How To Use The Eyedropper Tool In Photoshop

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Despite the Eyedropper Tool being one of the most used tools, most people don’t understand every aspect of how to use the Eyedropper Tool in Photoshop. The power of the Eyedropper is unquestionable when it comes to using color in your project.

If you want to take color sampling a step further, you can use the Color Sampler Tool, which I briefly detail at the end. Otherwise, you can quickly select and use any color in an image by simply clicking on it. Here’s how!

Lesson Summary
Step 1: Activate The Eyedropper Tool (I)
Step 2: Click On An Area To Sample The Color
Step 3: Activate The Brush Tool (B) And Paint Using The Sampled Color
Step 4: Sample A New Color And Paint Again (Optional)
Step 1: Activate The Eyedropper Tool (I)
Step 2: Click On An Area To Sample The Color
Step 3: Activate The Brush Tool (B) And Paint Using The Sampled Color
Step 4: Sample A New Color And Paint Again (Optional)

How To Use The Eyedropper Tool In Photoshop

Step 1: Activate The Eyedropper Tool (I)

First, select the Eyedropper Tool (I) from the toolbar.

Step 2: Click On An Area To Sample The Color

Click on an area to sample the color you want to use in your project.

Doing so will change the Foreground Color to the sampled color. If you want to change the Background Color instead, hold down Alt (Win) or Option (Mac) and click where you want to sample. Most of the time, you want the change the Foreground Color. 

Original Color
New Sampled Color

Step 3: Activate The Brush Tool (B) And Paint Using The Sampled Color

You can now use the color as needed. For instance, select the Brush Tool (B) and paint over the unwanted reflection with the exact color of the water. 

Step 4: Sample A New Color And Paint Again (Optional)

It may not look perfect, so you may need to paint with more colors. Sample a few more spots around the water and repeat the process a few more times. 

To make it easier for you to switch between using the Brush and the Eyedropper Tools, you can temporarily access the Eyedropper Tool while you have the Brush Tool active by holding down Alt (Win) or Option (Mac) while clicking on an area. 

Step 5: Save The New Color Swatches (Optional)

Every time you sample a color, that color will be added to your Swatch Collection under the Swatches Tab. If you don’t see this panel, go to Window > Swatches.

If you need to use that color again, you just have to click it in the Swatches Panel. You can also create a folder of multiple samplings for a project or future projects. First, take samples from the image.   

After sampling all the colors, create a new folder by clicking the Create New Group button.  Photoshop will ask you to name the group. Now, you can add colors to this folder by selecting the color and clicking the Create New Swatch Button.

Once you’ve added the colors to the group, you have an easily accessible folder of the colors you may need in your project.

Eyedropper Tool Settings Explained 

Sample Size 

When sampling with the Eyedropper Tool, you don’t have to just sample one pixel at a time. You can actually sample much larger areas at once. To change the sample size, open the Sample Size Drop Down Menu in the Options Bar

The Point Sample option will only sample the pixel you click on, and the rest of the options will sample a radius around your Eyedropper. This radius will average out the values to create one single RGB value based on the surrounding pixels. For instance, 3 by 3 average will pick up pixels from a 3 by 3 square around the pixel clicked on.

It may be best to adjust your sample size up or down to find the perfect color for your project. In general, the 5 by 5 option is the best one to use for everyday use. 

Sample Setting 

If there are layers in your project that you don’t want to sample colors from, you can pick what type of layers you want to sample with the Sample Drop-Down Menu

If your project only has one layer, then it doesn’t matter what is selected here. If you’re working on a big project with a bunch of layers, then you may want to select Current Layer or Current & Below.

Adjustment layers are often what mess things up when sampling colors. That’s what makes All Layers No Adjustments and Current & Below No Adjustments excellent choices in giant projects. 

Sampling Ring 

If you can’t see the Sampling Ring, make sure Show Sampling Ring is enabled in the Options Bar

The ring itself will display two colors: the color that is currently your Foreground Color on the bottom and the real-time color that you will be selecting as your new Foreground Color on the top. 

So if you’re looking for the perfect color, you can preview and compare your new color at the same time with the Sampling Ring. 

Now, if you’re starting to work with the Eyedropper Tool but are running into problems, I share a simple troubleshooting guide to the Eyedropper Tool here.

How To Use The Color Sampler Tool In Photoshop

The Color Sampler Tool doesn’t actually “sample” the color you click on but displays useful information for you to use to manipulate your image.

Click and hold on the Eyedropper Tool to find the Color Sampler Tool (I). Click on your image to place a crosshair on the color you want information on. You can place up to ten of these crosshairs. 

Note: If you selected too many colors, you can hover your mouse over the crosshair you want to delete and Alt + Click (Win) or Option + Click (Mac) the crosshair to remove it. 

All of this color information will be displayed in the Info Panel. If the Info Panel is not displayed, go to Window > Info to display it. 

The Info Panel will display the RGB values of each color. Each box in the Info Panel will have a number in the top left corner that corresponds with the number under each crosshair in the image. The upper boxes will display the color values of where your mouse is currently located.

You can get the CMYK or other color mode information under each crosshair by clicking on the Eyedropper Icon in each box and changing it to your color mode. 

While the Eyedropper Tool enables you to sample a color from an image or project to use in your design, the Color Sampler Tool provides all the information you need on the color, which is helpful if you need to note down the details for a brand kit or other business needs.

Photo of author
I'm a Canadian photographer and photo retoucher turned founder of bwillcreative.com. Around here I help you to decode the mystery of photo editing with no-fluff videos and written guides to help you achieve your creative goals. Outside of shooting photos and my passion for educating, you'll find me mountain biking or on the trails with my dog, Sunny!

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