Before reading this proposal it's good to read the following links as introduction:

Additionaly some user suggested links:

Gnome Color Chooser proposal

I. Current Situation

The current color chooser is not well balanced in color saturation, lightness and contrast of its colors. Yes, it's based on Tango colourset, yet Tango wasn't planned to be a full spectrum colour selection. It was made for designing icons. With dark desktops themes the current palette doesn't offer enough dark colours. With dark backgrounds it's not possible to set dark colours with it. Also it has too many colours which are almost looking the same (examples below).

Therefore, this proposal suggest how to improve it and make the palette much more background independent.

Similar Colors

Lets start by analyzing how many colors are similiar. Have a look at the next picture. Spontaneously, I can see five or six colors which are almost the same.

Almost similar colors offered

If you add the not linked brown and orange colors we have find another pair.


Without saturation we can have a closer look at the pure lightness level of each color.

Without saturation you see the colors' lightness

If we look at the lightness levels we see that the lightnesses isn't well balanced. It's better to have comparable lightness levels per row. That's not 100% acurate in each situation, but it gives us more usefull colors.

Color Temperature

If we categorize the warm, neutral and cold colors, we can see, that we have

  • 4 columns = warm | 4 columns = neutral | 1 column = cold

colors. It seems the color temperature is not a well balanced.

Color selection

The current color selection is missing some colors and some of them are doulble or triple defined.

The color wheel and the colors currently available

This picture shows that there are too many warm colors available and the cold colors ned adjustment.

II. A new Gnome Color Palette

There is an good example of a well balanced color selection. The 'Solarized' colors are a comprehensive color palette is great color selection which is well balanced in different color theoretical views. Lets have a look at their example:

The Solarized color selection isw ell balanced for text writing purposes

Here you can see, that even with a smaller color palette it's good to have a look at the color hue, lightness and tone. Solarizend colors lack a bit of contrast for our purposes. Also we need more default colors than Tango offers to balance also the hue selection of the Gnome Color Chooser.

With a balanced color selection all base colors are balanced,too.

The upper picture shows how important it is to choose the right default colors. The color selection should cover every section. The best selection might be a 50% approach. Therefore, we would have 12 base colors.

Base colors for the Color Chooser.

These are the basic colors we should offer with the new color chooser.

Yet there is another issue. Our eyes aren't able to see the same lightness of each color in different situations. We don't have to be 100% scientific here. If you like you can read more about 'color theory' at Wikipedia. For my proposal it should be enough to know that our eyes see different lightness levels with light or dark desktop interfaces.

The visible color spectrum changes its lightness levels in different conditions

Depending on the lightness of the environment the eye recognizes different lightness levels.


I don't want to be to scientific. That's not why I started this article. I just want to make you aware of the situation, that the current color selection has some weaknesses we can easily fix. The following picture scompares the current colours (top) with an example of the new palette:


The new color selection

The suggested color selection respects the full primary, secondary, and tertiary colors as shown in the following picture:

Primary, secondary, and tertiary colors (Wikipedia)

To see the difference, I recommend to download the palettes and compare them with dark and light backgrounds. You will see that the current palette is very background dependent. The suggested selection offers an almost stable amount of usable colours in both situations.

For better comparison the current colour selection of Gnome 3.14:

Gnome 3.14 colors

and one example of a full spectrum and background independent palette:

An example of the new colour selection.

Final Words

Again, please download the pictures and choose a light and/or dark Gnome theme to watch them. Compare how many distinctive colours each palette offers in each situation.

  • How many real colours are left for practical use?
  • What's about dark and light colours? Which colours of the spectrum are missing?
  • How many dark colours are left with dark backgrounds? How about colouring fonts with those palettes?

The new palette is optimized for each contrast, light and dark and situation. On the opposite, current palette has no dark colours left with dark backgrounds and many colours look the same. It also has many colours which doesn't differ from each other in contrast and hue. Therefore, it offers a practically very limited colour selection. Contrast and dark colours is missing with dark backgrounds and many grey scaled colours are similar.

Design/Playground/ColorChooser (last edited 2014-10-26 15:53:23 by t.ask)