Photoshop Color Palette

Another means of selecting colors in Photoshop is to use the Color palette, shown in Figure below.

Figure-2: The Color palette as it appears normally (top) and with the Web Color Sliders option selected (bottom).

The Color palette is convenient, it’s always there, and it doesn’t hog your screen like the Color Picker dialog box. Frankly, this is the tool I use most often to select colors in Photoshop. To display the palette, choose Window>Show Color or press the F6 key. If you want, you can dock the palette in the Options bar palette well. For details on that intriguing offer.

Either way, you use the elements and options inside the palette as follows:

  • Foreground color/background color: Click the foreground or background color icon in the Color palette to specify the color you want to edit. If you click the foreground or background color icon when it’s already highlighted—as indicated by a double-line frame—Photoshop displays the Color Picker dialog box.

  • Sliders: Drag the triangles in the slider controls to edit the highlighted color. By default, the sliders represent the red, green, and blue primary colors when a color image is open. You can change the slider bars by choosing a different color model from the palette menu.

  • Option boxes: Alternatively, you can enter numerical values into the option boxes to the right of the sliders. Press Tab to advance from one option box to the next; press Shift+Tab to go to the previous option.

  • Alert triangle and cube: Photoshop displays the alert triangle when a color falls outside the CMYK color gamut. The color swatch to the right of the triangle shows the closest CMYK equivalent. Click the triangle or the color swatch to replace the current color with the CMYK equivalent.

If you select the Web Color Sliders option from the palette menu, the alert cube appears to indicate colors that aren’t included in the Web-safe palette. The palette also displays the hexadecimal values for the color, as shown in Figure-2. And as you drag the sliders, they automatically snap to Web-safe hues.

0To limit the palette so that it displays Web-safe colors only, choose Make Ramp Web Safe from the palette menu. After you define a Web color, choose Copy Color as HTML from the palette menu to save the hexadecimal code for the color to the Clipboard. You can then paste the code into an HTML file by choosing Edit>Paste in the Web application.

  • Color bar: The bar along the bottom of the Color palette displays all colors contained in the CMYK spectrum. Click or drag inside the color bar to lift a color and make it the current foreground or background color (depending on whether the foreground or background icon is selected above).

The sliders update as you drag. Alt-click or drag to lift the background color if the foreground icon is selected or the foreground color if the background color is selected. You needn’t accept the CMYK spectrum in the color bar, however. To change to a different spectrum, just choose the spectrum from the palette menu.

Or Shift-click the color bar to cycle through the available spectrums. You can opt for the RGB spectrum, a black-to-white gradation (Grayscale Ramp), or a gradation from the current foreground color to the current background color (Current Colors).

The color bar continuously updates to represent the newest foreground and background colors. Notice the black and white squares at the right end of the color bar? You can click ’em to set a color to absolute black or white.

But if all you want to do is set the foreground color to black, don’t bother with the Color palette just press D. For white, press D and then X. The first shortcut restores the foreground and background colors to black and white, respectively; pressing X swaps the colors to make white the foreground color and black the background color.

Photoshop Swatches Palette

Shown in Figure-2, the Swatches palette enables you to collect colors for future use, sort of like a favorite color reservoir.

Figure-3: You can create custom swatch collections in the Swatches palette or in the new Preset Manager dialog box.

You can use the palette also to set the foreground and background colors. Here’s how to take advantage of the Swatches palette:

  • Click a color swatch to make that color the foreground color. Alt-click to set the background color.

  • To add the current foreground color to the reservoir, Shift-click an existing color swatch to replace the old color or click an empty swatch to append the new color. In either case, your cursor temporarily changes to a paint bucket. After you click, you’re asked to give the swatch a name.

Type the name and click OK. If you later want to change the name, just double-click the swatch to redisplay the name dialog box. You can bypass the dialog box and add an unnamed color to the palette by Ctrl+Alt-clicking an empty swatch.

  • To insert a color anywhere in the palette, Shift+Ctrl-click a swatch. The other colors scoot over to make room.

  • To delete a color from the panel, Ctrl-click a color swatch. Your cursor changes to a pair of scissors and cuts the color away.

  • The Swatches palette in Photoshop 6 includes a new icon and trash icon, similar to those you find in the Layers palette. The icons provide alternative methods of adding and deleting colors: Click the new icon to add a new swatch in the current foreground color; Alt-click to display the name dialog box and then add the color. Drag a swatch to the trash icon to delete it from the palette.

You can also save and load color palettes on disk using options in the pop-up menu. Load Swatches appends swatches stored in a swatches file to the current set of swatches; Replace Swatches replaces the current swatches with the ones in the file.

Save Swatches lets you create a new swatch collection and save it to disk. The Presets folder, located inside the main Photoshop folder, contains folders for all the available preset items, color swatches being one of them.

The Color Swatches folder, found inside the Photoshop Only folder of the Presets folder, contains palettes for the major color libraries from Pantone, Trumatch, and others. In Version 6, you can load these palettes by simply selecting them from the palette pop-up menu.

You’re then given the choice of appending the swatches to the existing swatches or replacing the current swatches altogether. Custom swatch sets that you create also appear on the palette menu, but only after you close and restart Photoshop.

When a color library palette is loaded, positioning your cursor over a color swatch displays a tool tip showing the name of that color. If you prefer to select colors by using the color names, select Small List from the palette menu. Now you see a scrolling list of colors instead of just the swatches.

Photoshop Swatches Presets

You can also create and manage swatch collections using the new Preset Manager. Choose View>Presets and then select Swatches from the Preset Type pop-up menu (or press Ctrl+2) to display the Swatches presets panel, shown in Figure-3.

Figure-4: To easily create a new swatch collection using just some colors from an existing collection, head for the Preset Manager.

The presets panel shows the current swatch set. Many functions in the Swatches panel duplicate those offered by the Swatches palette. If you click the arrow to the left of the Done button (see the figure), you display a pop-up menu that’s nearly identical to the Swatches palette menu.

You can choose the Replace Swatches command on the pop-up menu to replace the current swatch collection with another or choose Reset Swatches to return to the default swatch collection.

To append a collection, click the Load button. Alternatively, click a collection name in the pop-up menu, in which case you have the choice of appending or replacing the current collection with the new one.

In addition, you can click a swatch and then click Delete to remove the swatch or Rename to change the color’s name. If you want to dump or rename a bunch of swatches, Shift-click them and then click Delete or Rename. To select all swatches, press Ctrl+A.

You can also display the scissors cursor and then click a swatch to delete it but for some reason, you press Alt to get the scissors cursor in the Preset Manager, not Ctrl as you do in the Swatches palette.

Aside from being able to delete or rename a batch of swatches at one time, the best reason for bothering with the Preset Manager as opposed to working in the Swatches palette is to create a new swatch collection out of colors from an existing set or sets. Load the collection(s) that you want to use as a basis for the new set.

Then Shift-click to select swatches for the new set or press Ctrl+A to select all swatches and click Save Set. Give the collection a name and store it in the Color Swatches folder.

Note that wherever you do your swatch set editing, you can’t overwrite any existing preset files. Also, after you add a new swatch, you must save it as part of a swatch collection, either via the palette pop-up menu or the Preset Manager. Otherwise, Photoshop deletes the swatch if you replace the current swatch collection with another.

Photoshop Eyedropper tool

The eyedropper tool which you can select by pressing I provides the most convenient and straightforward means of selecting colors in Photoshop. This is so straightforward, in fact, it’s hardly worth explaining. But quickly, here’s how the eyedropper tool works:

  • Selecting a foreground color: To select a new foreground color, click the desired color inside any open image window with the eyedropper tool. (This assumes the foreground icon in the Color palette is selected.

If the background icon is selected, Alt-click with the eyedropper tool to lift the foreground color.) You can even click inside a background window to lift a color without bringing that window to the foreground.

  • Selecting a background color: To select a new background color, Alt-click the desired color with the eyedropper tool. (Again, this assumes the foreground icon is selected in the Color palette. If the background icon is selected, click with the eyedropper to lift the background color.)
  • Skating over the color spectrum: You can animate the foreground color control box by dragging with the eyedropper tool in an image window or along the color bar in the Color palette. As soon as you achieve the desired color, release your mouse button.

To animate the background color icon, Alt-drag with the eyedropper tool. The icon color changes as you move the eyedropper tool. Again, swap these procedures if the background color icon is selected in the Color palette.

  • Sampling multiple pixels: Normally, the eyedropper tool selects the color from the single pixel on which you click. If you prefer to average the colors of several neighboring pixels, however, choose either the 3 by 3 Average or 5 by 5 Average option from the Sample Size pop-up menu on the Options bar.

Or right-click with the eyedropper to display a pop-up menu of sampling options near the cursor. In this case, you get one additional choice, Copy Color as HTML, which works just as it does when you select it from the Color palette pop-up menu.

Photoshop determines the hexadecimal code for the color and sends the code to the Clipboard so that you can use Edit>Paste to dump the code into an HTML file.

To access the eyedropper tool temporarily when using the type, paint bucket, gradient, line, pencil, airbrush, or paintbrush tool, press Alt. The eyedropper cursor remains in force for as long as the Alt key is down.

The eyedropper lifts whatever color is active in the Color palette (foreground or background). To lift the other color, switch to the eyedropper tool by pressing the I key and then Alt-click in an image window.

Photoshop Color Sampler Tool

Found in the same toolbox flyout as the eyedropper, the color sampler tool looks like the eyedropper with a little crosshair target. But where the eyedropper lifts foreground and background colors, the color sampler merely measures the colors of pixels so that you can monitor how the pixels react to various color changes.

Select the color sampler and click somewhere inside the image window. Photoshop adds a crosshair target to indicate the point you clicked. The program also brings up the Info palette (if it isn’t up already) and adds a new color measurement item labeled #1.

This item corresponds to the target in the image, which is likewise labeled #1. Click again and you add a second target and a corresponding item #2 in the Info palette. You can add up to four targets to an image, as demonstrated in Figure-4.

Figure-5: The color sampler tool lets you measure the colors of four points in your image, as indicated by the black arrows. You can also measure a fifth point by merely moving the cursor around, as indicated by the white arrow.

The color sampler is primarily intended for printers and technicians who want to monitor the effects of color corrections on specific points in an image. If you apply Image>Adjust>Levels, for example, Photoshop constantly updates the items in the Info palette to reflect your changes.

But you can also sample points in an image to monitor the effects of filters, blend modes , and edit tools such as dodge and burn. The color sampler is just another way to monitor changes to an image. Here are a few more techniques of interest when color sampling:

  • Photoshop limits you to four color targets. If you try to create a fifth one, the program generates an error message. If you want to measure a different point in the image, you can either hover your cursor over the point and note the top set of color values in the Info palette (as in Figure-4) or move one of the targets.

  • To move a target inside the image window, drag it with the color sampler tool. You can also move a target by Ctrl-dragging it with the eyedropper tool.

  • To delete a target, Alt-click it.

  • The Info palette grows to more than twice its normal size when you start clicking with the color sampler. To hide the sampler information without deleting targets, click the Info palette’s collapse box or choose Hide Color Samplers from the palette menu. If you go the second route, you have to choose Show Color Samplers to bring the samples back.

  • By default, the sampler items in the Info palette measure colors in the active color space. If you want to track a target in a different color space, click the item’s eyedropper icon in the Info palette or right-click the target in the image window. Either way, you get a pop-up menu of color space alternatives, including Grayscale, RGB, and several others that you may recall from previous explanations.

To select the color sampler, press Shift+I when the eyedropper is active or Alt-click the eyedropper icon. Or press I repeatedly to cycle between the eyedropper, color sampler, and measure tool (add Shift if you activated the Use Shift Key for Tool Switch option in the Preferences dialog box).

You can also temporarily access the color sampler any time the eyedropper is active by pressing Shift. This little trick also works when a color correction dialog box such as Levels or Curves is open. It’s just the ticket when you’re in the middle of an adjustment and you need to know how it’s affecting specific portions of the image.