Inkscape Custom Palette

An artist's palette

A color wheel or an RGB color selector lets you select colors from a practically infinite range. While this is OK when selecting a color the first time, reusing shades can get tiresome. A set of discrete colors in a palette are much easier to use. Inkscape has a color palette you can customize. Here’s how.

The Inkscape palette

Near the bottom of the Inkscape window, right above the status bar, you should see the palette. If you don’t, it’s hidden and you can enable it from the menu View→Show/Hide→Palette or by pressing Shift+Alt+p.

Inkscape palette and palette menu
Inkscape palette and palette menu

At the very right of this palette is a < button. Pressing this will pop up a menu with a list of all available palettes and miscellaneous palette display options, seen in the screenshot above.

For the longest time I used to keep this palette hidden when using Inkscape for UI design. I didn’t find it useful because of the sheer number of shades it normally presented. I would instead use a set of colored rectangles as a custom palette in my toolkit around my drawing page. This worked fine, but I had to use the color picker (F7) to set the color each time. This is an extra keystroke. Wouldn’t it be great to create and save your own custom Inkscape palette?

Creating a custom palette

Well, it turns out you can. Any .gpl (GIMP palette) files that you create in the .config/inkscape/palettes directory under your home directory are loaded by Inkscape as named palettes in the palette list. Remember this palette from UI Design in Inkscape (1)?

Set up the palette, fonts and components for your design.
Set up the palette, fonts and components for your design.

Here’s what the palette file for that palette would look like:

GIMP Palette
Name: MyCustomPalette1
# For my website
43 60 92 #2b3c5c
63 88 135 #3f5887
105 138 197 #698ac5
12 42 96 #0c2a60
20 70 160 #1446a0
117 160 239 #75a0ef
146 17 14 #92110e
229 57 53 #e53935
231 137 134 #e78986
45 48 71 #2d3047
144 142 165 #908ea5
245 239 237 #f5efed

Anything after “#” in a line is a comment. After the palette name, each line contains the RGB values of a color in the palette. The hex # color is a comment. Here’s the custom palette this file creates:

Custom palette
Custom palette

Custom palette extension

Alternatively, there is an Inkscape extension that automatically creates an Inkscape palette file from the colors of selected shapes. Inkscape extensions can be installed by unzipping the extension file into the .config/inkscape/extensions directory under your home directory and restarting Inkscape. The extension will become available in the Extensions menu. You might need to hand-edit the palette file to arrange the colors in the order you want.

Swatch toolbox

Inkscape has a swatch feature you can use to create a color palette. Drag-select all the colors in your in-workspace palette and click on the Swatch button in the Fill/Stroke toolbox (shown in the image below). This will add all the colors to the Swatch toolbox (Ctrl+Shift+w) and to the Auto palette. The Auto palette is limited to the current document. Thanks to Brynn from the Inkscape Community forum for this tip about swatches.

Creating an auto palette from a palette using the swatches toolbox
Creating an auto palette from a palette using the swatches toolbox

💡 Quick tip. Inkscape palettes are particularly useful for partially coloring text in a text object. This is not possible using the color picker. You can do this only by using the Fill/Stroke toolbox or the Inkscape palette.
💡 Another quick tip. This Inkscape palette file containing Google’s material design palette is a useful addition to the standard palette list.
💡 Yet another quick tip. When creating color palettes I often use for inspiration. Their five-color palettes offer a great starting point.

Photo Credit. Featured image by Kira auf der Heide on

4 thoughts on “Inkscape Custom Palette

  1. I would like to use Inkscape as an alternative to Illustrator, but there seems to be no way to use pantone libraries. A lot of my work needs specific spot colors, so is there a way to import the various pantone book libraries?

    1. Hi Theorof,

      I mainly use Inkscape for screen based design so haven’t faced a problem in this area. AFAIK, CMYK support is in planning right now:
      and is a short-term priority item. That said, Pantone support might not come inbuilt in Inkscape. It is a proprietary standard and licensing will be an issue. It is possible that with CMYK support someone might write a third-party extension to support Pantone.

      Additional reading:

  2. It’s also possible to create a custome palette using Inkscape’s Swatches feature.

    In the palette menu, click Auto.

    After you have configured a color using the Fill and Stroke dialog, click the Swatch button (looks like a white square with light blue border).

    Now you should see that color in the new palette, just above the status bar.

    Keep adding colors. At first, the palette chips will be large. They get smaller, the more colors you add.

    Note that this kind of custom palette is only availabe in this document. However, if you were to use this document as a new template, then this palette is available any time you use the template.

    Thanks for this tutorial. I’ll be happy to add a link to it, in my large collection (

    1. Thanks Brynn. That was brilliant! I didn’t know about swatches. I’ll update the post to add this.

      Also, thanks for linking to this site in your collection 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.