Hidden Treasures of OS X Color Picker

OK, guys, I get it. You might have been expecting the first blog post this year to be about Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry. It’s almost done, but it still needs some fine-tune polishing and it’s not ready to ship yet. In the meantime, let me share with you what I know about the Apple Color Picker. It’s a simple yet awesome tool with fascinating possibilities, and with the new Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry shapes, you are going to use it a lot.

The interface

The Apple Color Picker interface is pretty simple: The icons for different color pickers are at the top; the large color swatch shows the currently selected color; the magnifying glass chooses colors; the middle section shows the currently active picker; and color swatches are at the bottom. When you first open Apple Color Picker, it looks like any other basic color palette—nothing special—but when you start adding colors and other stuff it becomes a powerful tool.

The pickers

The first two Color Wheel and Color Sliders pickers are fairly standard. It’s what you normally see in any color picker. Color Palettes is more interesting. It has several palettes available by default, and you can create your own palettes: Select “New” from the menu, name the palette, then drag colors from swatches from the bottom. The other two include the Image palette, which allows you to add any image for a specific color spectrum, and the famous Crayons color picker.

The magnifying glass

With the magnifying glass, you can pick colors from anywhere on the screen, inside or outside the app. Often, once you’ve picked a color, you can see a grey triangle in the top right corner of the color swatch. This means that the color does not have a proper color profile assigned to it. You can fix that. Go to the Sliders palette and assign a color profile from the menu. In Pixelmator, however, I would recommend using its native Eyedropper Tool to choose colors as it talks the same language as colors used in the image.

The swatches

I use this one a lot. It’s perfect when you want to quickly save your favorite colors to use again, especially when creating designs in several apps that need matching colors. To add colors, drag a swatch from the color swatch at the top of the Color Picker to the row of swatches at the bottom. To remove a color, drag an empty (white) swatch onto a colored swatch to “erase” it. To make room for more swatches, drag the bottom edge of the Apple Color Picker down.

It’s expandable

And the goodness don’t stop with the color pickers you already have by default. There are many free plug-ins or ones you can pay for and add to your Apple Color Picker (Pixelmator has one already installed for you; it’s called the Web Colors palette, which allows you to type in HEX values and easily create the precise color you need). There are many other plug-ins available for download.


A simple trick will make Apple Color Picker available in every app on OS X. Create your own app with AppleScript Editor. Open the AppleScript Editor (Applications > Utilities > AppleScript Editor), type “choose color”, and save it. Whenever you need it, you can open the Apple Color Picker by double-clicking the file you’ve just saved. I’m no engineer, but I felt very smart after I created my first app in this way.

Happy coloring! As for me, I’m back on Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry, and I promise you won’t have to wait for the next post too long.

Thursday, 7 February 2013.


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