<> Posted on April 28, 2015 in Apps

Finally, after months of hard work, I've reached a point where I'm confident enough to announce the App that I've been working on. It's called WheelMasks and it's an application to create harmonic color schemes using the gamut masking method.

WheelMasks Screenshots

Gamut masking is a technique to limit the range of colors available for a painting, in doing so, it's easier to achieve an harmonious painting or illustration. The idea comes from James Gurney who explains it really well in his fantastic book Color and Light.

The gist of it is that you place a shape, usually a triangle, diamond or rectangle, over the color wheel so that it masks the colors you don't want to use and allows you to work with the ones you want. Moving this mask around or transforming it in any way allows you to create and discover new color schemes.

For instance, I've painted this drawing using two different wheel masks as reference. For the first one I used a complementary color scheme with a saturated blue and yellow while every other hue is quite unsaturated.

WheelMasks Color Demo

On the other hand, for the second one I used a triadic color scheme with orange/yellow, turquoise and purple acting as a sort of primary colors.

WheelMasks Color Demo

Although I didn't particularly try to use similar colors for the salamander-like beast on both versions, I actually used similar hues to paint the background. It's easy to compare them and notice that the first version is way less saturated than the second one. Yet, there's no problem in separating the greens from the cyans in either of those images because the maximum saturation of each hue is kept relative to the saturation of it's neighbors in each mask.

I think my app has some advantages over similar apps besides the fact that it's the only app, that I know of, that can do gamut masking in iOS. The color wheel can be configured to have many hues and segments and there are several color modes available:

  • Red, Green and Blue: the correct color wheel for an additive color system, the one present in every screen.
  • Red, Yellow and Blue: the wheel traditionally taught with red, yellow and blue as primary colors.
  • Red, Yellow, Green and Blue: some argue that a wheel with these four primary colors is a closer representation to the physiology of human vision, since it shows the red/green and blue/yellow opposites.
  • Equiluminant: the HUSL color space is an extension of CIELUV, a color space that attempts perceptual uniformity. This means that the lightness of every hue in the color wheel is perceptually the same, unlike the lightness of other color spaces which varies from hue to hue (even in the HSL color space).

Unlike most palette creation apps, which usually make palettes of up to five colors, WheelMasks is best at creating palettes with a large number of colors. While the former may be good for graphic designers, I think illustrators and painters can benefit from working with larger palettes, as we typically need a larger range of shades and hues.

WheelMasks can export palettes to the Adobe Swatch Exchange format, to Procreate's swatches and as a plain PNG image to use anywhere, as well as in WheelMasks own file format to share the masks with other people.

I'll send the App for review to Apple soon and I hope to announce its release on the App Store shortly. Meanwhile, you can get access to the beta version by joining WheelMasks' mailing list on the app's main site:

WheelMasks App Icon




Roger Tallada's blog.

A former developer who changed career to illustration, now going back to development.