31.3.15

Making Coloroid

I first started researching colour harmonization in August 2012 while building the very first version of Coloroid. At first the app was just a tool for another app and it didn't even have a name of its own.

The very first function of Coloroid was to generate alternative backgrounds for the HTML5 platformer that I was building at the time. The platformer project was abandoned in late 2012 but I keep updating Coloroid mostly in my spare time.

The idea for an app that harmonizes images came to me after getting dizzy from playing my very own platformer. I usually get the same sensation from prolonged staring at TV screens and bright lights yet I only played my game for less than 30 minutes and the screen brightness was the lowest it could be.  

I could reproduce the same sensation with other people’s video games as well and I figured it has something to do with the graphics’s colour combinations so I started researching colour harmonization.

When I first started looking into it I was genuinely surprised to find out that there were other mathematicians and computer scientists out there who, like me, were also looking into describing harmonic colour combinations mathematically.

At first describing harmonic combinations mathematically may sound impossible because beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so therefore harmony must be relative to the observer. And yet there must be some kind of a common factor that makes things universally harmonious otherwise The Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum of Art would not be such popular destinations.

Popular artists like the founder of the Impressionist movement Claude Monet or the rough genius Van Gogh, who is considered by many to be one of the first expressionists, had the innate ability to produce harmonious works that have been soothing millions of people over many generations.





But how can these artists’s intuition be described mathematically? That was the main question.

As I wrote in Making Colour: regardless of whether people talk about expressionism, or impressionism, or cubism, or whatever, what makes most of everyone's favourite paintings so appealing is that none of them contain all primary colours in equal amounts at the same time.

In fact, all of the most popular paintings fall into one of the harmonic colour templates as described on Figure 2 in this paper

Figure 2. Types of harmonic templates on the hue wheel

Apparently, I was not the only mathematician peeking into the world of fine art for clues on what makes a colour combination harmonious. In fact, Coloroid is also the name of a colour system specifically designed to be used by architects and designers when making colour palette decisions.

The algorithm I came up with for the Harmonic Templates in Coloroid is based on the types of harmonic templates above and my observation that famous paintings do not contain all digital primary colours in equal amounts at the same time: in essence it simply swaps a digital primary colour with its complimentary, or split complimentary colour, and so on.

I’m currently working on a better version that would actually minimize color noise with edge detection.

As I mentioned in Making Colour, a fine artist typically mixes their own colours from scratch from three primary pigments: red, blue, and yellow unlike the digital artist who is gridlocked by digital colour management.


I made the very first Coloroid logo by myself and it reflects my views on primary colours.

I was not particularly fond of this logo because it does not tell the full story of Coloroid and it certainly does not include the emotional factor, or the reason why I continue working on this.

If the logo can’t tell the story of the product then it is not a logo, it’s just a graphic. 



I contacted one of the best artists I know - Stremena Tuzsuzova - who has not only the artistic intuition but also the emotional vision to deliver a compelling story with a single graphic. I know because I've worked with her before. She hit me back with a fantastic eyeball gear, truly nailing what I asked for without me saying a word.


She also had the inspiration to draw a creature with a purple scarf for the landing page of the app (until the harmonization algorithm is complete the landing page of Coloroid is just the landing page of another image editing app).


Original artwork by Stremena Tuzsuzova

The creature nailed another aspect of Coloroid that I never told Stremena about.

I have a favourite purple jacket, which I love. The colour is creamy and warm when I look at it with my eyeballs in real life and in fact I had other engineers look at it in real life and they all agree on its peculiar shade of purpleness. Yet when I take a picture of that jacket with some cameras it appears distinctly blue and kind of cold.