Using The Eyedropper Tool In Photoshop

Using The Eyedropper Tool In Photoshop

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.

woman holding eyedropper

The Eyedropper Tool

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:

two raspberry milkshakes

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.

eyedropper tool in Photoshop toolbar

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.

Tools checked in Windows menu
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:

color picker tool in Photoshop

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:

background color in color picker tool in Photoshop

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:

color sample box in Photoshop

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. 

eyedropper dropdown menu

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.

pont sample size
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.

sample layers in Photoshop

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.

color picker preference window

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.

point sample in photoshop

If you click the “Shift” key, you’ll see settings for multiple points. You can see I’ve selected six sample points:

six point samples in eyedropper tool

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.”

clear all in Photoshop
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.

color sample tool in Photoshop

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?


info box for color sampler tool

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.

sampler points

 Click here if you’d like to learn Photoshop quickly

Key Points

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:)


Canon camera







10 thoughts on “Using The Eyedropper Tool In Photoshop”

  1. I usually just use the eyedropper tool to choose a particular color I need to insert somewhere else in the picture.  I found that there are a lot of color options to use when you actually delve deeper into the eyedropper tool.  Glad I found this site. Keep up the good work.  I don’t have time now but I will be returning to learn more tips.  

    Thanks for the great info!

    • Yep, the eyedropper tool is great for matching colors to use within the same image, and most people don’t know about the different settings you can use to make the tool more functional.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. The eyedropper tool is a handy feature of Photoshop that every design expert should be so familiar with.. It can be used to do a wide range of designs. 

    I remember when I first learned how to use it 9 years ago when I was still a student learning graphic design. After the training, I went about designing bizarre designs which at that level, I saw as being cool.. 

    Anyways, you’ve done a good job by giving detailed explanation about it.. 

  3. Before reading your article, I had no idea of how to use the eyedropper tool in Photoshop.

    I’m a very indifferent (certainly inexperienced) user of Photoshop and while it’s undoubtedly powerful, it’s also very complex for a new user.

    The only way to overcome that is to tackle one aspect and one tool at a time.

    OK, so Shift + I (hmm… I-dropper, I guess) to activate the tool.

    Sample a color, which you can choose to make foreground or background.

    Then the Color Sample tool and save its details. Being able to copy the html and the hex codes then allows you to use these colors in other images you’re working on.

    I don’t think I picked up everything about using these tools, Holly but you’ve certainly inspired me to find out more.

    • You picked up a lot Phil. I’m impressed. Yes, Photoshop is complex so it’s good to experiment with one tool at a time until you get a comfort level with it. Then move on to another tool.

      The short code for the eyedropper tools is “I” on the keyboard, which makes the editing workflow much smoother. Copying the HTML and Hex codes is really convenient if you want to use them on other programs. 

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. 

  4. This post is indeed very instructive. I had no idea before how to use the eyedropper tool. Your training on how to use this tool is very clear and explicit, even a novice can understand to apply it. 

    I would like to know if the eyedropper tools are available on any Photoshop App though? if not, what alternative you suggest?

    • Hi Sahar,

      Thank you. I’m not sure if the eyedropper tools are available on smartphone Photoshop apps. I’m assuming the customization features may be limited. 

  5. Good Morning Holly, I am a still-life photographer. Naturally, I used to edit many images in Photoshop. The review you wrote about using the Eyedropper Tool in Photoshop is very helpful for me. 

    I knew a bit about this special tool, but I did not know the exact technique of using it. Now I can make my pictures more attractive and more vivid. Thank you sincerely for such an important post. With best compliments, Ranao


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