When creating a palette of colors, for use in things such as a painting app, or a box of crayons, or product variants, where you want to make as many different colors available as possible within the constraints of how many options you can provide, how do you figure out which colors to choose?

For example, if I could only use three colors to best cover "all colors" in a palette I would choose "red, blue, yellow" (or possibly RBG) to give the most diverse selection. If I chose "pink, red, burnt orange" it wouldn't be a very good selection as they're all very similar. If I were allowed 10 options, I would choose "red, blue, green, orange, yellow, pink, purple, white, black, brown" as again this pretty well covers the spectrum of available colors.

What I'm wondering is if I were to pick 50 colors, or 100 colors, is there a good objective way to get widest encompassing most diverse possible selection so that I don't end up with 20 reds all 1 shade apart and only 2 blues, etc. Is there a way to just get like half stops between colors to the Nth degree?

  • Colors depend on our perception. There's no one way to go from one color to another, as seen in this answer. So short answer: no, there's not a way to get stops between colors, there are multiple ways. – Zach Saucier Apr 18 '19 at 20:43

See this answer

With the color wheel plus black, white and grey, there are already 15 colors.

I will add at list two more grays, a dark one and a light one, 17 colors.

All the browns, skin, pastel, sand, ochres, lilac, olive green, pinks, burgundy, dark green, etc. are missing. Those are the broken colors. From the linked answer, getting the third from each corner of each broken colors grid you get most of them, 24 plus colors, 41 total colors.

As an example, from the first broken colors image, mixing complementary colors red and cyan, to black and white, selecting the third from each corner we get:


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Light blue

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Just nine colors to get the 50.

If instead of getting just the third broken color from each corner of the grid, we choose the second and fourth, the list is 65 different colors.

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Here is a simmilar question: How to get 10 different colors that are easily recognizable

First of all. Forget for now the names. Color in general and color naming, in particular, is subjective. But if you want to go by names, take a look at this question: List of RGB quaternary (and beyond) colors?

But let's try to explore. Color models are 3D figures.

You probably have seen color tables like this:

But let us explore the exact same color table arranged in an HSB mode. The arrange is mechanical, the groups represent the brightness and the concentric rings saturation.

The distances between the values are exactly the same, but the perception of the colors, as explained in the other post varies a lot, and cannot be mechanical. Compare the differences between the green and its surrounding greens, and the ones around yellow.

As you can see, when we have already used the most saturated colors, the circles start to shrink, and therefore the amount of colors reduces.

Now I will use the same diagrams as the other post I linked so take it as part 2 of that post.

A. Ok; Red, Green, Blue is a good start.

B. Yellow is an obvious choice. A lot of people see these 4 colors as primary colors.

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C. Orange, Magenta, Cyan seem reasonable.

D. Ok Now it starts to get tricky. Purple or Grape? Lime? Light Blue? But not as light as cyan?

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So, we need to start using a different layer of that 3D solid. Let's go darker.

E. The only 3 clear choices are black, Dark green and brown (dark orange). And again, things are subjective... Dark Red (blood?) Wine? Dark blue? Is turquoise there?

F. So we need to go to pastel colors. Beige, white, pink. Probably "baby yellow" and "Lavanda".

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But as you can see using a color Light blue will confuse with the already picked light blue. Light green can be confused with Lime. Salmon can be confused with pink.

And you can get away with a couple of grays, not 50 shades of them... Probably a "steel blue" (if that exists) and "olive".

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As you can see, picking a large palette is quite difficult. I managed to get a bit above 25 easily recognizable colors, without the need to compare them.

But 100? No way.

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  • "I managed to get a bit above 25 easily recognizable colors" - could you give their RGB or HSB codes? – Ivan Z Jun 14 '19 at 22:11

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