A Pareto Palette? (and a link to Martin Krzywinsk's Image Color Summarizer)

A Pareto Palette? -Is 20% of the color on your palette responsible for 80% of your painting?

While this question might sound silly at first—it’s a legitimate inquiry regarding a pattern of distribution that’s been observed in quite a few arenas.

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

The principle was named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist that developed the principle after observing that 20% of the peapods in his garden contained 80% of the peas. He later published his first paper “Cours d’économie politique” where he showed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Since then, many have put forward the idea that this pattern can be observed in a multitude of areas ranging from language to pollution to marketing…and just about everything in between.

Now I know that many of my artist friends out there have very different goals and processes but I’d be curious to know if you felt this might apply to your own process of painting—particularly your chosen palette of colors.

So do you think that 20% of your palette is responsible for 80% of what makes it onto your canvas?

I was honestly surprised how many artists felt this might be true of their work when I posed the question on Facebook. I am often very skeptical of the clean application of such principles–but examining this idea has made me really think more about my own palette usage.

One tool that I have found interesting that is related to this idea of distribution is the Image Color Summarizer by Martin Krzywinsk found here: http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/color-summarizer/

The colour summarizer will produce descriptive colour statistics for an image . Reported will be the average , median , minimum and maximum of each component of RGB, HSV, LCH and Lab. Average hues are calculated using mean of circular quantities.

Example of Image Color Summarizer

Some of the questions the summarizer will answer are

*** what is the average color hue, saturation and value in my image?**
*** what are the colours that are most representative of the image?**
*** what is the image’s human readable colour description (e.g. dark pure blue)?**
*** what do the RGB, HSV, LCH and Lab histograms look like?**
*** what are the RGB, HSV, LCH and Lab pixel values?**

Artist Julie Beck was kind enough to join in the conversation on this topic so I used this tool to closely examine some of the summarized distributions in one of her recent works.

I would recommend giving this a try. You can download the summarizer program or just use the online feature. Either can give you an interesting look at some of the distributions in your work.