Excellent Utilities: pastel – generate, analyze, convert and manipulate colors

Excellent Utilities is a series of cornerstone articles highlighting essential utilities. These are small, indispensable tools, useful for anyone running a Linux machine.

pastel is a command-line tool to generate, analyze, convert and manipulate colors.

This tool supports a variety of color formats and color spaces like RGB (sRGB), HSL, CIELAB, CIELCh as well as ANSI 8-bit and 24-bit representations. Colors can be specified in many different formats. There are a wide range of subcommands available.

What can we do with pastel? We can pick a color anywhere on the screen, generate a set of visually distinct colors, name a given color, convert colors from one format to another, and much more.


We tested pastel with Manjaro. There’s a package in the Official Repositories (extra) so no compilation is necessary. Install with the command:

$ sudo pacman -S pastel

Alternatively, we can install with yay, a pacman wrapper.

$ yay pastel

If you’re not running Arch or an Arch-based distro, there’s a convenient distro-agnostic snap package available. The developer also provides a .deb package for Debian/Ubuntu users for x86 and x64, and ARM architectures. The other main alternative is to install the software via cargo, a build system and package manager for Rust.

This is cross-platform software. Besides Linux, pastel runs under macOS and Windows. We tested the software in Linux only.

Next page: Page 2 – In Operation

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – Introduction / Installation
Page 2 – In Operation / Summary

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Mario R
Mario R
8 months ago

If only more open source software had good docs. It’s an area which is often neglected, probably because it’s boring to write good docs.

8 months ago
Reply to  Mario R

It’s hard for many developers to write flowingEnglish documentation if they are not native English speakers themselves. It’s certainly true for me, my English is basic at best.

I usually seek help from my user base for this activity, together with UAT.