Whilst looking up colours for my most recent uni project, I found that Pantone sell an Android app to play around with their colours. At £5 it seemed a bit steep, but I thought I'd give it a try anyway, and decided to share my thoughts with the internet. Apologies for the poor quality of the screenshots - I haven't told the blogger app to stop downscaling my photos yet. The last one's much nicer...
Pantone are in the colour business - the effectively sell a system to match colours, so that when a designer sends something to print they know exactly what it'll look like when it comes back. To this effect, rich designers often own Pantone swatch books, which can be used to compare printed colours to a known standard, and then rejected if they don't match.
This app is aimed more towards finding the colours in the first place, and building pallets for use in the design. Mobile screen are no-where near colour calibrated, so could never be used for reference, but tend to be good enough to get a rough idea whilst in the field, or with a client.
Once the app has loaded, which takes slightly longer than I'd like, the user is taken to the "fandeck". This resembles a swatchbook, and can be flicked and dragged to find the right page. The top bar provides a reference of where you are in the Pantone rainbow, so speeds up trying to find a specific colour. From the menu there's a choice of a dozen or so different swatchbooks, covering most, if not all, of Pantone's range.
Once a page of the fandeck is tapped, you are given a scrollable set of swatches. The text is far to small to be read easily on my phone (Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo V), but is just about legible if necessary. This would be less annoying if the search feature worked, but it doesn't, probably my biggest gripe.
This palette can be shared using any app employing the Android sharing intent, which means a set of colours can be emailed to a client for comment, although this may be risky if you don't trust the colour reproduction of their monitor!
From the swatches, an individual colour can be dragged onto one of 10 palettes at the bottom of the screen.
Alternatively, a big version of the colour can be bought up, which is nice for showing people.
A colour in a palette can be clicked on to bring up its swatch, and some more information. This screen isn't that much more useful than the big swatch, except that the button with three dots on takes you to the magic page, that does colour theory for you.
Here a range of colours is given, from contrasting to complimentary, which can a save a lot of time for those of us who's eye for colour is somewhat lacking. It also gives a list of cross referenced colours from the other swatchbooks, which could be quite useful if a designer has to work across different mediums.
The final feature, which is one of the nicest, is the ability to extract colours from a picture, either from the phones gallery or from the camera. This could be useful if on an inspirational visit, and you see a colour you like, or for "Pantonifying" old designs, such as this flyer I made. The conversion is by no means perfect, and shows just how many screen colours cant be reproduced by Pantone colours, which would serve as a good lesson for many designers, who often wonder why their printed material's coming out in the wrong colour.
In general, the UI could do with a slightly more considered design, as it currently feels quite "Android 1.6". However, it does exactly what it says on the tin. There's no way it could be a replacement for a swatchbook, and that's not it's purpose, but it does a nice job of colour browsing, and would be very nice for a discussion with a client. The £5 price tag is a little steep for personal use, but it's not unjustified - you get access to a whole range of professional, industry standard, colours, and anyone who can justify this on expenses probably should!