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Old Jewel Painter's Picker

Color picker and color scheme extension for Mac OS X By Dave Nagel
From the middle of the twentieth century onward, the RYB wheel has provided artists and designers with a fundamental model for working with color. I'm referring not just to a model for mixing pigments, but also for developing color schemes based largely on the theories of one-time Bauhaus professor Johannes Itten. (Whether you recognize the name or not, he's responsible for many notions you might have about what constitutes appropriate color schemes for your designs.) But virtually every piece of software available to designers today uses native RGB color processing. So what's a designer to do? Well, while you can't mix colors in RYB on screen in most programs, you can still design using the now-classic RYB color model with a variety of tools, including a relative newcomer called Painter's Picker from Old Jewel Software.

While computers have forced artists to shift from RYB to RGB, attempts have been made in recent years to provide those working in digital media with tools for creating color schemes based on Itten's model. (Itten, by the way, didn't actually "invent" the RYB wheel but did make it the de facto standard in design by developing theories about color relationships based on this model.) The most comprehensive of these tools is, no doubt, Color Theory, distributed by This stand-alone application and plugin will not only give you precise color combinations based on Itten's formulas (complementary, split-complementary, warm, cool, etc.), but also additional schemes and with the ability to output these schemes to popular file formats for use in most graphics applications (as well as video device output). I can't recommend highly enough that you shell out the scant $25 for this software. But as an application (or plugin, depending on how you're using it), Color Theory isn't available at a system-wide level. Therefore, you can't use it in all situations. And this is where the newest tool on the scene--Painter's Picker--comes in to complement Color Theory's functionality.

How it works
Painter's Picker, unlike anything else on the market as of this writing, provides a system-level RYB color picker and color scheme designer, accessible by any program that can use the Apple Color Picker in Mac OS X. It's not a replacement for the original Apple Color Picker, but an extension to it, so you don't have to worry about losing any functionality in any of your programs that might have a problem with alternate color pickers.

"Alternate color pickers?"

That's right. One of the little niceties in Mac OS X is the ability to add new color pickers at the system level. It's such a brilliant idea that I started developing my own RYB color picker extension until I realized two things: first, I'm not a programmer; and, second, Old Jewel Software had just made one available as shareware, for a negligible fee of $13.85. In fact, it was released in its 1.0 incarnation only this month.

It installs as all things should install on a Mac: by dragging it onto your hard drive. In this particular case, it installs within user/Library/ColorPickers, and from that point on it's ready to use. No restart is required, though you may need to relaunch some applications to be able to access the new palette.

Once it's installed, launch any program you want, and, if it supports the Apple Color Picker, you'll be able to use Painter's Picker as well. Supported applications include, but are not limited to, basic Apple applications like Text Edit, Mail and iMovie; Adobe Photoshop (7.0.x and CS) and After Effects; Macromedia Flash, Freehand, Fireworks and Dreamweaver (MX and MX 2004); NewTek LightWave 7.5; Maxon Cinema 4D XL 8.x; Corel Painter 8; Curious Labs Poser 5; Multi Ad Creator 6.x; Wildform Flix Pro and Wild FX; any plugin that uses the system picker; and ... well, you get the idea. It's versatile. With Adobe Photoshop, you have to set your preferences (Application Menu > Preferences > General) to "Apple" to be able to access this color picker. I should note that there are some important applications that don't provide support for using the Apple picker (and therefore Painter's Picker). These include Adobe Illustrator and InDesign; Discreet Combustion; Synthetik Studio Artist; and Creature House Expression and LivingCels, among those tested. (Again, this is not a problem with Painter's Picker itself. It's just that these applications don't provide access to the Apple Color Picker.)

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