Transform Your Color Themes to Create
Millions of Professional Color Combinations
For Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Access
by Charley Kyd
Microsoft Excel MVP
Here's why you need millions of color combinations...
If you're like most Excel or other Office users, you want to create great-looking
So you need great-looking color combinations. This is easy to do if you always remember...
It's much easier to recognize
great color combinations
than to create them!
Here's what I mean...
Most of the following charts use Office's Essential color theme. (The plaid swatch
is also from Excel, but I'll tell you about it in a minute.) Because I
designed these charts to suggest color ideas for my reports, notice that they test two
This set of charts shows an ugly color combination, so let's see what other options the Essential
color theme can give us.
In the Kyd Palette controls, I click Standardize, then
We now have much better results. Because I might want to use
these colors, I save the workbook under a new name.
To see other ideas, I Randomize again.
This is another good combination. Again, I save the workbook under a new
name. Then I Randomize.
Whoops! Another ugly version. (Clicking Randomize often does return ugly results.)
I quickly Randomize again.
This also is pretty good. But let's try another color theme...
I apply the Copper River
color theme from IncSight Colors,
then click Standardize and Randomize to get these results.
I save the workbook under a new name. Then I Randomize.
Here's another good result.
In fact, I'm getting so many good results, it's hard to
In just a few minutes I discovered several great color
combinations, along with a few stinkers. But the good
combinations were much better than any combination I
have created on my own; and I could ignore the stinkers.
|The Default section shows that some Accent
colors are very light (have tall bars) and some are
very dark (have short bars). This wide variation keeps the
colors from being completely interchangeable.
But we can make colors interchangeable by standardizing
their luminosity (lightness), as the Standardized column
Here's how to assign great color combinations in your programs that
use Office color themes:
- Begin with a color theme you like in Excel.
- Assign acceptable theme colors to your workbook.
- Randomly rearrange your theme's colors to change your
- Choose a great color combination when you see it.
- If you don't find a great color combination, choose
another color theme; standardize it; and then randomize it as
- When you find a combination you really like, save it as a custom
color theme for use in any program that uses the color themes
first introduced in Office
Until now, you haven't been able to take these steps. If you had tried, some
of your light colors would have turned dark when you changed color
themes, and your dark colors would
have turned light.
This is because the
luminosity (lightness or darkness) varies significantly among ordinary Office
theme colors, and
also within the Accent colors for any one color theme...as the table at the
However, when we standardize the luminosity of Excel's color
themes, the themes and their colors truly become interchangeable, and we quickly can find
the professional-looking color combinations we need.
A Quick Introduction to Standardized Colors
better understand color standardization, take a look at this color palette,
which shows Office's default color theme.
The top row of colors in a palette like this contains the base colors.
Microsoft calls the first two base colors (which are typically
white and black) Background 1 and Text 1. The next two are Background 2 and Text
2. And the remaining six colors are Accent colors 1 through 6.
The colors below the top row use luminosity (lightness or darkness) values
that are a fixed percentage of the base's value. So when we lighten or
darken a base color, we lighten or darken the colors linked to it.
When you standardize your palette's colors, you set the base colors of
Background 2 and Text 2 each to a specified luminosity value. And you set
the luminosity of all the
base Accent colors to one single value.
|Kyd Palette for Excel 2007 and 2010 adds three
buttons to your Ribbon in the Page Layout tab. You'll use
Standardize and Randomize most often.
Using this approach gives you access to millions of interchangeable
color combinations. Some of these combinations are really ugly; but many are outstanding!
The Advantages of Interchangeable Colors
Having interchangeable colors gives you two significant advantages:
First, you can apply any Excel theme
easily, because your light colors stay light in your report when you change themes,
and your dark colors stay dark. Just this advantage gives you more
color options than you've ever had before.
Second, you get massively greater color options
for each theme. Here's how...
- The eight colors in a theme that aren't
typically black or white can be arranged in as many as 40,320
ways. Each time you click the Randomize button, you randomly apply another of those
40,320 color combinations
to your report.
- Microsoft Office offers 40 built-in themes, and
Colors offers 35 more. So 75 times 40,320 combinations per theme
gives you 3,024,000 possible color combinations.
- The Plaid Palette workbook, which I normally include with my add-in, gives you
four sets of color options (four plaid swatches) per color
combination, for a grand total of 12,096,000 color options that
you can use in your reports.
So what's the Plaid Palette workbook?
The Plaid Palette Workbook
If you've already assigned theme colors to your Excel report, you can
use the Randomize command in Kyd Palette to generate many better color combinations.
But if you're designing a new report, or if you're looking for
outstanding color themes for Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Access or
other programs that use Office color themes, you'll probably find it easier to use the Plaid Palette to find
I created the Plaid Palette figure entirely in Excel. I did so
because I needed a quick way to evaluate a few of the many color
combinations that every Office color theme offers.
Here's the Plaid Palette in action:
then click Standardize...
The Plaid Palette workbook includes a worksheet with these
plaid color swatches. Each time you change your color theme, or randomize
it, the plaid swatches change to show four ways to use the new
version. Here, for example, I assigned the Essential theme
and standardized it. Then I clicked Randomize to display the
When you find a plaid swatch that looks promising, you can see
how it might be used in a report. The sets of charts and the larger
plaid swatches at the top of this page all come from additional
worksheets in the Plaid Palette workbook.
Using Kyd Palette with Colors from IncSight Dashboard Templates
IncSight DB and
QnE both use color palettes that are
specially designed for those dashboard reports. Because the color
specially designed, they're not used easily in other
But now, with Kyd Palette, you can use your
IncSight color themes
anywhere you would use a normal Office theme. You just apply any IncSight theme
you like to any report, standardize it, then use it like any
other color theme...just as I did in the last two sets of charts above.
You also can save your new custom theme for use in PowerPoint, Word,
Access, and other programs that use Office color themes.
Kyd Palette Tools
you install the add-in, it inserts the Kyd Palette group in the Page Layout
tab of your Ribbon, as shown here. The add-in also gives you access to
the Tools dialog below. The numbered areas near the dialog refer to these
1. Set Luminosity.
By default, when you choose Standardize, Kyd Palette sets the
luminosity of your colors to the values shown in this figure. You can
adjust these values to lighten or darken all three color categories. Not
only do these adjustments give you great control over the lightness of
your report's colors, it allows you to adapt
your report's luminosity to the differences among color printers and monitors.
2. Standardize and Randomize. The buttons in this section perform the
same tasks as those in Excel's Ribbon, shown above.
That is, they make color themes truly interchangeable and allow you to
see your report using millions of color combinations.
3. Copy Colors From... Suppose you create a great set of colors in
one workbook, and you want to use them in another workbook. This tool lets
you copy colors from any open workbook to the active workbook. (If this
tool seems familiar, it's because Excel 2003 had it, but it was removed
in Excel 2007.)
4. Save Color Theme. After you find a color combination you like,
these controls allow you to save the combination as a custom theme that
you can use in any program that uses Office color themes, including
Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Access.
However, if you only want to use the current theme in your current
workbook, there's no need to save the theme, because the current colors
are saved with your workbook. Of course,
if you send your workbook to others they'll see your
new color theme automatically.
5. Help Button. When you click the Help button, the dialog
expands to show the Quick Help section. Then, when you hover your mouse
pointer over any of the buttons in the dialog, the Quick Help area
displays information about that command.
Again, it's much easier to recognize
great color combinations than to create them. And my Kyd Palette offers the only way to display so many great color
combinations so quickly and easily in your Office programs.
Introductory Offer...Get Plaid Palette Plus for Free!
The figure below shows the 25 swatches offered with Plaid
Palette Plus, which sells for $24.95. This version gives you more
than six times the
color combinations that Plaid Palette does.
The workbook also includes larger swatches, charts, fills, and text
for each of the 25 swatches in the plaid palette. For example, the
figure at the right shows the additional support for the second
column of swatches in the plaid palette on the left above.
For a short time only, I'm including Plaid Palette
Plus with Kyd Palette. You get more than six times the number of
color combinations for the same price.
Here's What You Get
Here's what you get with Kyd Palette during this introductory
- The Kyd Palette add-in, which delivers millions of color
combinations to Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Access, and other
programs that use Office color themes.
- A 12-page manual that explains how to install the add-in,
provides information about Excel colors that you probably didn't
know, and teaches you how to use Kyd Palette.
- A free copy of the Plaid Palette Plus
workbook, which currently sells for $24.95.
(Note: Plaid Palette Plus normally ships with a
standardized workbook for each of Office's color themes. I'm not
including those workbooks, because you can standardize any of
the Office color themes with a click of a button...which is how
I created the workbooks in the first place. But if you really
want those workbooks after you get Kyd Palette, just drop me a
note and I'll send them to you.)
- A 3-page manual that explains how to use Plaid Palette
- A discount of more than 30% off the normal price.
During this introductory period, you get nearly $100 worth
of software for only $39.95. Get Kyd Palette now, before the introductory offer
now and Save 53%!!