What color-picking tools do you like?

The Color palette in Photoshop (see screenshot) is, to be charitable, a bit long in the tooth. In particular, the little color ramp at the bottom is awfully small (occupying just 0.00072% of the screen real estate on at 30" monitor; yes, I did the math).

We certainly won’t break what’s working or force you to use a larger color picker than what’s there today.  Having said that, there’s clearly room for some innovation.

What kind of color-picking tools would you like to see in Photoshop?  Are there good examples you can share?  We’ve already batted around the idea of revealing kuler-like functionality in Photoshop (see very rough mockup).  What else would be cool/useful/powerful?


0 thoughts on “What color-picking tools do you like?

  1. The color picker (finder, selector etc) I use most is Photoshop’s… Color Picker — the modal one that pops up when you click the main swatch in the toolbar. I have the above color palette displayed in my, er, ‘workspace’, but seeing this post I realize I don’t actually use it.
    So, if I need to sample a color from any app or web page, I use the standard PS Picker and drag the eyedropper to wherever. If I need to be precise, I use Illustrator’s groovy color thingy. (Kuler is mostly pointless in real life compared to those two.)
    [So, if we could simply make the main Photoshop color picker (the big guy that lives in a dialog box) available via a palette/panel in addition to in a dialog, would that be useful? That way if you were painting, you could more easily click a large area from which to sample colors. –J.]

  2. How about breaking the color picker out into a separate application that can work in the background across the Adobe creative suite and allow the user to “pick” and use colors, system wide, and across all the Adobe applications. So I could capture a color from my web browser (or Kuler) and then use that same swatch in Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, AfterEffects etc. It’s a hassle “writing down the CMYK numbers, the RGB numbers, and the Hex number” or saving out an Adobe Exchange Color Palette. It would also be nice if their were a “blank” template palette that one could build new palettes off of.

  3. For a minute there, I was thinking “Color ramp? What’s he..Ooooh.”
    It’s probably revealing that when I think “color palette,” or more generally “choose a color,” I think of the color picker. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve used the actual palette because, as you’ve intimated, it’s less than blissfully useful.
    What would make it more useful? Well, for picking colors, there’s the aptly named the color picker, so the palette should either vanish into the abyss (since it picks color less effectively/flexibly than another tool) OR the color palette could actually become the color picker. Double-clicking a swatch would bring it out of the sidebar, just like the other palettes. That would be nice.
    What would make it cooler? Trip it out with steampunk accents. And make it only select shiny brass colors.
    More powerful? Well, if y’all don’t go with integrating the color picker, I think the palette needs to be re-purposed. It’s just a redundant panel right now. What about something that lets us see a venn-diagram of the colors in our selected mode… Select a circle, drag an intensity slider, create a new color or colors in the middle. That would be neat–it would visualize the whole mixing colors thing a lot better.
    Or, how about scrapping it as a panel and merging its sliders with swatches? I often find myself selecting swatches, then playing with them in color picker–it would be really handy to have my sliders right there…
    Interesting questions!

  4. I have never used that pallet in all my years with Photoshop, I can’t imagine any replacement for it would ever prove useful for me either. I have never seen the point of a dedicated (but tiny) pallet when a simple press of the alt key gives you a colour sampler, and a couple clicks on the foreground/background colours in the main toolbar brings up a large, useful, colour picker.
    What I would kill for is a useful swatch pallet. One that stores the swatches inside the Photoshop file. Swatches are great, and yet Photoshop’s have always been useless for me. I wrote about it almost three years ago:

  5. Yes, if you put the big color dialog box in a “tab” that could be expanded, instead of a floating dialog box, it would be more neat on screen. You could resize the tab also.

  6. “So, if we could simply make the main Photoshop color picker (the big guy that lives in a dialog box) available via a palette/panel in addition to in a dialog, would that be useful? That way if you were painting, you could more easily click a large area fom which to sample colors. –J.]”
    I’ve wished many times that I could get access to this without it coming up as a modal that blocks out control of everything else when it appears on screen! If this is as far as the improvement went, it would probably do me for a good while!

  7. Consider the view options available in the Histogram palette: from relatively tiny to screen-hogging. Perhaps the color palette could offer different modes, from wee to big.
    Of course I have a special reason for screen real estate preservation…I teach and my projector nicely viewable at 1280×1024 and not much more.
    btw, the ramp is 0.0725% of a 30″–just ask anybody. Or 0.27% of my smallish project’s rez. durn decimals.

  8. I really like such topics on this blog directly related to Photoshop features and future improvements – thanks for bringing such threads!
    As for color picker, I quite like current color panel, actually- it’s simple and does it’s job (making non modal main Photoshop color picker might be good for some uses, but please- don’t make it as replacement for current color panel).
    When I think what eats most of my time and clicks whens interacting with current color pickers in Photoshop, i’d suggest (first three are really serious):
    1. Please- eyedropper working for complete screen and any window/program is a must (former macromedia apps has this working). I hate makings screenshot and pasting into Photoshop to be able to sample a color and I somehow find it’s necessary quite often in my workflow.
    2. If you’re thinking on a more serious overhaul of color picking features – instead of bigger/more extended panels, i’d better prefer more clean solutions – such as for instance: changing the brush when right click brings options and/or changing the size with keyboard shortcuts is excellent compared to actions of picking a color.
    Why don’t make it similar: alt+right click would bring color chooser immediately behind the mouse cursor. Please make color bars bigger than in current color panel. Let me quickly (add even a keyboard shortcut!) increase/decrease saturation or brightness or even tint. Using a Wacom improves lots of things but still- I’d be happy with less slides to color panel to drag some triangle few pixels to any side.
    3. I’ve filled feature request form with similar concept just on ‘actions’, but- I’d really like if Photoshop could let me select/add/organize colors, swatches, styles, etc to be EMBEDDED into .psd file when saving. Current independent libraries for such items are fine, but sometimes it’d really help when a file would also bring you specific actions, swatches, etc important just for that document. Actions particularly would be very useful IMHO.
    4. I’d be interested to try if it’d improve my workflow if I could open multiple color panels. I’d like one to be RGB and another with HSB – these are two modes I find constantly switching between. Or- maybe you could add a small button (like the one which appears for out of gamut color) that could switch between two last modes? E.g. it’d be like a simple A/B switch and user could with a single click switch between last two color models without going and searching into panel’s options.
    5. Color mixer would be nice. Corel painter has a really powerful one and I liked to use it to paint/blend some colors. Kuler somewhy doesn’t help me at all (ok- it’s nice toy, but nothing more for me) and I’d be disappointed if this technology would be integrated as a serious solution for choosing/finding colors in Photoshop (and/or any other adobe apps!).
    Thanks for listening!

  9. [So, if we could simply make the main Photoshop color picker (the big guy that lives in a dialog box) available via a palette/panel in addition to in a dialog, would that be useful? That way if you were painting, you could more easily click a large area from which to sample colors. –J.]
    Yeah, that would be great. Maybe 4 options: tiny ( as it is today ), medium, large ( as when you click on the tool bar), and huge for intense color picking work or a second display.
    Since we are in the feature suggestion theme… I know I asked you before, but I think it’s one of those things that you expect to work one way and it is a real disappointment when it doesn’t:
    – Delete/Duplicate multiple channels and paths
    – Change layer opacity through numeric shortcuts when in transform mode.
    – Use the same unit in both height width field in Crop/Marquee tool ( if you type px on one you shouldn’t get cm on the other )
    – Undo in Crop: when you move the crop border or change its rotation, you should be able to undo it, like you can with transform.
    – Undo in Ruler tool
    – Patch Tool -> Sample all layers
    – Use the same shift/command/option convention in image warp as in free transform. Also maybe an option to add more anchor points and save custom warps.

  10. [So, if we could simply make the main Photoshop color picker (the big guy that lives in a dialog box) available via a palette/panel in addition to in a dialog, would that be useful? That way if you were painting, you could more easily click a large area from which to sample colors. –J.]
    Yeah, make it a palette. Then I don’t have to hit cancel after each time. I also like brush-tool-control-clicking an image to get an instant brush palette. Make it fer color, too.

  11. I have said been saying this since Illustrator CS3 was released, Adobe needs to make a universal color swatch file file to share between apps, (maybe even drag and drop), maybe with the ability to save out/convert as Pantone, RGB, or CMYK, maybe. Maybe as an AIR App?! Ok, that’s a lot of maybes.
    But still, they hit it on the head for color management with all of the pallettes available in Illustrator CS3. The Live Color should be available as a top level palette, not a nested one as in your sweet mockup. Your concept would be close to perfect except local as it is in Illustrator as opposed to community driven like Kuler (I never use that one either.)
    BUT, the swatch groups should be in every single Adobe program that lets the user choose colors. Those are a great idea. The Color Guide in Illustrator CS3, however, I go back and forth on. I’m still not really sure what it’s for.
    As for that Color Palette in Photoshop CS3/Illustrator CS3, I agree with jimhere, I never use it either. But if there were a way to have a single, one-stop shop color pallete with Live Color and swatch groups, I would be one happy Dev-igner. Thanks for even asking for real user community feedback, John. Between you and Lee Brimelow ( as well as many other evangelists and reps), Adobe is pushing the community aspect of media design to a whole new level.

  12. To improve the current color picker, I’d say that simply increasing the height of the “color ramp” to match the combined height of the three sliders above it would be highly beneficial. Similar to what others have said, that tiny little range of colors is basically useless. However, if it were much larger vertically (maybe square?), it might become useful.

  13. The current color picker is simple and effective. I agree with the suggestion to allow the eyedropper to function anywhere on the desktop.
    About the only other thing I’d like is an option to combine the two dragable areas into one. Perhaps a color sphere that could be dragged by holding the spacebar (just like in the main interface).
    And, as for all things, it should be replaceable or extensible with 3rd-party plugins.

  14. I have never used the color dialog box with the sliders. I almost always use the picker and look for the color I want and just add it to the foreground or background spots in the main toolbox. What I would like to see is more boxes there to “hold” a color that is used and then can be easily made part of the color palette, and vice a versa. follow? Like colors on a painters palette. Of course I mean temporarily hold it there. If it was there and stayed there I would have a 100 colors after a while because I would be to scared to delete it unless I might need it again (which I probably won’t) It should have a little AI built in and if I don’t use it after oh a week it will delete itself( I should be able to set that in pref.) That’s not to much to ask for 3 grand is it John?

  15. I use those sliders and that tool box. I hate having to open a special dialog box to choose a color. I want it there all the time.
    I would like to see Photoshop incorporate some form of a color wheel picker (or at least make it available as an option).
    I would also like to be able to have multiple palettes for different swatches available on screen at the same time. For example, I’d like to have a palette with three tabs for three different groups of swatches. Something like Warm, Cool, Midtones (or at least that’s how I’d like to organize them for myself– other people might do it differently).
    I would like to be able to reorganize the colors once they have been saved in a swatch palette (without having to go to the Save for Web dialog box).
    I wish that the swatches palette would put a white box around the color that I chose last.
    I would like to second someone else’s recommendation for a Color Mixer dialog box like the one that is available in Painter.
    John Ward

  16. There already is a shareable swatch file format: ASE (Adobe Swatch Exchange). It’s read and written by all the Creative Suite apps that deal with color swatches.

  17. Please, PLEASE, add a keyboard shortcut for color palette window. I miss it since I started Photoshop 2.0 for the first time.
    [You can make one yourself: Choose Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts, then choose Application Menus & select Window->Color, then pick the shortcut you want. Actually, wait: now that I look in there, I see that F6 is mapped to Color. Does that not do what you want? –J.]

  18. First of all I don’t think its necessarily a good idea to make Photoshop more complex by adding more palettes, especially something incidental like Kuler. It would be much better as an add on to the existing color picker, maybe an option which allows the existing color picker to transform into the Kuler picker if needed. You could even have a Painter type color picker/mixer, and a toggle switch at the top of the dialog allowing you to choose which color picking method you want.
    • I agree about having swatches sortable into groups
    • I would also like to see LARGER swatches! an option in the swatches palette to increase the size of swatches.
    [Have you tried choosing one of the other options via the palette flyout menu (the little thing in the upper-right corner)? –J.]
    • I also think its a good idea to have an OPTION to have the color picker permanently visible, and not requiring that enter click to get it out of the way each time.
    • I agree that the color bar palette is too small – maybe resizable with longer sliders? but please keep it simple, none of this Macromedia nonsense please
    • I am worried about the efficiency of being able to sample colors outside Photoshop, wont it slow things down? I think a preference to make it possible IF you need it might be a better idea, I never need this.

  19. [So, if we could simply make the main Photoshop color picker […] available via a palette/panel in addition to in a dialog, would that be useful? […] –J.]
    Yes, please!
    [FWIW, here’s a similar picker implemented in Flash/Flex. (Click the little rainbow-colored circle that appears when you mouse
    over the various color names.) –J.]

  20. Chris, I know that we have the ASE capability. But it would be so much easier if the same color palettes could be used across all CS3 (or whatever the next version is) apps without having to save out the palette as an ASE, load it in the next app, and then realize you want to add additional colors, pick new colors, save that out, reload it in another app, etc. It would be so much easier if the color swatch palette and color picker were a standalone, “float-in-the-background”, use-anywhere application that connected with all the Adobe applications. Again, nothing wrong with ASE. I’m just looking at how the color picker (and color swatches) could be easier to use.

  21. Hi John,
    Just to add my 2 cents:
    if the color palette could resize, and that HSV swatch at the bottom would expand/contract, that would g a long way.
    Additionally: I’d love to see the foreground/background gradient option in that palette improved … make it so that you can drop two colors on either side of the gradient and keep those two locked there … I actually use this feature a lot as it is, but it’s so easy to have the gradient switch on me.
    Finally, a color history option would be nice.

  22. I have always used an external app for a color picker called Color Cop, http://colorcop.net/features/ . It is simple, intuitive, and has a nice magnifying area so you can get the exact pixel of color you need. It would be nice if PS could incorporate this sort of functionality into their color picker.

  23. Painter’s color picker/mixer is rather nice. However, I would like to see something like the Mac OS color picker made into a palette. I frequently have it as my picker of choice in the Preferences for PS. It offers a nice big color wheel, an eyedropper and an expandable area to save swatches. What’s not to love?

  24. This is part facetious but may have an kernel of an idea.
    I helped a friend design a CD cover. She’s an artist – I ran the mouse.
    Most of her directions were stuff like, “Make the color little more taupe”.
    Then I’d make her look around my office until she found taupe. (I’s like tan only somehow different)
    So here is my idea of a color picker. You start with the original color and there is a drop down combo box for lots of color names. You pick the color name and a slider comes up where you can adjust closer or farther from the named color. So you can handle less taupe and more taupe.

  25. I would like to see a combination of modeless color pickers integrated in Photoshop.
    Here’s a modal picker I use as a replacement for the default one in Autodesk 3ds Max.
    A few great things about this picker… First the “triangle” panel is very intuitive and fast (for me) since it combines a color wheel on the outside with luminance and saturation on the inside.
    Second the “mixer” panel is analogous to Corel’s mixer.
    Not as nice theirs, but gets the job done.
    Third, there’s a gradient at the bottom between the past color and the current color, which is pickable itself.
    Integrated Kuler would also be helpful as a color design tool, but for my needs a better color picker would be more helpful.
    [Got it–thanks for the suggestions. We want to get out of the business of Photoshop (inadvertently) preventing people from dropping in their own great color-picking tools. –J.]

  26. Like Eric Chadwick said, the “corel painter’s style” color picker is the best for artists ( who tend to deal with color theory ).
    But imho, the most important thing to have is color picker which stay visible ( not like the one actually in photoshop; and i don’t speak about the tiny one… ) : it’s huge time saver.
    I didn’t know the new Illustrator’s live color and i don’t understand WHY we don’t have the same thing into photoshop CS3 ???
    Possibility to load and use plenty color swatches at the same time. ( I have precise idea on how it could be working and the same thing would be used with tools )
    > And THEN photoshop would have greatly improved…

  27. In all honesty… I think the color picker tool is fine how it is. I am sure that they took some time to think about it when originally making it and considered other possibilities. Maybe a feature to enlarge the color picker so you can get a more precise pick… but I wouldn’t want to force a larger color picker on anyone… so maybe a button to toggle between a small and large one.

  28. I mostly deal with painting in photoshop and have set two shortcuts for HSB and LAB sliders for the colour palette.This works quite nicely as I use the colour bar to loosely pick a colour and then LAB to additively ‘mix’ and HSB to get neutral shades and desaturation.This works nicely once I got used to it.So I try to avoid the big colour picker entirely.Though it is more useful.So if it is possible to keep it visible always and also if it is resizeable,I think that would be a great timesaver.A lot of colour pickers have nice features,like Painter’s mixer,though the present picker helps understand colours ‘digitally’ and I like that while working in a digital environment.The options of having it visible in a corner and with different sizes seems necessary.As far as kuler picker inside photoshop could be optional as it could be useful to graphic designers and other users too,I guess.

  29. Kooler is a lot better than the existing Color palette tool. I love to use Photoshop and it is very easy to use but there are some rooms for more improvement.

  30. Hello- I would second the ideas of KS above. Further:
    1. The Illustrator color palette/selector is excellent- why not use what already exists, and make this the color selector for Photoshop, as well?
    2. Simplify swatch sharing- a single format, directly accessed by all CS applications.

  31. non modal, +1
    colorotate – lil bit complicated, too many switches, as for nice wflow, but its very full of good ideas.

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