Blog Post

OS X Tips: Taking Charge of the Color Picker

Spinning Color Wheel

The infamous color picker is present among many of the built-in OS X (s aapl) applications and is quite a powerful tool once you dig into it. With the ability to store your favorite colors in “wells” and use them between applications, the color picker can quickly become an indispensable tool in your daily workflow. Here’s some tips and plugins to supercharge the color picker.

Color Picker Basics

Not all applications support the OS X color picker, but to see if one does, look in Format, View, or Window menus for an entry called “Show Colors.” The color picker is not just limited to the Apple-developed applications, as third-party apps such as Coda, Billings, Daylite and others also include support.

The color picker features “tabs” across the top dividing it into the standard color wheel, color sliders (allowing to you fine tune a color by RGB, HSB, CMYK, or Grayscale sliders), color palettes, image palettes and crayons.

You can pick custom colors by tweaking them in the color picker, or by using the magnifying glass to “pluck” a color from anywhere in the system.

To apply a color, simply highlight text and click the color you want. Or drag the color onto an object.

As mentioned earlier, you can organize your favorite colors by dragging them into one of the wells at the bottom of the picker. If the default amount is not enough, simply click the dot and drag down to allow for a total of 250 places to store your color swatches.

Add Some Kuler

MondrianumUsers of Adobe’s (s adbe) Kuler service are quick to tote how great it is to be exposed to a wide array of beautiful color schemes shared among the Adobe community.

Using a free plugin called Mondrianum by Lithoglyph, users can now add Kuler integration to the standard OS X color picker. With quick access to search color schemes by keyword, browse them via Cover Flow, or quickly set them as your desktop background, Mondrianum is a great tool to add to your color picker.

Want a True Artist’s Approach?

With Painter’s Picker ($19.95, with a demo version here), you can add an artist’s color wheel to the color picker, giving you the ability to quickly choose complementary colors, analogous colors, and the like. More advanced options allow for precision modification of the brightness, saturation and more. As someone who moves between different types of media (web to print), I enjoy the ability to see the nearest CYMK colors and nearest web safe colors when working on projects.

What the Hex?

Developers out there will love the “Developer Color Picker,” a free plugin from Panic that quickly allows users to convert selected colors to NSColor, UIColor, CGColorRef, HTML or CSS declarations. The plugin itself is very barebones in style, but is priceless in terms of functionality.

Shades, Schemes and More

ShadesShades ($18 from Chromatic Bytes) is another great plugin for the standard color picker, allowing users to quickly see related color shades. In the words of Chromatic Bytes, “you choose a center color, a step size and a color coordinate to hold constant. Shades then draws a grid of related colors.” This gives you something more akin to traditional paint chips and is useful for finding similar colors.

Another great application for creating and managing color schemes is Color Schemer Studio. While it does not run as a plugin to the OS X color picker, it is a very powerful standalone tool and a great compliment to some of these other plugins. A great feature of this application that really stands out is its ability to extract a simplified color palette from a photo. That’s just the tip of the iceberg and for more details, read our review of Color Schemer Studio here. This application is $49 and more information (including a demo version) is available from its website.

Color Pickers Everywhere

Most modern OS X applications support the color picker, but for those applications who are in the dark, you can use a little AppleScript trick to run the Color Picker as its own application.

Open up the AppleScript Editor (inside the Applications ? Utilities folder) and type in the following code:

choose color

Then save this as an application. Now when you run it, your traditional OS X color picker will appear. Drag and drop colors around to your heart’s content!

If you have any other tips or tricks to share about the color picker, I’d love to hear them!

10 Responses to “OS X Tips: Taking Charge of the Color Picker”

  1. This is one of those great apps that came over from NeXT. I love it. I installed a plugin that gives me the HEX value of the color that I’m using so that I can keep colors the same through every app that I’m using to produce documents.