ColourWays Colour schemes by accident

by Joe Gillespie — Aug 1, 2002

In the early days of Photoshop when 8-bit monitors were the norm and every file had to have a palette, there was a filter that manipulated the palette to give 'colour cycling'. Each one of the 256 colours values in the palette gradually changed and the overall effect was one of an ever-changing colour scheme that swept through a multitude of mind-blowing, psychedelic images. When you saw one that you really liked, a press of the space bar froze it so that it could be saved.

It only took a minor tweak of the Hue slider to produce these three colourway variation of the WPDFD logo

Modern computers with 24 or 32-bit displays don't use palettes in this way and the filter, whose name I can't remember, is long gone, yet the ability to see a wide variety of 'colourways' of a particular Web page design is very useful and can produce amazing and unpredictable results that unlikely to be arrived at by design – they are happy accidents, 'happenstance'!

All is not lost.

In Photoshop's armoury of 'Adjustments' in the 'Image' menu is something called 'Hue/Saturation' which does much the same thing. It cycles the colours (hue) in the image as you drag the slider left and right. It also allows you to change the strength (saturation) of the colours and make them lighter or darker (lightness). The filter only affects the currently selected layer but for most purposes, the original design is best screen-grabbed from your browser and opened in Photoshop as a single layer. Moving the hue slider will show you what the design would look like in hundreds of different colourways. You can also boost or flatten the purity of the colours with the saturation control and lighten or darken the effect for more drama or subtlety. There is also a button called 'Colorize' which switches the whole process into a monochrome mode giving more subtle, harmonious colour schemes.

It is very much a matter of trial and error. Many of the colour schemes produced like this will be lurid and horrible – but amongst them, there will be a few gems. You just have to spot them! Digg Technorati Blinklist Furl reddit Design Float