Orosynthe devlog: Color palette

Hello, everyone! Time has flown by and August is nearing its end. Phew! I hope you enjoyed your holidays, if you had any, and that it isn’t unbearably hot or unbearably cold where you live.

After so much research and documentation, I feel like doing something different, so today I’m going to go over the design process of the Orosynthe color palette!

Orosynthe is going to have pixel-art graphics, which means that each visual element in the game will deal with a limited set of colors. However, instead of choosing a different palette for each graphical element in the game, I’ve decided to go the old-school route and design a single palette to be shared across all visuals.

Think of the Nintendo Entertainment System palette, for example. The console was only able to draw 55 distinct colors on the screen. Those colors varied a bit depending on the display, configuration, etc., but any and all graphics displayed on-screen would respect that limitation.

NES palette according to Lospec
NES palette as an Aseprite preset palette

I aim to do something similar for Orosynthe. It’s not the first time I try to do this, but I feel like my palette-making skills have improved somewhat since my previous attempts years ago, so I should (probably?) be able to pull it off. This is what the Orosynthe color palette looks like now:

Orosynthe palette, with 46 colors

Notice the pastel tones? I wanted the colors to be versatile but also look kind of “uniform” and soft. There’s many greens and browns, which I found important to portray different natural environments, plants, dirt, mountains and such. I also did many checks against some of my previous character designs, to make sure that the colors I tend to use are well-represented in the palette.

As a principle, the lower the color count, the cleaner pixel-art looks, which is why it’s important to avoid having nearly identical colors in a palette. Keeping that in mind, I designed the palette so colors “bleed through” different ramps, making the color selection smaller and cleaner.

As you can see, darker colors are often shared between ramps, and some of the lighter ones are shared as well. I kept the in-between colors distinct because they’re the ones that will actually “define” what color each surface or material is, most of the time. Darker and lighter tones will mostly be used for shadows and highlights, so there’s no need for that much variety. Also, the darker a color is, the less we perceive its hue, so having only a blue-ish shadow, a red-ish shadow and a grey-ish/green-ish shadow is more than enough.

However, a palette that is good in theory isn’t always good in practice. To be sure that it was viable, I need to test it in a real-life scenario, so I used it when creating the mockups I shared in previous entries:

Not bad, right? Also, I indexed some of my previous Monster Embassy character illustrations using the palette, made some tweaks and achieved satisfactory results as well:

(the illustrations above will need to be redesigned/remade for Orosynthe, but they work as a proof-of-concept)

As you can see, the palette looks good, kind of soft and de-saturated but not dull, and the colors work well together. I spent many hours across many days tweaking it, and after using it and testing it I’m pretty confident it will work well, although I’m not ruling out some small modifications in the future if necessary (for example, I’d be willing to expand it to 50 colors if the current color selection proved insufficient). But for now I’m very happy with it.

I hope you enjoyed this entry. I’ll be sharing more tidbits and insights in the future. Thanks for reading and best wishes!

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