When it comes to using the eyedropper tool in Photoshop, I was late to the party. Of all the tools in the Photoshop toolbar, the eyedropper tool is the one I learned last. Here’s a brief tutorial on how to use this oft-forgotten little gem of a tool.
The Eyedropper Tool in Photoshop
The eyedropper tool is a color section tool that is handy for sampling colors from one portion of an image to use in another area, layer, or graphic. It does this by taking an average of the surrounding colors. There are six tools in the eyedropper tool palette, including the eyedropper tool itself, the 3D material eyedropper tool, the color sampler tool, the ruler tool, the note tool, and the 123 count tool.
In my experience, I use the eyedropper and the color sampler tool the most so those are the tools I’ll be demonstrating in this post. Each tool has a specific function, and I’ll be going over what those are. The best way to learn is to follow along with me as I demonstrate how each tool functions. Begin by opening an image in Photoshop. Here’s the one I’ll be working on:
Activate the eyedropper tool. It’s the sixth tool down in the toolbar or press “Shift” and “I.” If you remember from previous tutorials, you can always determine the short command for each tool by noting the letter to the right of the tool.
If you don’t see the toolbar, make sure it’s checked in the “Windows” menu. Go to “Windows” and then check “Tools” if it doesn’t already have a checkmark to the left of it.
Now with the eyedropper tool, click on a portion of your image to sample a color, keeping the left mouse button pressed. A circle with three colors will appear. I’m clicking on the pink area of one of the glasses in my image. The color I selected has now been loaded as my foreground color in my color picker tool:
If you hold down the “option” key on your keyboard, while selecting a color, that color will automatically appear as the background color in the color picker tool. I clicked on the sand in my image, and as you can see, the color tan is now selected as my background image. See below:
If you want to get really precise, hold down the “Shift” key while sampling an area. This will activate the color sampler tool that I’ll talk more about below.I’m sampling one of the green straws. I can see the information related to my sample in the eyedropper “Info” box:
This box displays relevant information pertaining to the area I sampled. You can see the RGB settings: 203, 251, 149. Press the drop down menu to view additional info. Access this by clicking on the little inverted triangle next to the eyedropper icon and + sign.
You can change the sample size by going to the eyedropper icon above the toolbar, and clicking on the drop down menu for “Point Sample.” The settings you select will depend on your image, and what area you’re sampling. If you choose “11 by 11 Average,” that means that the sample will be taken from 11 pixels surrounding the selected area. It then averages out the color within that given area.
If you click on the drop down menu to the right of “Sample Size,” you’ll be able to choose which layers you’d like to work on. There are six options available to choose from.
To access the color picker “Preferences” window hit “Command” and “K” on your keyboard. You’ll see this screen where you can customize your preferences.
You’ll see this box whenever you right click on your mouse. This is another way to change the pixel average, and you can also copy your selected color as an “HTML” or “Hex” code to use in CSS or any online editing tools. Paste the code into your computer’s clipboard for easy reference.
If you click the “Shift” key, you’ll see settings for multiple points. You can see I’ve selected six sample points:
Press the “Command” or “Control” keys to drag a point off the screen to eliminate it completely. If you press the “Cap Locks” key, you can sample your target even more precisely. To eliminate all of your targeted points and start from scratch, go to the color sample tool in the toolbar or click “I” on the keyboard. Then click “Clear All.”
Watch the video below to learn more about the eyedropper tool:
Color Sampler Tool
The color sampler tool works in conjunction with the eyedropper tool. If you’re already using the eyedropper tool, hit the “Shift” key to activate the color sampler, which lets you sample specific points on your image. In the image below, I’ve highlighted seven different points, each with a corresponding number.
You can view each point’s information by visiting the “Info” box like we did above. See how there’s info for each of my seven points?
The maximum number of sample points you can have is 10. Some of the controls we used above are also applicable to the color sampler tool. I can move each point if I need to by hovering over it with the tip of my tool. When I do this, a black arrow appears, which then allows me to move the point. All my points are in one spot now as you can see below.
The eyedropper and color sampler tools are versatile tools that let you sample colors to use in either a Photoshop image or a design you’re working on in another program. The ability to copy HTML and Hex codes makes this possible. The letter “I” on the keyboard is the short command for both tools.
There are a number of settings you can customize to specify how each will perform. Change the pixel size, choose which layer you want to work on, and get detailed information for each target point. The tools work well in conjunction with each other. If you want to activate the color sampler tool, when using the eyedropper, simply press “Shift.” Have fun using these tools.
What’s your favorite way to use the eyedropper tool in Photoshop? Let me know in the comments:)