December 15, 2021

How to create a GIMP color palette for your next composition

When you are creating a new GIMP composition from scratch, there are a few initial steps you should take to speed up your creative workflow. Preparation goes a long way in making sure you don't end up wasting all your energy and efforts fiddling with GIMP commands and adjustments. One of those steps is to create a color palette.

In order to create a color palette, you first need to choose a reference image or photo; one that uses the color combination you want to transfer to your new composition. You can pick any image you want. In this article, I'm going to show you how to create a reusable color palette with GIMP, starting with a reference image from which you will 'steal' the palette.

  1. Use GIMP to open the image you want to steal the color scheme from. Any image will do.
  2. Convert the image to Indexed mode
    1. Go to Image > Mode > Indexed.
    2. From the Convert Image to Indexed Colors dialog that follows, select Generate optimum palette; set the maximum number of colors to 32 or 64; make sure the Remove unused colors... option is checked; set the Dithering option to Floyd-Steinberg.
    3. Click the Convert button.
  3. The conversion process repaints the image using the computed indexed colors; it also creates a matching temporary palette. This palette is a color map based on the dominant colors it found while processing the original image.
  4. In the Palettes dialog, you will see a new temporary entry titled Colormap of Image #xxx.  Keep in mind that this palette is temporary; it cannot be edited nor renamed, and it will not be saved.
  5. Right-click on the temporary colormap and select Sort palette...
  6. In the Palette sorting dialog that follows, set the Channel to sort to Hue, then click OK.
  7. A new sorted and editable palette is now available in the Palettes list; it contains a re-arranged copy of the colors from the colormap it is derived from. Select this copy and click the Edit button to open the Palette editor.
  8. From the palette editor, rename the palette and make any adjustments you want, such as removing unwanted colors.

The new palette is automatically saved to your stack of color palettes; it will remain accessible from the Palettes dialog, as well as from any dialog that uses color palettes. Once you are satisfied with the result, you can safely discard the reference image; doing so will also remove the temporary palette.

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