All About Palette Builder: An Interview with Anne Sullivan from Play-Crafts

Friends, I’m so excited to share today’s post with you! Like pretty much all quilters, I love playing with color and thinking about different color schemes. A few times on the blog I’ve mentioned Palette Builder, a fantastic online tool I use to draw color inspiration from photos. The creator of Palette Builder, Anne Sullivan of Play-Crafts, generously agreed to answer some questions so we can all learn more about this tool and how it works. Let’s get right to it!

Tell us a little bit about your background and what your motivation was for creating the Palette Builder.

Horse Palette

I’m an artist and a programmer, which is fun but is also kind of like having two kids in my head that rarely get along. I recently got my PhD in computer science, and my focus was on game design. Some friends and I got together in our last year to talk about The Future ™ and chatted about making a crafting game over wine and cheese while sitting in an old Victorian (the setting seems really important for some reason.) We were all crafters and gamers, and thought it’d be fun to marry the two. As we got further into the wine bottle and the night progressed, we were deeply enraptured with the idea of creating some game that when you were done, you had some sort of pattern or even crafted design when you were done. Which still does sound neat.

However, at one point, one of us sat back and said “You know what’s fun already, and doesn’t really need a game to make it more fun? Crafting!” We all laughed, but it was true. And that turned our thoughts towards creating design tools with playful, almost game-like interfaces. My friends went on to get “real” jobs, but I decided to try to make these playful tools a reality, and two of them co-founded Play-Crafts with me.

Palette Builder was the first tool created because I love color, and it seems so integral to all the other tools we want to create. Being able to go from inspiration to design to finished product is not necessarily an easy process, but having a way to find colors seems like a good first step!

Without giving away any secrets, can you describe a bit about how it works? For example, I’m curious how the initial colors are chosen when I upload a photo.

If you can read javascript, you can actually see how it works by viewing the source of the webpage. So there are no real secrets. :) This is a simplification of the process, but we look at every pixel in your image, and sort them into color buckets. Then the bucket with the most pixels in it is the first color in your palette, the bucket with the second most pixels is the second color, and so forth. There is a bit more to it where we make sure the color buckets aren’t too similar in color (so you don’t end up with a palette of 10 almost-the-same-exact-shade of blue), but that’s the basics of it!

Palette Builder code

Tell us about the new features. I’m particularly excited about being able to choose Kona colors!

The very first version of palette builder we created had the ability to “crop” the image to zero in on one part of the picture, and to change the “variety” of the colors in your palette. The variety was basically changing how different the color buckets needed to be (described above.) Most people didn’t notice or use the cropping feature, and the variety slider seemed to confuse a lot of our users.

So I decided to revamp the tool completely and make it more fun, since that was the underlying goal. So now there is an initial palette chosen, but you can have much more control over the colors by choosing them directly from the image. I knew I was going in the right direction when early user testers would write to me and say how much fun they had using it! Success! :D

Grass Fabrics

Matching to Kona fabrics was always something we wanted to do, but I wanted the tool to be refined enough that I wasn’t embarrassed to show it to Kona. Fortunately, they were as excited by the idea as we were! And now that the framework is in place, we should be able to fairly easily add the ability to match other solids as well as thread, floss, yarn, paint, whatever. We just need to get permission first. So hopefully you will see more choices in the future!

How do you use the Palette Builder in your own projects? Have you come up with any particular color schemes you’d like to share?

I often use the palette builder as a jumping off point. I’ll play with it and find a palette I love, and it helps inspire a future quilt. I don’t always follow the palettes religiously, but I enjoy seeing color combinations I may not normally have thought of that make me want to work with those colors.

I have recently completed a quilt and a quilt top using the palettes from Palette Builder, which I’d be happy to share! The first is a jumbo star quilt that I created for a charity auction. My friend, Adrianne (http://www.littlebluebell.com/) posted a photo of some flowers she liked on Facebook and I just loved the colors, so I immediately asked her if I could use it for a palette. At the time, Kona matching wasn’t implemented, and it was right after I finished that quilt that I made the time to get it to work!

Jumbo Star fabrics

Jumbo Star Quilt

(Note from Cari: I remember seeing this quilt on Anne’s blog and absolutely falling in love with it. You can read more about the design process and check out the amazing quilting job she did on it here.)

I also just finished up a quilt top last week before I left for Sewing Summit. I was looking for a color palette that captured the summer to fall transition without being the traditional fall colors. I remembered that I had a photo of a red dragonfly, and dragonflies are sometimes used as symbolism for this time of year, so it seemed a perfect fit. I chose the palette and used the Konas to help choose my prints as well. It made me so happy that Kona matching was working, and I admit I never would have used Kona Ochre (the golden color) had it not shown up in the palette!

Dragon Fly Fabrics

Herringbone Stack

Red Dragonfly Quilt Top

Thanks so much for all the great questions! I really enjoyed talking about the tool, and I’d love to hear how others use it. :)

AnneThanks to you, Anne, for taking the time to share with us, and for creating such a great resource! Readers, be sure to check out the Play-Crafts blog for more inspiration. Although she didn’t mention it, you may also be aware that Anne’s herringbone quilt pattern (above) is currently taking the blogosphere by storm, with lots of participants in the Molli Sparkles Broken Herringbone Quilt-Along. I recently used Palette Builder to create the color scheme for my Penny Sampler (still getting caught up on that!). Feel free to post any links to your own use of Palette Builder in the comments; I’m sure we’d all love to see some more examples!

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I love building palettes and I have just learnt so much.

  2. Love this. You are brilliant for thinking to interview the equally brilliant Anne of P-C :). I’m loving the new and improved PB for my project 1×1, especially since it means I can get a little creative fix away from the (sewing) machine :)