Fun with Googling Colors

I was on the phone with Friend of IBD Howard Aprill not long ago, when he described something as being the color “vermillion.” Because Shea and I are going to present a graphic design workshop this summer at Wehr Nature Center in Milwaukee, where Howard works, and because I am a graphic designer, I felt I should know what color vermillion was. Rather than ask, I changed the subject of the conversation to baseball and on the side, quietly Googled “What color is vermillion?”

Of course, the rest of my afternoon was shot. I’ve always wanted to know the difference between sea foam…

…and sea mist. (Not much.)

Or the difference between cerulean…

…and manganese. (Cerulean’s a little darker, maybe?)

Then, of course, this led to further exploration. (All while Howard and I were still talking, mind you. This may explain why I apparently agreed to sing “I’m a Little Teacup” during our workshop in Milwaukee this summer.) What if you Googled “What color is [something that is not a color]?” Some (but not all) of these turned up interesting results.

What color is nature? (I thought this would come back overwhelmingly green. Kind of refreshing that it did not.)

What color is energy?

What color is Greece?

What color is New Jersey?

And, of course, this led to even more exploration. (At this point in the conversation, evidently, I’ve agreed to buy everyone Brewers tickets and wear a T-shirt that says “I’m Ryan Braun’s pharmacist” to the game.) I took a few of the screen captures above and uploaded them to my favorite color-palette generator, Kuler, which I wrote about way back when.

Here’s what I got for vermillion:



Nature (I love this one):

And New Jersey:

I think what this amounts to is a kind of fun, Internet-based brainstorming—and sometimes it works better than others. I would never commit myself to generating a color palette for a project exclusively using this method, but the results that it returns could be a springboard for thinking about colors in ways that you haven’t before.

I plan to explore this more in the future, and I’d love to see some of the results IBD readers come up with in the comments of this post. In the meantime, I have to figure out why my presenter’s agreement with the Wehr Nature Center says I’m doing Howard Aprill’s laundry.

Color Palettes: They’re All Greek to Me!


First, I have to offer my sincerest apologies for the terrible joke in the headline of this post. It’s not funny and it’s never been funny, but this post involves Greece and it’s the law.

We wrote some time ago about a website called Kuler that generates color palettes from photos. Nerd Herd member and friend of IBD Amy Ford turned us on to another site,, that does something similar. I decided to use this site to generate a color palette for the program guide for the NAI International Conference in Greece, which starts in just two days.

As any designer should when letting the computer do his work for him, I started with an idea of what I was looking for. I found a photo that I considered iconic of the Greek coast, where the conference will be held, then let this website suggest some color palettes. (This can easily be done in Photoshop with the eyedropper or color sampler tools, but it’s always interesting to try out new resources.)

ic2009-program-p8Of course, I didn’t accept the website’s palettes as gospel. I started with two colors from the “vibrant” option and made one a little darker and the other a little lighter to increase contrast. The result is a palette that is consistent with my original vision and appropriate to the region where the conference will be held, while also serving the basic design needs in terms of contrast and legibility.

See the result in the thumbnail page image posted here.

How to do it: The DeGraeve Color Palette Generator asks you to enter the URL of an image. To do this, find a photo online, then control-click (on a Mac) or right-click (on a PC) on that photo. Depending on the browser you’re using, you’ll get an option like “View Image” or “Open Image in New Window.” When you select this option, your browser will open the image in its own window. The URL that appears in your address bar is what the color palette generator is looking for.

Paste the URL in the field on the DeGraeve website and click “Color-Palette-ify!”