How To Create & Use Color Swatches In Photoshop

Choosing colors is one of the most important things to do in a graphic design project. Using Color Swatches in Photoshop, you avoid losing colors you spent so much time choosing because they will always be available for future use once they’re saved there.

In this article, you will learn what color swatches are, how to create them, and where to find new color swatches to use in your projects.

What Is A Color Swatch In Photoshop?

Have you ever fallen in love with a color and wanted to save it somewhere for future use? Whether you came up with the color yourself or saw it in a photograph, you don’t need to write their codes down in a notepad because Photoshop has a panel dedicated to storing colors.

Color Swatches are sets of colors stored in a panel that you can easily access. They help create palettes and can also keep your favorite colors handy.

How To Create A Color Swatch In Photoshop

To create a color swatch in Photoshop, you must pick some colors and store them correctly. You can do this in a few simple steps.

Step 1: Locate The Swatches Panel

The Swatches panel is located on the right side of the workspace, next to the Colors panel.

If, for some reason, you can’t see the Swatches panel, go to Window > Swatches.

The colors you used last in Photoshop are at the top of the Swatches panel. Photoshop stores those colors for your convenience.

Below those swatches are folders with Photoshop’s default color swatches.

They are basic color swatches suitable for various projects, such as the Grayscale folder, which contains various shades of gray.

The default swatches can come in handy, but the best thing about color swatches is the possibility of creating your own swatches. 

Step 2: Open An Image You Want To Draw Colors From

Now, you need to choose colors for your group of swatches. The easiest way to do this is to sample colors from an image.  To do this, open the photo from which you want to take colors in Photoshop.

Step 3: Create A Folder In The Swatches Panel

Within the Swatches panel, click the folder icon at the bottom.

Rename the new group of swatches if you want in the Group Name box and click Ok.

The new folder will appear in the Swatches panel.

Step 4: Select The Eyedropper Tool

Now, grab the Eyedropper Tool (I) from the Toolbar.

Step 5: Sample A Color And Add It To The Group Of Swatches

Then, click with the Eyedropper Tool on the color you want to sample. To make your job easier, zoom in on the target area by pressing Control + + (Win) or Command + + (Mac). In my case, I sampled the bright yellow color in the horizon of my image. 

The color you sampled will appear in the foreground swatch in the Toolbar. When that happens, the color will be ready to be added to the Swatches panel.

Next, keep the folder you created selected and click the plus sign icon in the Swatches panel. This will create the first color swatch.

Rename it if you want. To prevent the Color Swatch Name dialog box from popping up whenever you create a new color swatch, hold Alt (Win) or Option (Mac) while clicking the plus sign icon.

You can also check the Add to my current library checkbox. This will save the new swatch in your Adobe library, which is helpful if you need to use the color swatch on another computer or share it with someone.

Click OK to close the dialog box and confirm your choice.

Your folder will now contain the new swatch.

To add a new color to the folder, sample the new color and click the plus sign icon again, as shown above.

Keep creating new swatches until you have all the desired colors stored in the Swatches panel. In my case, I chose six colors that composed my palette inspired by the image. 

How To Delete Unwanted Color Swatches

When creating color swatches, you may add more colors than necessary or notice that your color swatches have too many similar colors. Whatever the case may be, deleting color swatches is very easy.

To do this, simply select the color swatch you want to remove.

Then, click the trash bin icon at the bottom of the Swatches panel.

How To Install Color Swatches Into Photoshop

Color swatches are never too much. Whatever project you are working on, having a variety of color palettes to choose from can save you hours of brainstorming.

There are many places you can find color swatches to download. However, I recommend you use the ones from the Adobe Color website. This website offers a wide range of free color swatches compatible with Photoshop.

I will walk you through how to find color swatches to download on Adobe Color.

Right on the Home page, you can find a color wheel that you can use to make your color palettes from scratch. You can combine complementary colors, colors analogous to one another, and so on. I recommend you use this resource if you have a good grasp of color theory. 

However, you can get color swatches quickly in the Explore and Trends sections, which contain ready-to-use palettes.

In the Explore section, you can find palettes from various colors, some with and others without their photo references. 

You can also search for palettes using keywords. For example, when I typed ‘desert’ in the search bar, the website showed me palettes with warm colors.

The Trends section includes pallets that are popular in different creative industries, such as fashion.

After finding your favorite color swatches, you will need to install them so they can appear in the Swatches panel in Photoshop.

To do this, click on the palette you want to install. For example, I clicked the palette highlighted below.

Once you click the desired palette, Photoshop will redirect you to the palette download page. 

On the download page, look for the Download as ASE link on the right side of the screen to download the color swatch you chose.

After downloading the ASE file, open Photoshop. Then, go to Window > Swatches.

Within the Swatches panel, click the hamburger menu at the top right side of the panel and choose Import Swatches.

Go to the folder where the color swatch was installed and click on it to load it into Photoshop. After that, your new swatch will be successfully installed and appear at the bottom of the Swatches panel.

As you saw here, using color swatches allows you to store your favorite colors and create your own palettes. Since I’m always working with colors in my creative projects, the swatches panel has proven helpful for my workflow. I hope you can also make the most of this feature. 

Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. You can view my photography portfolio here.

These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

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