Anyone who’s familiar with Photoshop knows about the convoluted learning process. As a beginner the interface is grandiose, intimidating, and seems like the new school bully who makes you feel weak and inadequate. But as you learn the tools and menus it’s easier to warm up and become friends with your old bully. It’s a program like no other that offers photo compositing, UI design, digital painting, and many similar creative skills.
One big piece to the puzzle is color theory. Beyond the understanding of color theory you also need to understand how to choose the right colors for your palette. And since color is relative you should treat it like your relatives – love unconditionally, but keep some emotional distance. Using these color-related plugins and tools for Photoshop you can have a much better performance choosing the right colors for any artistic endeavor.
This may be one of the coolest most radical color pickers available to Photoshop users. Coolorus is just over $10USD and works in Photoshop CS5/CS6 for Windows or Mac computers. The price tag is quite reasonable and you get a fantastic interface for selecting colors.
As a designer you need to match colors that are related to your existing composition. Unfortunately Photoshop doesn’t have an easy-to-use color wheel to help you see all the colors in one spectrum. Enter Coolorus: the coolest color picker with great fashion and some gnarly dark sunglasses.
Specifically this plugin is great for painters who design logos, characters, landscapes, background patterns, or anything similar. The color wheel allows you to plan composition and figure out the best direction for your project. It also comes with a mixing panel so you can organize color swatches or mix colors together in an organized fashion.
Another similar choice is the Painters Wheel plugin for Photoshop. This one is actually free and is supported by Photoshop CS4-CC. It has a very similar interface but not as much control in regards to mixing. But for a completely free plugin this has a lot to offer designers of any experience level.
If you just want to get acquainted with using a color wheel or color triangle this is a great choice. The plugin is free and heavily supported by a handful of different Photoshop versions. Take it for a test run and see how it feels – you may be surprised at the results.
The MagicPicker is a premium plugin that offers many familiar color-related features. It costs $19USD which is just a bit more than other choices – whether it’s worthy of that price tag is up to you. MagicPicker is one of the few plugins supported by both Photoshop and Illustrator ranging from CS3-CC.
It has the same color wheel and triangle used in other plugins coupled with a very similar interface. This can be used to change foreground/background colors or to update existing colors in paths or shapes. It also includes RGB/HSB sliders for adjusting colors as needed.
I really like how this plugin is supported by Illustrator because that’s another huge graphics editing suite often related to Photoshop work. Graphic designers would really appreciate this color picker for the many additional features including a compact mode which closes the picker window down to the size of a menu icon. Clean, simple, and efficient for organizing colors into just the right position.
Here’s an interesting color plugin that works for Photoshop CS4-CS6. ColoRotate is a 3D color picker that is shaped like a 3D cone of colors. It lets you move around the palette effortlessly and compare different colors in real time.
This has actually been released as a mobile iOS app related to color theory for app design. It’s not the same interface but it does behave in a similar fashion. I would say the Photoshop plugin has a more convoluted interface, but it just looks that way. In general it works much like the other plugins but with a different panel menu.
Note that ColoRotate is one of the most expensive plugins available. You can test a free demo for 15 days and then you’ll have to buy the plugin for $39USD. If you have never used a color picker I would suggest starting with one of the alternatives. But ColoRotate might be worth the money if you run the trial and find it beneficial to your workflow.
One other suggestion I would make is to spend time learning about color mixing. This is primarily of interest to digital painters but it can help any designer improve their understanding of color theory. This article on digital color mixing explains the process with some technical information. The more color resources you consume the easier it will be to understand.
I hope this list can get you Photoshop enthusiasts more focused on color. If you’re unfamiliar with a particular subject don’t let it get you down. Just spend more time working at it to really understand how and why things behave in certain ways. Also if you have any other suggestions for color resources feel free to share in the comments area below.