Handling Colors – Part I: Palettes

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KColorEdit: Open File Dialog with Palette Preview

KColorEdit: Open File Dialog with Palette Preview

In this article i want to give you an overview  of the available Tools, their capabilities and practical usage in a Task-based Q&A Form.

[Note: The software mentioned below is only partly available for windows or mac os]

The Tools i have used to handle and create Palettes are:

Convert a ACO Palette to a Gimp Palette

The Allrounder: Gpick

The Allrounder: Gpick

ACO (Adobe Color Palette) is the native Format of Photoshop using a specific 16bit code for the colors. This encoding makes it possible to use different color spaces in one palette like CYMK or RGB. Actually Gimp is able to read .aco palettes, but it cannot deal all color models that are encoded in the aco files. The adobe swatch exchange format (.ase) is no alternative for Gimp Users as it could not be loaded in Gimp, but you can convert .ase files with Gpick!



  • Export the .aco Palette to the .ase format using Photoshop
  • Open Gpick – Menu – File – Import, change file format to .ase, browse to the location you saved it and import the file
  • Menu – File – Export, set the format to .gpl save it as yourpalette.gpl
  • Open yourpalette.gpl with a Text Editor and change Palette Name and Number of Columns as you like it


gpickpalettefromimageMake a Palette based on an image

You can do this with Gpick or with Gimp.

Gpick: In Gpick you find this feature in the Menu Tools – Palette from Image…gimpimportpalette

Gimp: From the Palette Docker choose the Palette Menu – Import Palette as shown on the Image. To enable the the option to import a palette from an image you have to open the image in gimp…




Change the order/sorting of the colors in an existing palette (or Create a specific Palette Layout)

KColorEdit: Main GUI

KColorEdit: Main GUI

The best choice to do this is Gpick or KColorEdit. KColorEdit has the Advantage that you can move colors up and down and see how the position in the palette changes in a specific Layout (set by the number of columns). Through this visual Feedback it is easy to make a palette with a special Layout like a colorwheel or using columns or rows of uniform colors to separate certain areas in the palette. (Palettes for use with KColorEdit have to be stored at this location: home/user/.kde/share/config/colors

In Gpick you can move colors by drag & drop changing the position in a one-column-list view. Press Shift while dragging the color moves it to the new position; without shift the color is copied to the new position. Also you can hold down Shift to select multiple Colors at once and drag them to a new position. This works very well and is fast from the practical side. You can also open two instances of Gpick and drag and drop the colors of an opened palette two the second window to create a new one.

[Note: Dragging multiple Colors works since version 0.2.5; get the latest package if this version is not in your distro’s repository from here]



Create a new Palette from different existing Palettes (Remix)Agave: Main GUI

Here comes an advantage of Agave into the game. You can open existing palette files in Agave from a dropdown Menu – this is surely faster then loading one file at a time and it is easier to compare palettes. You cannot drag & drop colors in Agave – use the + icon to add the color to the favorites list, when you are done save the favorites as gpl palette file from the file menu. Not fast enough? Use Agave and Gpick together – drag & drop the colors from agave directly into Gpick to create your palette…

The Palettes you want to work with in Agave have to be saved in this location: home/user/.local/share/agave/palettes



Merge two existing Palettes

Nothing easier then this… Just open the palettes with a texteditor an copy/paste it into another opened palette file. To be exact – do not copy the 3 line heading:

GIMP Palette
Name: Environment
Columns: 12

You can also change the Name of the Palette and/or the number of Columns.


And the winner is..

Every of this little helpers have their advantages and disadvantages. If you know these pros and cons you can save some time if you use them together. If you are the one program-for-one-task kind of user i would recommend Gpick as a specific software or just do all the stuff in Gimp…



Gpick: Create Webpage Color Scheme

Additional Infos:

  • Colornames – another feature of Gpick.. when using the colorpicker or import from image Gpick assigns the name of the closest named color, if the color matching is inaccurate this will be shown as ~ (approximately equal symbol) You can disable the adding of the ~ in the preferences.
  • The .gpl File extension. I recommend you use the extension .gpl at the end of the filename, even if this isn’t really needed in unix systems. Most graphic programms just do not recognize the palette files if the extension is missing and therefor do not load them.
  • Gpick is also capable of exporting color schemes as css files.



Recommended Links




  1. A pretty balanced assessment of the available tools 🙂

    I was a little surprised that you didn’t mention generating color schemes or generating blends between colors.

    BTW, GPick allows you to drag multiple colors at once (though currently it’s a little less obvious than in most programs — for the final click making the selection, it shouldn’t be a normal click but instead a drag to the new location). I wasn’t sure whether you knew this or not — what you wrote is a little ambiguous about that. It comes in handy when you have groups of colors.


  2. Hey, first thx for your feedback 🙂
    Yes i have left out some things. Part II: Gradients will cover blends between colors.. I don’t use color schemes a lot, but you are right it should be mentioned. Maybe i will address this in one of the next articles about colors or i edit this one.

    I knew that with ctrl or shift pressed you could select multiple colors, but when i try to drag them only one color is copied – i thought that it must work in some way, dragging multiple colors, but i could not figure out how. I tried that again right now, but i don’t get it – could you describe that in detail?


  3. For example if I want to select a group of 5 colors and shift it to a new position:

    * I click on the first item in the group
    * I hold Shift down
    * I *click-and-drag* on the final item in the group, dropping it in its new location.

    If I wanted to copy those colors rather than move them, I would release Shift after I began the drag operation.

    I hope that we can improve on this in the future.


  4. Okay i tried again exactly that way – does not work. I even tried switching to my gnome desktop – nope. But i am
    stubborn when things do not work, so i installed gpick on win7 and voilà it works. So the problem only exist on Linux (*buntu 13.04 in my case)


  5. Thanks for your effort testing! At the moment I am wondering: Is the version you are using on Win7 actually the same one you are using on.. Ubuntu ? You can find out through the menus (Help->About, as usual).

    IIRC this behaviour was first available in GPick 0.2.5, which is the latest release (February 2013).
    The behaviour should be window manager / desktop-environment agnostic, unless you are dragging groups of colors between separate GPick instances.


    1. That’s the explanation – pretty simple. On win7 i installed via downloaded .msi and that was 0.2.5. On Linux via packet manager – latest available for raring was 0.2.4. I have downloaded and installed the .deb for 0.2.5 and now it works as it should – maybe the maintainers of the ubuntu repositories should be notified to update the packages…


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