PI7 Custom Color Swatches

Have you ever wished you could save a set of custom colors, such as skin tones or landscape colors, so that you could use them over and over again? This tutorial shows you how to do it. The PI7 Color Panel lets you save custom colors for painting and for filling selections or objects. A quick and easy way to get realistic, harmonizing colors is to select them from an existing image, then save the colors as Swatches. Click the Color Panel button (arrow) in the Panel Manager, which runs vertically along the right side of the work space.

color panel

When the Color Panel opens, click the Swatches tab. Unless you've already been experimenting with color swatches, the default swatches will appear. To create your own custom color swatches, click the right facing arrow and choose Clear Swatches.

clear swatches

This option will clear out the default swatches, reverting to a "blank slate" that you can fill with your own color swatches.

no color swatches visible now

Open up an image with colors that you'd like to "sample" for your custom colors. For this tutorial, click the Browse Manager button (arrow) to open the Browse Manager. Browse to your PI7 Samples folder and select Gift Store.JPG. Double click on its thumbnail, or right click and select Open.

open Browse Manager

Hit Ctrl+1 to show the image at full size. Most likely you will have to use the scroll bars or the Global Viewer (in the lower right corner of the image window) to view all the parts of the image. Now that the image is open, close the Browse Manager by: (1) clicking the X in the upper right corner; or (2) clicking the Browse Manager button again to toggle it off.

Select the Eyedropper tool from the Tool Panel, which runs vertically along the left side of the work space. To select colors from the image, click on an interesting color.  For example, select a nice muted green from the area circled in the screen shot below. Notice how that color shows up as the current Foreground color, with a box around it.

click Eyedropper on a color to select

Click the Add New Swatch button (arrow), and you'll get the Add New Swatch dialog box. It lists the RGB and HSB values of the color. If you want to edit either of these values, you can do so now. For example, you might want to add a bit more green or blue to the color. Note also that you can give the color a descriptive name, or just go with the default letter and number assigned by PI7. I decided to name this color "soft green."

name color swatch

Click OK to close the dialog box. You'll see that the color swatch has been added to the Color Panel. Click on the color swatch to select it. As soon as it's selected, the other two icons in the lower left corner of the Color Panel will appear in color. They let you Edit or Delete a selected color swatch. Position your cursor over a color and a little pop-up box will appear with the color's name, RGB and HSB values.

select a color to display its properties

Continue the process to select other colors from the image. Click with the Eyedropper, then click the Add New Swatch button to add its color swatch. You don't have to fill the entire tab with colors, but try to pick at least two rows of colors. That amounts to 40 colors, and you may be surprised, once you start clicking with the Eyedropper, how many colors there actually are in there.

pick at least two rows of colors

If you think you've selected the same color twice, hold your cursor over the color swatches and check out the RGB values. If they are the same (or nearly the same), select a swatch and click the Delete Swatch button.

After selecting all the color swatches, click the right facing arrow and choose Sort by Color. From there you can sort by Red, Green or Blue, or by Hue, Saturation or Brightness. Try sorting by different methods to see how these effect the line up of colors. I like sorting swatches by Hue, so that like colors cluster together.

sort swatches

Now comes the exciting part -- saving your swatches. Click the right facing arrow in the upper right corner of the Color Panel and choose Save Swatches. Doing so will open the Save As dialog box. Browse to a folder and give the swatches an evocative name, e.g., landscape, rather than the default of MySwatch. Note the swatches are saved with Ulead's proprietary .USL (Ulead Swatch Library) file extension. Click Save to save the swatch.

To test out the custom swatches, click the right facing arrow and choose Default Swatches. This will load back the standard default colors. Click the right facing arrow again and select Load Swatches. Doing so will display the Open dialog box. Browse to and select the swatch you just saved and click Open. It should appear right back in the Swatches tab.

Using color swatches in your work is a breeze. If you have selected a Paint tool, just click on a color swatch and it will appear as the selected color in the Attributes toolbar. To use the color swatches with a Fill tool or the Path tools, click a color swatch to make it the Foreground color. Then right click in the Color box in the Attributes toolbar and select the current Foreground color.

Here's something else really cool that you can do with the Swatches. If you click the right facing arrow and select Snap to Web Safe Color, then click on a color swatch, the nearest web safe color will be selected. This could come in handy when you want to be sure that the colors you're using will be viewed as you intended. Also notice that you can merge several swatches together by clicking the right facing arrow and selecting Append Swatches. If you want the appended swatches to appear next time you load them, make sure you save the swatches again.

If you come up with a good set of Color Swatches that you'd like to share with others, you can ZIP the .USL file and make it available for download to your site's visitors. I've made a country colors swatch (colors shown below) that you can download here.

country color swatches

Pat Hinds has created a wonderful skin tones color swatch that you can get here. If you like digital painting, you may find in invaluable.

This tutorial uploaded 11/15/01

Do not duplicate, translate, copy, archive, appropriate or redistribute this document.



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