Generate a Color Scheme From an Image in GIMP

Painters color swatches

Digital Vision/Getty Images 

The free image editor GIMP has a function to import a color palette from an image, such as a photo. While there are various free tools that can help you produce a color scheme that can be imported into GIMP, such as Color Scheme Designer -- producing a color palette in GIMP can be a very convenient option.

To try this technique out, you will need to select a digital photo that contains a range of colors that you find pleasing. The following steps show you how to use this simple method yourself so that you can produce your own GIMP color palette from an image.

Open a Digital Photo

This technique builds a palette based on colors contained within a photo, so pick a photo that contains a pleasing range of colors. GIMP's Import a New Palette can only use open images and can't import an image from a file path.

To open your selected photo, go to File > Open and then navigate to your photo and click the Open button.

If you are happy with the mix of colors throughout your photo you can proceed to the next step. However, if you want to base your palette ​on the colors contained in a particular area of the photo, you can draw a selection around this area using one of the selection tools.

Open the Palettes Dialog

The Palettes dialog contains the list of all installed color palettes and offers options to edit them and import new palettes.

To open the Palettes dialog, go to Windows > Dockable Dialogs ​> Palettes. You'll find that the Palettes dialog doesn't have a button to import a new palette, but you just need to right-click anywhere in the ​Palettes list and select Import Palette to open the Import a New Palette dialog.

Import a New Palette

The Import a New Palette dialog has a few controls, but these are straightforward.

Firstly click the Image ratio button and then the drop-down menu beside it to ensure that you have selected the image you wish to use. If you have made a selection to select just part of the image, click the Selected Pixels only tick box. In the Import Options section, name the palette to make it easy to identify later. You can leave the Number of colors unchanged unless you specifically want a smaller or larger number. The Columns setting will only affect the display of the colors within the palette. The Interval setting causes a greater gap to be set between each sampled pixel. When happy with the palette, click the Import button.

Use Your New Palette

Once your palette is imported, you can easily use it by double-clicking on the icon that represents it. This opens the Palette Editor and here you can edit and name individual colors within a palette if desired.

You can also use this dialog to select colors for use within a GIMP document. Clicking on a color will set it as the Foreground color​ while holding the Ctrl key and clicking a color will set it as the Background color.

Importing a palette from an image in GIMP can be an easy way to produce a new color scheme and also ensure consistent colors are used within a document.