Tangerine Color Management is a Designer’s Dream

by Chris Howard Feb 19, 2007

Tangerine adds a color palette functionality to OS X’s color picker. When I first discovered Tangerine I wondered what the point was. After all, OS X’s color picker has a built-in palette for storing favorite colors.

However, Tangerine is a color palette on steroids. Any Mac user earning an income that depends on using color who’s not using Tangerine is blowing money out the window.

OS X’s color picker can store up to 150 colors in its palette. I have found it indispensable when working on projects—for instance, websites—which require a set color palette. Of course, it’s useful for saving any color you use often, such as your corporate colors.

Now, unless it’s got some hidden secrets I haven’t uncovered, that’s as far as it goes.

And where it leaves off, Tangerine steps up.

Developer background
Tangerine is a product of Douglas Mann, an Australian Mac user who needed a solution for a problem he had as a designer. Douglas’s background is in visual arts and graphic design, and this is reflected in the usefulness of Tangerine. Using it, even from a non-designer’s point-of-view, it becomes apparent that many features of Tangerine are just what designers would be looking for.

Douglas today is self employed as a web designer, programmer, and graphic designer and has always, to his friends’ and family’s amusement, been a Mac fanatic. He has done everything from print work, video products, multimedia kiosk systems, exhibitions, websites, and more. (He has also developed some Automator extensions called Automator Workflow Additions.)

But through all that, he was frustrated by not being able to easily manage and use color for jobs and clients. Douglas says:

The idea of Tangerine came about from my own frustrations of working with color between applications. The process of designing a website often means using several applications like Fireworks, Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop, and so on. Each of these applications have a specific role within creating a site. I wanted to be able to create a color once and then use it in any of these applications.  Not only that, I wanted an application that allowed me to keep my color schemes together so I wouldn’t lose track of them over the course of the project. Once I began working on Tangerine, it became apparent there are other ways to use color and represent color on the Mac. This lead to the ability to convert color into color syntax for various programming languages.

On being a developer Down Under, Douglas thinks that Apple does a great job of supporting its developers with technical information, and while there are numerous websites that provide great resources for developers, he does find that the lack of face-to-face contact with other Mac developers can make it a somewhat isolated experience.

Tangerine integrates with OS X’s color picker but also can launch its own separate color picker and manager. Some other applications, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, can use the Tangerine color picker’s extra features of full shortcut integration with the application.

Tangerine has several really useful features but number one among them would have to be its multiple palettes. So, for instance, each job for each client can have its own palette. Although not a designer, I could imagine the OS X color picker’s 150 space palette would fill up very quickly if you tried saving all your jobs’ colors to it. Tangerine can create as many palettes as you like and each is individually nameable and manageable.

Any application can use the default shortcuts to paste the hex code for colors but Photoshop, Fireworks, Illustrator, and a few others have the actions that add functionality via shortcut keys, such as setting line, fill, and so on.

Tangerine allows you to keep a history of colors for any cell in a palette. Each time you change a color in a cell, it’s recorded in the history as well. That must be boggingly exciting for designers sitting down with indecisive clients.

Another feature that will have designers writhing on the floor in excitement is that palettes are transportable via an export/import function. If you work on more than one Mac, or want a colleague or someone else involved in the design process to be on the same page, color wise, simply export the palette and import it on the other machine.

Not forgetting that we all make mistakes, any colors deleted from Tangerine’s palettes are stored in its own trash can where they can be deleted permanently or resurrected.

Coders aren’t forgotten either, with Tangerine’s one-click color syntax for coders that inserts a color straight into code. Tangerine produces several syntax variations for use with Objective-C, Java, ActionScript, REALbasic, and languages that rely on hexadecimal color syntax.

At this stage only a few applications are fully Tangerine supported, that is, have access to the full shortcut actions. Notable among omissions is InDesign, although Douglas does plan on adding it and others in the future.

It’d also be nice if the color palette displayed the color’s name under each color.

At US$39.95, Tangerine is not necessarily for the casual user, but anyone charging for their time will make that money back on the first job. For the next two years I am studying graphic design (and on Macs—woohoo!!) and I’m sure Tangerine will become my best friend.

Because of the time Tangerine can save you (and I’m sure a few grey hairs as well), you’d be mad not to use it if you work with color for a living. 9.5/10.

If you’re still not convinced, go watch the video demos at Tangerine Insights.


  • Damn. I use Indesign…

    sydneystephen had this to say on Feb 19, 2007 Posts: 124
  • No matter what app you use, Stephen, Tangerine is still worth it for its multiple palettes.

    Also, if we gently nudge the devloper, I’m sure he’ll hop to and make the InDesign actions.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 19, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • This is great, I’m really pretentious when it comes to colors and being able to save those that have proven to be special is really cool. I once had a problem with virus removal and lost some saved colors in the piece of software that I was then using, but this one is for Mac so there should be no virus problems.

    ClaytonWind had this to say on Jun 26, 2011 Posts: 8
  • I guess that if you need to do some catalog printing on an OS X machine, Tangerine is the software you need in order to have a professional outcome. Congrats for the designer of this program!!

    annekingsy had this to say on Oct 28, 2011 Posts: 22
  • It’s so tough to encounter right information on the blog. I really loved reading this post. It has strengthen my faith more. You all do such a great job at such concepts. ..can’t tell you how much I for one appreciate all you do.uggs

    clistern had this to say on Nov 03, 2011 Posts: 33
  • Mandarin, you can keep the history of a cell in the palette of colors. Every time you change the color of the cell, was recorded in history as.He strengthened my faith more. May you all do a great job with these concepts. .. Organic Living can not tell you how much I appreciated for all they do

    gamersen had this to say on Nov 03, 2011 Posts: 14
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