As a color selection tool, a hue ring with an enclosed saturation/value triangle (or square) is found in nearly all graphic software apps these days. Where did this design originate? I confess…it was I and it originated in Painter.
Mark Zimmer, the mind behind Painter, implemented Painter 1.0’s original color palette.
Mark utilized a linear spectrum gradient and sliding widget to select the desired hue. This action updated a saturation/value triangle with the chosen hue. A second widget internal to the triangle was then positioned to select the desired color within the triangle. This design was used through Painter 2.0.
By the time we started working on Painter 3.0, the interface was getting very crowded with new palettes, a reflection of the many new tools we had introduced since Painter 1.0. This provided the opportunity to re-think the color palette, which I was responsible for.
It had always nagged me that the linear hue selector misrepresented the continuous nature of color. The blue hues at either end of the gradient were actually direct neighbors. I realized that this discontinuity would be corrected if the linear gradient were portrayed as a circle, much like traditional color wheels. Design-wise, it made perfect sense to enclose the saturation/value triangle within the hue ring. And so, the triangle-in-a-circle color palette design debuted in Painter 3.0.
Painter’s color palette has had several minor updates over the years, but the basic design remains. In the interim, this design has flourished and been duplicated by many graphics apps. It’s been personally gratifying to see my design find wide usage throughout the software art community.
You can learn all about the history of the traditional color wheel here.