like in Inkscape, to harvest the color use the eyedropper tool, which has the key shortcut “I”. I’ve been using the live paintbucket tool (k) to fill in the areas that I want to color, but, like Inkscape, choosing the shape then the eyedropper works too.

Even more O'Keefe
Even more O’Keefe

Now, I just want to mention that even though this is the best method I’ve used to choose colors digitally, there’s still a bunch of trial and error. But instead of me doing trail and error with millions of colors, I’m using this more limited palette. Works for me. Am having lots of fun with this.


Harry O’Malley just pointed me towards, which looks like the internet’s free version of Adobe’s Kuler. Yay! Another color resource! (I can use all the help I can get.)

Addendum #2: ((2/18/2019)

Another color resource:




10 thoughts on “What to do about Color Combinations

  1. I have a whole digital file of favourite paintings, but I have never used them this way. What a great idea! If those colour combinations make me happy in a painting, they probably will make me happy somewhere else. (I think there are design sites for house paint and such that automatically do this.)


    1. Would love to know which artists are represented in your favorite painting file. OH, and have meaning to tell you, Ed and I played with that structure you showed me. We admired it a great deal, and Ed says to say hi.


      1. Any recognition of it as someone else’s design?! You and Ed may also have fun with the DIY book I am posting this coming Sunday. ; ] (Nice that Ed remembers who I am: I feel flattered.


      2. The design wasn’t something that either of us are familiar with. Ed says he owns a couple of your books. He’s been setting up a bookarts library, so he can share the viewing of his collection, so I will be able to see what he’s got of yours before too long.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. One reason that I like using someone’s (or something’s) color palate is because I’m partially color blind, and the subtleties of different colors combinations can elude me. Nice post!


    1. This explains a lot. When I first saw your images I was bewildered as to why they were all black and white, as they seemed to be begging for color. Honestly, one of the most enjoyable things I have done in my life is colorize your images. Color can often camouflage weakness in the structure of an image, but your images are so amazingly structurally beautiful that the color really serves mostly as an excuse to revisit them over and over again. It did finally occur to me that there was color blindness going on, specifically with greens, but can’t remember why I thought this. IF true, well, it’s seems fittingly tragic that the main color scheme of The Matrix is green.


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