Choose a color with the Eyedropper tool

The Eyedropper tool makes it easy to copy a color without having to select a swatch. It copies, or samples, the color of an area in your photo to set a new foreground or background color. You can sample from the active image, from another open image, or from your computer’s desktop.

If you want the color always to be available, you can add the sampled color to the Color Swatches panel. You can also specify the size of the area that the Eyedropper tool samples. For example, you can set the eyedropper to sample the average color values of a 5‑by‑5- or 3‑by‑3-pixel area under the pointer.

Selecting a foreground color with the eyedropper
Selecting a foreground color with the eyedropper.

A. Point sample B. 5 by 5 Average sample 
  1. Select the Eyedropper tool in the toolbox.
  2. (Optional) To change the sample size of the eyedropper, choose an option from the Sample Size menu in the Tool Options bar:
    • Point Sample to get the precise value of the pixel you click.

    • 3 By 3 Average or 5 By 5 Average to get the average value of the specified number of pixels within the area you click.

  3. In the Tool Options bar, select where the color picker tool must sample from. Choose from All Layers or Current Layer.
  4. Do one of the following to choose a color:
    • To select a new foreground color from an image, click the desired color in your image. To select a color that appears elsewhere on your computer screen, click inside your image and drag away from it.

    • To select a new background color from an image, Alt-click (Option-click in Mac OS) the color you want.

      As you click and drag the Eyedropper tool, the foreground color box changes.

  5. Release the mouse button to pick the new color.

Note:

You can temporarily switch to the Eyedropper tool while using most painting tools, which allows you to change colors quickly without selecting another tool. Simply hold down the Alt key (Option key in Mac OS). Once you’ve chosen your color, release the Alt key (Option key in Mac OS).

Choose a color from the toolbox

  • Do one of the following:
    • To set the foreground and background boxes to black and white, click the Default Colors icon.

    • To switch the colors in the two boxes, click the Switch Colors icon.

    • To change the foreground color, click the topmost color box in the toolbox, and then choose a color from the Color Picker.

    • To change the background color, click the bottom color box in the toolbox, and then choose a color from the Color Picker.

Use the Color Swatches panel

The Color Swatches panel (Window > Color Swatches) is a good place to store the colors that you use often in your images. You can select a foreground or background color by clicking a color swatch in the Color Swatches panel. You can add or delete colors to create a custom swatch library, save a library of swatches, and reload them for use in another image. You can change the way thumbnails are displayed in the Color Swatches panel by choosing an option from the More menu.

Although you can add many colors to the Color Swatches panel, you should manage its size and organization to improve performance. Creating libraries can help you group related or special swatches and manage panel size.

The Photoshop Elements installation folder\Presets\Color Swatches (for Mac, Photoshop Elements installation folder\Support Files\Presets\Color Swatches)folder contains the various swatch libraries. When you create custom libraries, saving them to the Color Swatches folder makes them automatically appear in the panel libraries pop‑up menu.

Choose a color using the Color Swatches panel

  1. If the Color Swatches panel is not already open, choose Window > Color Swatches.
  2. (Optional) In the Color Swatches panel, choose a swatch library name from the Swatches menu.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • To choose a foreground color, click a color in the panel.

    • To choose a background color, Ctrl-click (Command-click in Mac OS) a color in the panel.

Add a color to the Color Swatches panel

If there is a color you’d like to use often, you can save the color as a swatch in the Color Swatches panel. Saved swatches are added to the library of colors in the panel. To permanently save your custom swatches, you must save the entire library.

  1. Set the foreground color in the toolbox to the color you want to add.
  2. Do one of the following in the Color Swatches panel:
    • Click the New Swatch button at the bottom of the panel. The color swatch is added and automatically named Color Swatch 1.

    • Choose New Swatch from the More menu.

    • Position the pointer over an empty space in the bottom row of the Color Swatches panel (the pointer turns into the Paint Bucket tool), and click to add the color.

    Selecting a color with the eyedropper and adding it as a new swatch
    Selecting a color with the eyedropper and adding it as a new swatch

  3. Enter a name for the new color and click OK.
  4. If prompted to save the swatch library, enter a new name in the Save dialog box and click Save.

Save and use custom swatch libraries

  • Do any of the following in the Color Swatches panel:
    • To save a library of swatches, choose Save Swatches from the More menu. To make the set appear in the panel’s swatch libraries pop‑up menu, save the file to the Photoshop Elements\Presets\Color Swatches (For Mac, Photoshop Elements\Support Files\Presets\Color Swatches) folder.

    Note:

    To see the new swatch set in the menu, you must restart Photoshop Elements.

    • To select and load a swatch library, choose Load Swatches from the More menu in the panel.
    • To replace the current swatch library with a different library, choose Replace Swatches from the More menu in the panel and select a library.

Reset a swatch library to its default color swatches

  1. Choose a swatch library from the pop‑up menu in the Color Swatches panel.
  2. From the More menu in the Color Swatches panel, choose Preset Manager.
  3. In the Preset Manager dialog box, choose Swatches from the Preset Type menu.
  4. Choose Reset Swatches from the More menu, and confirm the action when prompted.

Delete a color from the Color Swatches panel

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Drag the color swatch to the Trash button in the panel, and click OK to confirm the deletion.

    • Press Alt (Option key in Mac OS) to change the pointer to a scissors icon, and click a color in the Color Swatches panel.

  2. If prompted to save the library, enter a name in the Save dialog box and click Save.

Note:

To permanently remove swatches you delete, you must resave the library that contained them.

Use the Adobe Color Picker

You can use the Adobe Color Picker to select the foreground or background color by choosing from a color spectrum or by defining colors numerically. In addition, you can select colors based on HSB or RGB color models, or choose to select only web‑safe colors.

Adobe Color Picker
Adobe Color Picker

A. Adjusted color B. Original color C. HSB color values D. RGB color values E. Displays only web colors F. Color field G. Color slider H. Hexadecimal color value 
  1. Click the foreground or background color boxes in the toolbox to display the Color Picker.
  2. Click inside the color field. When you click in the color field, a circular marker indicates the color’s position in the field, and the numerical values change to reflect the new color.
  3. Drag the white triangles along the slider to move to another color.
  4. Alternately, to specify a number visually, do any of the following:
    • Enter the hexadecimal value for your color in the text box under the RGB values. (Hexadecimal color values are often used by web designers.)

    • For RGB color, select a radio button and specify component values from 0 to 255 (0 is no light and 255 is the brightest light).

    • For HSB color, select a radio button and specify saturation and brightness as percentages; specify hue as an angle from 0° to 360° that corresponds to a location on the color wheel.

  5. The color rectangle to the right of the color slider displays the new color in the top section of the rectangle. The original color appears at the bottom of the rectangle.
  6. Click OK to begin painting with the new color.

Note:

You can select colors using your system’s built‑in color picker or a plug‑in color picker. Choose Preferences > General and choose the color picker.

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